Farmington visual, performance artist earns $50,000 award from Mellon, Ford foundations

Rosemary Meza-DesPlas receives Latinx Artist Fellowship

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Meza-DesPlas was one of 15 Latinx artists from across the country selected for the fellowship and the only New Mexican.
  • She said she did not even know she had been nominated for the award.
  • Meza-DesPlas will open an untitled installation at the form & concept gallery in Santa Fe later this month.

FARMINGTON — The year 2022 isn't even half finished, but it's already been a remarkable period for Rosemary Meza-DesPlas.

The Farmington visual artist, performance artist and writer earned her second major award of the year with the May 12 announcement that she is the recipient of a Latinx Artist Fellowship from the Mellon and Ford foundations, which carries with it a $50,000 prize. Meza-DesPlas was one of 15 Latinx artists from across the country selected for the fellowship and the only New Mexican.

"It was a huge surprise for me," Meza-DesPlas said of the honor, adding that she did not even know she had been nominated. "I was completely shocked."

Meza-DesPlas said the award serves as one of the highlights of her career, and noted she is proud to represent New Mexico and Farmington.

"Bringing attention to the visual arts in our state is important to me," she said.

This untitled installation by Farmington artist Rosemary Meza-DesPlas will open later this month at the form & concept gallery in Santa Fe.

The award is the second significant honor to come her way in the past few months. Earlier this year, Meza-DesPlas was named the recipient of a $9,100 Fulcrum Fund grant from Albuquerque-based 516 Arts, which she will use to stage an original performance art piece, "Miss Nalgas USA 2022," this fall.

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"Any award like this makes you feel validated," Meza-DesPlas said, but she indicated she has no plans to rest on her laurels. In fact, she said she is more motivated than ever to get back in the studio and continue to produce work that features biting socio-political commentary.

"Regardless of whether you get an award, as an artist, you want to make the statements you want to make," she said. "But it's good that somebody noticed my work and thought enough of it to nominate me. And I feel good that the jurors recognized it."

Repurposed bras with the names of Latina feminists etched on them are included in an installation by Farmington artist Rosemary Meza-DesPlas that will open at the end of May at a gallery in Santa Fe.

The Latinx Artist Fellowship program was initiated last year, with plans calling for recognizing 15 artists a year over a five-year period. The program is administered by the U.S. Latinx Art Forum in collaboration with the New York Foundation for the Arts, and is designed to address a systemic lack of support, visibility and patronage of Latinx visual artists, according to a news release.

The $50,000 cash prize is unrestricted, meaning Meza-DesPlas can use it however she wishes. She said she had not had time to consider how she might spend the money, although she said she was sure she would use it to fund her creative projects.

Meza-DesPlas already has a busy remainder of 2022 ahead of her. At the end of this month, she will have an untitled installation open at the form & concept gallery in Santa Fe, then she will present "Miss Nalgas USA 2022" on Oct. 15 at the Totah Theater in downtown Farmington.

Rosemary Meza-DesPlas

She described the former as a multimedia installation highlighted by her fiber work that includes elements of the show she will perform this fall. It consists of a breakfast nook featuring a small table covered in a tablecloth with a pattern of pinto beans.

Situated nearby is an apron featuring a likeness of Refried Rosi Frijoles, the main character in "Miss Nalgas USA 2022." Hand-embroidered flour tortillas are scattered around the table.

Hanging from the tablecloth are repurposed bras meant to evoke the decorative or whimsical elements that sometimes dangle from the rim of a sombrero. The names of Latina feminists are etched on the bras.

"(The installation) is designed to shed light on the Latinas who have been left out of feminist history and give them their due," Meza-DesPlas said.

"Miss Nalgas USA 2022" also will deal with issues of Latina feminism, although Meza-DesPlas has said the show will deal primarily with the way in which people of Latin descent are depicted in mass media. She intends to address the subject in a humorous fashion — the word nalgas translates to buttocks in English — but it will have a serious message that the artist hopes registers with the audience.

Meza-DesPlas said she is still writing the script, but she plans on performing the role of Refried Rosi Frijoles herself while casting local actors in a handful of other parts. She chose Oct. 15 as the performance date, she said, because it is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or

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