Farmington artist sews with hair in expressions of outrage, horror and strength

“Marching Across Your Lawn, The Grass is on Fire,” Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, 2020, hand-stitched human gray hair on black twill fabric, 32×37 inches. (Courtesy of Rosemary Meza-DesPlas)

Whether natural or dyed, curly or straight, hair can be political, subversive, healthy or ethnic.

It also draws a fine line through issues of ethnicity and gender.

For Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, hair is a delicate tool and means of expression.

The female experience within a patriarchal society is the cornerstone of her work. She also works in watercolour, installation and performance.

The Farmington-based artist embroiders her own gray hair on black twill fabric in expressions of outrage, horror and strength. She is also one of 15 artists to receive a $50,000 Latinx Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation in May.

She is the only artist from New Mexico in the group.

“The scholarship recognizes the most compelling Latinx artists working in the United States…and aims to address the systemic lack of support, visibility, and patronage for Latinx visual artists,” the press release reads.

Meza-DesPlas had no idea what was going on when she heard the news.

“It was a huge surprise to me,” she said in a phone interview from Farmington. “I cried tears of joy; I was overwhelmed.”

Rosemary Meza-DesPlas working on “Marching Across Your Lawn, The Grass is on Fire” in her studio in Farmington. (Courtesy of Rosemary Meza-DesPlas)

At the time when she turned to hairdressing, she was known for her wall drawings.

“A friend looked at my line work and said from afar it looked like hair,” Meza-DesPlas said. “I did a lot of trial and error. I tried to glue it on but it looked sloppy. So I thought of it as sewing.

The dichotomy of human hair, depending on the context, is that it can be attractive or unattractive: long, luxurious hair is sexy, but a hair in its soup is unattractive.

Meza-DesPlas harvests her own hair.

“I run my fingers through my hair in the morning,” she said. “I was brunette; now I’m gray.

“I love the materiality of the hair,” she continued. “It kind of has to do with feminism and ethnicity. It addresses issues of body image and identity.

“Hair is so loaded with meaning,” she added. “The hair can express both the Bible – the story of Samson and Delilah. I love the line work it creates. Mine is naturally curly. It’s very thick and coarse and it’s easy to work.

She starts with a line art and fills in the values ​​with her hair. Her latest works evoke themes of feminist outrage.

“What you whispered should be shouted” was born out of the #MeToo movement. The delicate stitching depicts a screaming woman, her own hair flying back in tendrils of flame. Meza-DesPlas had read an article about a Disney executive accused of sexual impropriety.

“Yo tambien”, Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, 2018, hand-stitched human gray hair on black twill fabric, 25×21 inches. (Courtesy of Rosemary Meza-DesPlas)

“The women knew,” Meza-DesPlas said. “They said if you go to a meeting with him never wear a skirt.

“Really, they should have shouted about it. They shouldn’t have whispered. We should have talked about it openly. »

She went “Yo tambien” (“Me too”) after reading Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2017 post-election book “What Happened.”

“I was drawing the faces of the women listening to his concession speech,” Meza-DesPlas said. “They covered their faces with their hands, but their eyes spoke volumes.”

Likewise, the headless legs in “Marching Across Your Lawn, The Grass is on Fire” speak of anger and determination.

“I did a series on walking as a tool of agency and as a tool of anger to be an agent of change,” she said. “What do you do with your agency and activism when you get home?”

Born and raised in Garland, Texas, Meza-DesPlas has lived in Farmington since 2016. Both of her parents were originally from Mexico.

She received an MFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (Hoffberger School of Painting) and a BFA from the University of North Texas. His works have been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums in the United States, Europe and Asia.

She will hang a new installation, “The Invisible Woman Syndrome,” at Form & Concept Gallery in Santa Fe, 435 S. Guadalupe St., which debuted May 27.

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