Chip Thomas: Wheatpaste Inspiration

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Chip Thomas: Wheatpaste Inspiration

I have to give a big shout out to one of my mentors.  We've never met in person, but Chip Thomas sparked something in me the first time I encountered a photo of his wheatpaste work on the web. 

I was struck with the graphic simplicity, the scale, the statement.  I didn't know who the artist was, but I knew the art was important.  I felt it.

I've always been drawn to street art.  I think I love the democracy of it.  The rebellion.  The audacity.  When I was a teenager in a small New Mexico town, I embraced the voice that vandalism gave me.  Painting in the middle of the night felt freeing, an escape.  As I got older and explored photography, I amassed hundreds of photos of buffed graffiti, seeing a beauty in the unspoken back-and-forth dialogue between street artists and authority.  I see street artists of every kind as change agents, speaking bravely in a world where so many voices are unheard.

And when I saw Jetsonorama's work, I got chills.  What a voice.  What audacity.  What truth. Powerful images from Dinétah that truly amplified a cultural voice that, in the New Mexico four corners of my childhood, was often ruthlessly silenced.

So I played with wheatpaste.  I googled recipes.  I contacted Chip.  I planned a project with my fifth grade class in southern New Mexico.

Out of that initial inspiration, my fifth grade students from a primarily Mexican-American, low-income, underserved school in Las Cruces, New Mexico partnered with a mentor high school class my mom was teaching in Farmington, New Mexico.  We communicated back and forth about the project. 

My students from southern NM were also learning about Native American history at the time, and I was shocked to find that some of them thought Indians were a people of the past, and that they weren't alive today.  We looked at Chip's work together.  We read the work of native poets.  We invited native guest speakers into our classroom. Our art project dialogue turned into something much more.  Diné students from Farmington were able to write letters to my students and describe their experiences as native youth.  Their voices were current, relevant, and something my students could understand and learn from.  They walked my class through the steps of a collaborative project, but they also brought an awareness of New Mexican culture that my students hadn't known existed.  Those letters were  transformative. 

And that's the thing.  Art is transformative.  Art starts conversations.  Art stirs ideas.  Art creates a space for questioning, for debate, for resistance.  Art amplifies voices. Art builds alliances. Chip's inspiration ignited a spark that turned into a connection - a project spanning from southern to northern New Mexico, engaging kids, teachers, and community members from all kinds of backgrounds and cultural experiences. 

Recently, Chip was profiled on Fronteras in an article about his art and his activism.  I love that he is so representative of the complexity of the Southwest.  Our land is steeped in a history of cultural collisions, and so much of that history is tragic - something to mourn, a legacy of racism, genocide, and injustice.  But it's also a land where people of different cultures have chosen to respect each other, to live together in a space of shared reverence for the harshly beautiful landscapes, to connect, to work together for more just and equitable communities.

This last year, I have been working on a personal wheatpaste project.  It is based on New Mexico symbols - our pledge, state motto, etc.  I've pasted from Las Cruces to Farmington, with stops in Albuquerque, on the stretch of highway between Gallup and Grants, and in Truth or Consequences.  I'm working on my wheatpaste voice and hope to develop more projects that address the emotional, political, and spiritual issues that impact my beloved New Mexico.

Thanks, Chip.  

 

 

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The Year of the Pillow

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The Year of the Pillow

My mom says this is the year of the pillow.  And I can't really disagree.  I've been pillow-obsessed for as long as I can remember, but things got kicked up a notch when I found this vintage Pago pillow panel fabric on Ebay.  It featured traditional Mexican crafts - a tree of life, Huichol yarn art, Amate paper painting, and a Tonalá cat.  

 This is what the panel looked like on Ebay.  You can see (even if the picture is tiny and awful) why I fell in love.

This is what the panel looked like on Ebay.  You can see (even if the picture is tiny and awful) why I fell in love.

I wasn't sure how to finish them, but then I found a Hmong skirt and top at a local estate sale.  I rarely look through closets at sales.  It makes me sad.  But I happened onto this set and it was so intricate and beautiful.  I knew it would work for something - YES!  Pillow backs!  I didn't take a picture of the set I bought, but SeamstressErin Designs has a great post about Hmong craft.  You can also find examples online and on Ebay.  Here's a skirt that features that indigo, embroidery, and piecework that makes Hmong textile art so incredible.

So, I asked my mom - she's always game for my crazy projects - to create a one-of-a-kind set of pillows using the panels and the Hmong outfit.  We talked about using a variety of trims on the fronts to add that layered, kooky, texture that I love so much.  Irrational trim.  :-)

I was so happy with the way they came out!  My mom made them so they can be used as two different sets of pillows.  There's the indigo side, with pops of hot pink and textile work to die for, and then there is the Mexican crafts side, which is a folk art bonanza framed with a variety of poms, tassles, and trims.  

Consider this post a big thank you to my favorite seamstress who never shakes her head at my design ideas.  Thanks, mom!

And while the pictures show these beauties on our bed, they are currently playing a starring role on our living room sofa. ;-)

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In Love With Tomatoes

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In Love With Tomatoes

Our tomatoes are producing a TON of fruit right now.  

The morning ritual of picking the ripe tomatoes is something I look forward to...  I just love the smell of the plants.  In fact, last year I bought a perfume that was supposed to smell like tomato plants.  It's not even close to the real thing, but I did pull it out of the medicine cabinet during the winter during a couple of I-must-have-summer-now emergencies.  Our plants are looking a little bit rough, but that might have something to do with the 100+ weather we've been having.  I'm working on figuring out if they need some extra TLC, and if so,just what exactly they might need.  Along with choosing plants that produce different sizes of tomatoes each year, I always try to pick different colors, too.  This year we've got a ton of the little yellow pear variety, and they are pretty precious.  

All of these tomatoes!  We've gifted a lot, eaten a lot, and I do a lot of tomato gazing.  I'm sort of in love.  


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On the Fence

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On the Fence

June 15, 2015

I've been thinking about doing something with this back fence for a while.  When I picked up the paintbrush I wasn't sure what was going to happen.  That's the best way to start a painting, right?

I knew I wanted to feature our birds somewhere... we've recently lost precious members of our flock and just got five new hens.  I wanted a shout out to our chickens and guineas.  A memorial.  A descanso.  A tribute. This is their yard, after all.  

We have countless cans of random, left over bits of house paint, and this project put them to good use.  I added the pink because I have a pink chair outside that my son swears 'doesn't match anything ,mom!'  So there.  Now it matches.  

You can see some of my inspiration on my On the Fence Pinterest board.   Tammis Keefe's tea towel totally inspired my chicken figures!

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