Recycle Santa Fe Student Art Show
Santa Fe Community Convention Center

Santa Fe

art review ABQ, 2017, Vol. 2, p. 12-13

When my friend Carolyn invited me to the Recycle Santa Fe Art Fair, I had no idea what to expect and gladly accepted. I imagined art created using recycled materials but boy, was I in for a surprise!

The show/fair is the oldest and largest recycled art market in the country and is held in the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Marcey Street. In addition to over 90 artist booths, there was a juried student show. Twenty-six schools elementary and middle schools participated and prizes were awarded. The art must have been made with 75% recycled materials and the show is supported by ARTsmart as well as the local schools.

The show was displayed in the large entrance area of the Convention Center, not a particularly inviting space with few walls for displaying work. Fortunately, there was good light from large windows facing the street and tables were set up for displaying art work. A few freestanding walls would have added considerably to the viewing experience.

The student artwork was really charming but also pretty expected with a couple of exceptions. The most interesting and thought-provoking piece was a collaborative work by 7th and 8th grade students from the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences. A Seat at the Table is a sophisticated middle-school collaboration and art installation that addresses personal and cultural ideas of belonging.

The art teacher looked at curriculum addressing the questions, “Who am I in ‘us’ and ‘them’?” and “Who gets a seat at the table?”, a reference to Judy Chicago’s work, The Dinner Party. The 7th grade students were studying New Mexican history and looked around Santa Fe for art and architecture design inspiration and discovered three major influences, Pueblo, Spanish, and Caliphate. Students then broke into groups of three and, using recycled pieces of cloth, created three tablecloths based on traditional designs and incorporating personal imagery relevant to today. The tables were set up in a “U” shape so that the viewer could walk around all sides.

The 8th grade students were studying world revolutions so they looked at propaganda and visual art from the time periods of the revolutions they were studying and used colors, styles, and motifs as the basis for their place settings. Each place setting had a placemat, a plate, flatware, and a glass, similar to Judy Chicago’s installation.

Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party is an amazing learning tool, and especially in our current divisive and nasty political climate, to which no one is immune. Chicago’s installation is a moving and opinionated history of women throughout civilization, honoring and illuminating their/our accomplishments. The 39 place settings are each based on an historic woman who was “written out of the historical record” and the idea that they are now given a “seat at the table” is a powerful metaphor for being seen and belonging, a cultural crisis that has been brewing in our country and especially in our state where “Dreamers” are our friends and classmates.

The student work was well-executed, thoughtfully designed and deliberately referenced. The works addressed the assignment well and the installation was thought-provoking and interesting to adults as well as students. Each place setting included references to the historic as well as personal iconography making it relevant to the assignment and to today’s culture. Kudos to a thoughtful and passionate art teacher for introducing students to Judy Chicago and providing a space for students to make the work personal and relevant.

Lisa Tremaine