Monte del Sol Art Exhibition
The opening of Monte del Sol charter school’s Student Art Exhibition was originally scheduled to take place on Jan. 30 at the Marion Center for Photographic Arts. Unfortunately, inclement weather forced the SFUAD campus to close and the event was rescheduled. Despite taking place on the closing night of the exhibition, this did nothing to dampen the spirits of students on the evening of Feb. 20.
The rescheduled opening draws not only Monte del Sol students, but members of the Santa Fe art community as well. Monte del Sol Arts Coordinator Mike Webb stands in the corner, his arms crossed, greeting students and parents. He is an imposing presence, both in stature and beard. This is his fifteenth year teaching at Monte Del Sol and his tenth year as arts coordinator.
Webb graduated from the College of Santa Fe and joined the staff of Monte del Sol in 2001. The charter school includes students from grades 7 to 12. Webb’s photography classes are made up of students from all grade levels. He says they learn from each other.
The work of his photography students hangs on the walls next to drawings of buildings in three-point perspective, gauze sculptures of hybrid beasts and masks made of tree branches and dried flowers. “There is no theme to the show,” says Webb. “It’s all over the map.”
In a side room, a series of short films is projected onto a screen in a constant loop. “The students started off the semester very shy,” says Film production instructor Diana DeAguinaga Pettersson. “Producing these films really helped them to express themselves,”
Each of the student films is approximately three minutes long and had to consist of at least one long shot, one medium shot and one close-up. The students use equipment loaned by Santa Fe Community College and edit their films in iMovie.
Fifteen-year-old Madeline Weider is a tenth grade film student at Monte del Sol. Her first short film, Daydreams, is part of the exhibition. Weider served as both director and editor, and took on some of the camera duties as well. The story follows the thoughts of a young girl, daydreaming in class. She wakes up in the desert and runs into a panther. Weider cast her cat in the role of the panther then used green screen effects to make him appear larger.
The films play simultaneously on a flat screen monitor in the gallery. Next to the flat screen is a wall of masks made from found objects. Monte del Sol’s visual art teacher, Nancy Sue Michaels, points to her favorite mask on the wall. Daniel Rodriguez’s piece is a plank of wood, split in the middle, gaping back at Michaels with wood knot eyes. Giulia Caporuscio created two pieces in this series. Both entitled Fashion one is a face made from the bark of a tree with a hat cocked to one side. The other depicts an entire woman’s body. Seashells serve as mismatched shoes that dangle from toothpick legs beneath a skirt of flower petals. Michaels asked her students to write stories to accompany the pieces. She says the stories often changed her initial perspective.
Every piece in the gallery includes the artist’s name, the title of the piece and the price, handwritten on an Avery label. An untitled sculpture by Briana Garcia has the face of a panda bear, but the body is blue. Its legs are short and its back is a sea of curls. The label includes a price of $100.
“I tell the students, if you’re particularly attached to a piece, make sure you price it appropriately,” says Michaels. The artists get to keep half of the money for any piece that is sold, while the other half goes back to the school’s art department to help pay for supplies.
Garcia’s panda piece is one of a series of hybrid sculptures, blending two or more animals and occasionally the odd inanimate object. In a glass case, above the panda hybrid, is a squirrel-like creature called Bush Baby Phone Burrito. Its eyes are the size of tangerines. I Love Lucy’s famous Vitameatavegamin scene graces the black and white screen of a Technicolor television sprouting legs and wings. Mildred Rodriguez’s Bunny Bug sits on the refreshment table next to a platter of humus-filled celery sticks. The piece combines the body parts of a rabbit, a butterfly, a ladybug and a monkey.
Eleventh grader Laura Christian produced eight pieces on display at the exhibition, each one entirely different from the next. “We were only allowed to use one color in addition to black and white,” she says, pointing to her painting, Pink Zebras. The title is self-explanatory, though there is only one zebra depicted. “I was going to put him in the center,” says Christian, “then I thought, why not put his head on one side and his butt on the other?”
Monte del Sol’s Aram Brown, though still a senior in high school, towers over his fellow students. Brown has been studying photography since he was in seventh grade. He has only two photographs on display, but they represent some of the most striking work in the exhibit. Brown traveled to Bali in the summer of 2014 as part of the Bali Art Project. The program was started in 2000 by Santa Fe residents Gaylon Duke and Zenia Victor. The month-long trip takes place in the summer and exposes students to a wide array of art forms, religious ceremonies and social customs.
In Brown’s piece, The Primal Streets, a monkey plays on a grimy street corner. A Struggle in the Shadows depicts a Bali woman hunched over a loom. “I was trying to draw a parallel between the urbanization of Bali and the tragedy of their minimal wages.”
Arianna Rotondo-Padilla has two impressive photographs on display. Gravity uses two separate negatives to make one print. The end result is an image of a girl sitting in meditation, floating in an upside down landscape. Her other piece, Om, relies on more photographic trickery. Yet again, the subject is a girl in meditation, this time sprouting four arms like a Hindu god. The surrounding vegetation appears to vibrate around her.
SFUAD Photography Program Director Tony O’Brien hovers over the wall of student photographs, admiring the composition of Jesus Trujillo’s piece, Neighborhood. “Some of these photos are quite good,” he says. “A few of these students will be attending our school next year.”
Look out, students of SFUAD. You’ve got competition.