An Exhibition Against Hate

The day after the presidential election was difficult for many people at SFUAD. Most classes spent time talking about the emotions students and professors were dealing with following the results. Many professors encouraged students not to lose hope, especially those who had voted for the first time in this election —this sort of thing has happened before and it doesn’t mean their votes don’t matter. Other professors let students vent and cry about their frustrations so that everyone could be heard. But especially at our school, one encouragement made its way into every post-election discussion: keep making good art.

Sarah Stolar, a Studio Arts professor, took this advice a step further by creating a space for her Painting I students to share the art they made in response to the election. That following class period, she brought up the idea of having an exhibition in the spring in which students could show their pieces that advocated against the hate and fear spread by then President-elect Donald Trump. “She was really emotional that day [after the election] and she came up to us with an idea about making a show, possibly here in Santa Fe somewhere,” Jorge Lozano, a freshman Studio Arts major, says. “We gathered up a bunch of information and she went out and found a place where we could exhibit a few paintings from our own work.” The place Stolar found was Art.i.fact, a local art gallery that also housed a Writers Resist event a couple of months ago.

Cyan Gonzalez displays her piece promoting dark-skinned beauty. Photo by Madeleine Sardina.

The exhibition is student run, with help from Stolar, and the beginner studio artists are meeting the challenges of the event alongside the challenges of being students. “It’s been a rough ride definitely because we had to focus on school and this at the same time, but it really feels worth it,” freshman Studio Arts major Cyan Gonzalez says. The students divided up responsibilities like graphic design work for posters, social media and the press release. Danielle Sanchez, another freshman studio artist, took on the main leadership role of coordinating with the students and the gallery. “I’ve learned so much from doing this,” Sanchez says. “I had to learn how to write a press release; I had to learn who to contact and how to get information out there and be honest about what this is providing and what it means to be in this exhibition. So it’s definitely been more of a leadership role than I’ve had to take before, just with planning and being organized about everything.”

The title of the exhibition is Color: A Painting Exhibition Against Hate. The concept of ‘color’ was decided by the students when they realized they didn’t want to have paintings all about the same thing, but instead explore the issues that are important to them through color. “There’s no real definition as to what color is,” Gonzales says, “and I feel like there’s a lot of room for interpretation and it can really speak to people without needing to go into detail.” Gonzalez’ piece focuses on the idea of race relations in America by painting an African American woman to show the beauty of dark skin. “I have an appreciation for African culture… you know, because I’m not even close, I’m Hispanic,” Gonzalez says. “And I feel that especially with race relations going on in America right now… Because a lot of people seem to think that darker skin is not beautiful and I wanted to show that it can be, that it is, it is very beautiful.”

Each piece in the exhibition is filled with vibrant colors and concepts that attest to issues brought about by the 2016 election, whether it be more direct responses or interpretive. Sophomore Studio Arts major Elexsis Miller combines the power of red and green along with different painting techniques to show the fluidity of expression in her piece God Has Many Heads. “I wanted to bring up the conversation… the actual fluidity of painting and what that means,” Miller says. “Which is interesting to discover in my own life… You’re not one person, you’re not stagnant. You’ve never met a stagnant person and if you have, something’s up.”

Elexsis Miller’s piece God Has Many Heads. Photo by Madeleine Sardina.

Other students, like Jorge Lozano, used this opportunity to open up about personal struggles. When Lozano was six, he was in a car accident involving a drunk driver in an 18-wheeler. The accident took Lozano’s cousin’s life along with another loved one and left Lozano to deal with the repercussions the rest of his life. “[My painting] is a visual representation of the moment when I lost my past, present and future,” Lozano says. “Completely unconscious, you know? It’s a very memorable moment for me and in my brain… I think about it every day. I need a way to get this out into the world… So I really appreciate being able to be here and being able to do the ‘No Hate’ show.”

Because of his accident, Lozano also identifies strongly with Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the organization to which the exhibition proceeds are going. The students voted on which organization to donate the money from the sale of the pieces, narrowing from an initial 30 possibilities before choosing DREDF. “And it really came down to what affected the group,” Sanchez says. “I am someone who is dyslexic and has gotten a lot from [DREDF] and what the organization funds, especially for public schooling. And I shared that with the group and everyone could relate to that on some level and we decided to do that one because we felt like it was a bigger effect and it was a charity that doesn’t get a lot of recognition.”

After months of work, Color is almost ready for the opening at the end of spring break. Sanchez hopes to see a lot of support from the school and her fellow students and that they feel all of the hard work that has been put into these paintings. “Every artist put in a lot of their own perspective and passion into it…I’ve watched everyone work on these and transform from these…and it aligns with what the actual exhibition means, it’s this ‘No Hate,’ it’s this lovelier side to something that’s a little bit of a darker matter, what’s going on in society nowadays. It’s really amazing to watch everyone work and change and how they put themselves in these paintings.”

The opening for Color: A Painting Exhibition Against Hate is from 4-7 p.m. March 18 at Art.i.fact. It will remain open through March 28.