And then a hero comes along Linda Durham curates Sheroes/She Rose
Sheroes /She Rose
Metastatic cancer, also called stage IV cancer, is cancer that has spread to other organs and body parts from its original location. Once cancer cells have entered the bloodstream, they can travel almost anywhere in the body, forming new colonies. Depending on the type of cancer and treatment, it’s not likely anyone in stage IV will be fighting any fires, performing covert rescue operations, or saving anyone from drowning. But that doesn’t mean he or she can’t still be a hero. For artist Laura Scandrett, whose friend Julie is suffering from terminal cancer, a hero (or “shero,” in this case) is perhaps defined less by what someone does than who she is inside. Scandrett is one of eight artists in the exhibition Sheroes/
She Rose! curated by Linda Durham for Offroad Productions. Also included are works by Dana Newmann, Anita Rodriguez, Gail Rieke, Sandra Filippucci, Ciel Bergman, Jennifer Esperanza, and Joan Brooks Baker. The show is an invitational in which artists were asked to create works on the theme of personal heroes, whether they are other artists, writers, family, friends, or anyone capable of inspiring others. “When Linda told me about the theme, she said it could be whoever I want. What immediately came to mind was Julie,” Scandrett told Pasatiempo. “It’s been a long road, but we’ve been friends since we were five years old. I chose her as my shero because she is really living triumphantly while her body is breaking down. Her sense of humor is still incredible. Her zest for life is probably more intense than it’s ever been. As a good friend, she’s also been a kind of teacher of mine. Through the years she had more confidence in me than I had in myself, and we’ve always had a supportive friendship.”
Scandrett’s drawing for the exhibit has a central, figurative human form. “I approached it thinking of ‘interior’ and ‘exterior,’ ” she said. “The central form is basically a Rorschach figure, so it’s symmetrical. It’s almost an ethereal figure that represents the physical being. It’s pretty abstract.”
Scandrett makes several small studies for every large piece that she exhibits. The references to cancer are not obvious. The central form in the studies and in the larger work is ghostly and monochromatic, contrasting with the lively colors of surrounding cell-like forms. “I’ve been trying to consider that there may be a certain beauty in cancer,” she said. “I’m currently a very new student of Zen Buddhism — as a philosophy, not as a religion. Having cancer can force someone to live in the present moment and live honestly and fully, shed the insignificant stuff. I follow this idea of beauty. I wanted to make a piece that was a tribute to Julia, and I wanted it to be beautiful by my own aesthetic, which other people may not find beautiful.”
Some artists in Sheroes, such as Anita Rodriguez, chose another route and turned to women from history as their muse. Rodriguez contributes a large-scale oil painting depicting Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th-century Hieronymite nun, poet, and scholar of New Spain who was known as “The Tenth Muse.” Rodriguez shows de la Cruz in congress with Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nezahualcoyotl, a 15th-century pre-Columbian poet, warrior, philosopher, and ruler.
Gail Rieke chose to include black-and-white photographs of women taken during her extensive travels: a waitress in Mexico City, a grandmother spinning yarn in rural Laos, and a lace maker on the isle of Burano. “The island of Burano is a tiny island near Venice,” Rieke said of the latter image. “For many, many years, the men fished and the women made intricate lace that was famous all over the world. There are very few elderly ladies still on the island who continue to carry on this intensive craft. The dignity and concentration of this woman touched my heart.”
Ciel Bergman, who selected Louise Bourgeois as her shero, paints canvases that combine abstraction and figuration. Dana Newmann, an assemblage artist, chose Emily Dickinson, and Sandra Filippucci is including her Peace Prints, inspired by Joan of Arc, which depict a young woman in chain mail in a field of flowers. The martyred saint is an ongoing theme in her work, and her exhibition Joan of Arc: Voices of Light, also curated by Durham, opens at Evoke Contemporary on April 29.
Durham was inspired to do the Sheroes show after the death of a friend. “I have my own heroes, and one of them also died of cancer exactly a year ago this month,” the former gallery owner told Pasatiempo. Durham owned a gallery in Santa Fe for more than 30 years and was forced to give it up in 2011. “I thought I would have the gallery forever. I wasn’t out of energy. I wasn’t out of ideas, or enthusiasm, or optimism — except I was totally out of money. When the gallery closed, I was heartbroken. Suddenly, I went from seeing people all the time and having events to being at home.” Sheroes is Durham’s first curated exhibition outside of small shows produced at The Wonder Institute, a philanthropical organization and art consultation business she operates from her home. “The day I locked up the gallery and brought the last of my stuff home I thought, ‘OK, now what?’ Then I thought, ‘What do I have?’ I have an interesting, funky, big old house, and I have a sense of wonder. My house reminds me of a little institute, so I thought I’d start an institute.”
One of her more recent endeavors through The Wonder Institute is life coaching for artists. Durham offers individualized coaching based on an artist’s different needs, depending on where they are in their careers. “Somebody is seventy-five years old and has a whole body of work and wants to know, ‘What can I do with this?’ or somebody just got out of graduate school and wants to know, ‘Where do I go?’ There are certain artists who have plenty of money, but they’re not satisfied if their work is not being seen. Then there are people who simply want to be a star. So we start by saying, ‘What is your goal? Where is it that you want to go?’ Then we figure out how realistic this is and what would the steps be? What have you already done that’s of value and what have you not done that you almost must do if you’re serious?”
When Durham was selecting the artists for Sheroes, she looked to the stable of artists she has represented over the years, as well as others, and they were already united by a common theme. “I wanted all those artists to be heroes of mine: women whom I respect. That’s who all these artists are in my mind.” ◀
Having cancer can force someone to live in the present moment and live honestly and fully, shed the insignificant stuff. I follow this idea of beauty. — artist Laura Scandrett
Laura Scandrett: Julie, 2016, gouache on polypropylene; inset, Sandra Filippucci:
Joan of Arc: Peace V, 2016, pigment print on rag