And then a hero comes along Linda Durham cu­rates Sheroes/She Rose

Sheroes /She Rose

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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

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