Doña Inés Lost Her Slipper--Santa Fe
Ongoing work related to the Doña Inés project. The exhibition was on view at the Santa Fe Community College Visual Arts Gallery October 30, 2014-February 6, 2015..


Doña Inés had lost her slipper, and was verily quite distraught,
Someone on the estate must have it, oh so she thought,
Was it pretty Miss Milly, or perhaps little Don Miguel?
No matter how much she tried, she was never able to tell.

I am a Santa Fe-based artist, who felt compelled to create an exhibition about a complex personal history that had haunted me all my life. My father came to the United States from Spain in the late sixties, and formed a flamenco dance company with my mother, a native New Mexican. As their company became more successful, and they started touring extensively, I spent significant amounts of time with my Chippewa grandmother in Taos, New Mexico, and went for several years to the Indian day school on the reservation. A major part of inspiration for this exhibition is my grandmother's story of being sent to a boarding school at the age of 8--her removal from her people's land and separation from her family. After my own experience at Indian School and high school, I studied and lived in Spain and France (my wife is French). After both my father and grandmother passed, I felt a need to develop an exhibition which explored the complexity, challenges, and rewards that come from growing up in a multi-ethnic and cultural household. Having grown up in these various, disparate places, this project in a sense is a way for me to reconcile those identities, and to explore a poignant and fascinating past that unites many of us, who are the children of those first encounters.

One day during the hot summer of 2013 I was in Madrid visiting my father (who was on his last trip to his country of origin), and I went to the Prado. The usual works featured were the great Spanish paintings by Velázquez, Ribera, Murillo, Goya…but I went to a quiet corner of the museum showing less appealing works to 21st century eyes—18th century aristocratic and royal portraits. My first instinct was to cut through the section as fast as possible to make it to the Goyas, but then, I was transfixed by the mysterious portrait of a girl before an ethereal landscape. It was a portrait by German-born artist Anton Raphael Mengs, who painted many of the late 18th century aristocracy. The girl, I discovered, was Maria Luisa de Parma, the future queen of Spain from 1788 to 1808. Later in life, she was painted by Goya in much less favorable light, as she came to embody the decadence of the Spanish court at the time of the Napoleonic invasions.

This beautiful and somewhat strange portrait gave birth to a project, one exploring the idea of aristocracy, beauty, class, slavery, colonial rule, and their impact on today’s multi-ethnic society. I started to imagine a fictional account of a Spanish aristocrat who arrives in the New World, and finds herself confronted with a Native American maidservant, who is there against her will, but who becomes complicit in Doña Inés’ secret life.

The exhibition is as much about the maidservant as it is the aristocrat. The maidservant is Native American, and the works in the exhibition weave a story about her experiences in a colonial household: her coping with a new situation, reaffirming her identity, and eventually striving to emancipate herself in an imagined and/or real way. This exhibition is the record of those thoughts and her struggle. It is also about Doña Inés, the idiosyncratic aristocrat, who spends her days puffing on pipes, as aristocratic women did in those days, and running her household, only to find herself secretly vulnerable and lost in this new world and environment. I intend to deconstruct the aristocrat as much as I plan to reconstruct the maidservant.

The flattened identities of the servants/slaves recalls contemporary work by artists such as Kara Walker, and echoes the brutal hierarchical structure of Spanish colonial America as represented by Mexican “Castas” painting, where all possible racial mixtures were clearly enunciated in images showing two parents and a child.

Despite obvious political implications of the project, it strives to inhabit an aesthetic space revealing a more complex picture than simply oppression/repression, master/slave dynamics. It will also explore the channels of complicit and interconnected lacework entangling both those in positions of privilege and those serving them.

It would fundamentally address the histories of many of us, who are composites of these entangled relational structures.
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