An art show and panel discussion will be held in Edgewood Aug. 14, a partnership between artist Chloé Duplessis and The Independent newspaper, along with other community partners.
Beginning Aug. 16, the show will be on display at The Independent’s office through Sept. 16.
Duplessis is a Colorado-based artist originally from Louisiana, and her latest show, Negro Stories, got national attention at its most recent venue in New Orleans in June.
Duplessis is a legally blind artist whose medium is digital collage. She started off making physical collages. As her vision started to decline, she made some “adaptations and adjustments” to the way she was creating art. By increasing the pixels, she was able to continue her work and adjust her ideas about what it means to go blind gradually.
In addition to being an artist, she is also a mom. “Having a kid enhances the commitment” to her art, she said, adding, “When my vision goes, she will have a record of how I saw the world.”
Duplessis has been creating art “informed by history and culture” for the last 6 or 7 years, she said.
The scope of her work encompasses more than just an image. She researches history, using her medium to tell people’s stories. “I firmly believe we need to hear each other’s stories. Everyone is relevant,” she said. Those represented in Negro Stories are stories about discrimination.
“It’s powerful to acknowledge that we don’t have history figured out,” she said. “If history is unchanged than we ignore the possibility for us to be more connected than we are.”
Duplessis said as people begin to unpack these stories with compassion and love, the focus becomes history, culture and healing.
She said her life’s work is mindful, in the sense that she is representing the voices of the unseen, children and those whose lives have already been lost, elevating the voices of marginalized people. She spends six months doing research and then she collects the stories to support the research. She said, “It’s not just an artist interpretation, it’s actual truth because its someone’s real story.”
So why does she want to bring an art show from a large city like Denver to a rural East Mountain community like Edgewood?
“What is extraordinary about partnering with media, is that they advocate for the people with everyday things,” she said, adding, “I am from a small town in the south and I remember my grandfather reading the paper. I love edifying rituals.”
Duplessis and The Independent’s editor and publisher, Leota Harriman, were brought together by an intensive business training program by and for women in Albuquerque several years ago, indirectly. A mutual friend introduced them.
“I wanted art on the walls in our gallery space at the office,” Harriman said, adding, “I started off with sort of a selfish motive initially. The pandemic interrupted our regular exhibitions. Once Chloe and I started talking about her art, we decided to add a panel discussion.”
The newspaper has a gallery wall space and had hosted regular exhibitions of work by members of the Route 66 Arts Alliance, which was interrupted by Covid, meaning the IndependArt space has been vacant for more than a year.
“Art is fundamentally about communication, and it reaches people in a different way and on a different level than the written word,” Harriman said.
The purpose of the panel is to bring together a diverse group of local people with a willingness and commitment to have a respectful conversation with people they may not agree with.
Panelists who have confirmed so far are Rick Lopez, a longtime leader in the Torrance County and state Republican Party; Augustine Montoya, previously chair of the Torrance County Democratic Party and currently president of the Tajique Land Grant at 20 years old; Tracey Master, a longtime Torrance County resident, fire and police chaplain, and advocate for mental health awareness; and Queneesha Meyers, owner of Q’s Cakes in Albuquerque.
“I wanted to create a safe space for hard conversations and to have a panel of speakers made up of our local community members,” Harriman said. She said the panel will be diverse in terms of age, backgrounds, ethnicity, and culture.
The role of the newspaper is to provide the forum to have difficult conversations in a respectful and compassionate way, a step in reaching out to neighbors, and presenting something different than a hyper-politicized fight, Harriman said.
The event will kick off at 4:30 p.m. with an opening reception at the Historic Bean Barn at Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood, another community partner in bringing the event to Edgewood.
Food and drinks will be provided by Jo White, a longtime community volunteer and regular columnist for The Independent, who loves to feed a crowd, and the exhibition will be on view. At 5 p.m. Duplessis will give a short overview of the show and answer a few questions. Her work can be viewed online at duplessisart.com.
At 5:30 the panel discussion will begin. Attendees can submit questions anonymously through two question boxes. The event is open to the public, free and all ages are welcome.
The panel discussion will also be livestreamed on The Independent’s social media; or to attend in person follow this link to Eventbrite to RSVP, for food planning purposes. The event will follow any Covid protocols in place at the time.