Three Women and their Art
Some people would say that art doesn’t have much of an impact on their lives. For others, it’s what brings profound richness to the everyday world, while challenging the comfortable platitudes we live by. The Art Department of UNM-Taos has a student show running through March 7 in the Atrium of Fred Peralta Hall on Klauer Campus that addresses the implications of waste, the environment and related issues such as women’s rights, homelessness and the artists’ personal responses to the current social climate, according to Sarah Stolar, Art Department Chair. The large-scale, thought-provoking mixed media surfaces are powerful to experience, and I was fortunate to be able to visit with three of the artists last week, all of whom approach art in very different ways.
Kimberly Walker claimed that her career path was the opposite of what most people would suppose, since she completed her career first, and then went to college. Now in her third semester at UNM-Taos, she suspects that she is going to be a student for life.
“In the spring of 2015 I retired from the army after seventeen years,” Walker said. “I was stationed in Colorado Springs, and I came down to Taos to heal, and I am glad I found such a perfect place to come and heal. I completed a certificate in holistic healing and during that time I took an art therapy class, and I was opened up to the world of art. It was a whole different side of the spectrum, and I guess I’m bringing a little bit of the army stress out onto paper. I was a sergeant in the army, working in information technology, and I had high responsibilities. I was the tech person, and in a man’s world, that’s how I saw myself.
“ After I left the army I really didn’t know who I was any more. Sergeant Walker—who is that? But now in my third semester, I guess I’m getting to know myself a little deeper. Working with found materials said to me that we are all a little fractured, and the world as a whole is imperfect. There’s a lot of chaos in the piece, but there is order, too. It’s all about how we try to fix ourselves. In life, just as in art, there are a lot of collisions.”
Nikesha Breeze had a whole different perspective. She started out as a psychology major with the intention of eventually going into pre-med, and now she plans to get an MFA in art. She has been a professional artist for a long time, teaching art in middle school and high school.
“I like to think big,” she told me. “It’s not what art does for me, exactly. Art is a natural force of human will, a necessity. It’s the way we see the world. The way we pray. Making art is a form of prayer. My work is a treatise on language, sex, resistance, unity and the power of the sacred. By incorporating discarded materials,
we are reminded that we are throwing away language. We are throwing away history.”
Amani Khweis has been a Taos resident for sixteen years. She said that she was naturally quite shy, but that the art classes had opened her up, and made her talk about her work. “Sarah Stolar has helped me a lot,” she said.
Khweis told me that her natural inclination was to be very precise in her art, but that working with found materials was fun. “I always paint and draw, but I never thought about doing something like that—something different, something to share with other people.
“I decided to make Islamic art because of the situation in the world today, rather than to choose not to.”
I mentioned that, from a distance, there was a beauty and organization to her work, enhanced by the flowing lines of Arabic script that gave it balance.
She pointed to a phrase with a thin outline in gold. “In Arabic, it says, ‘Thank God.’”