Farmington, NM-based Latina artist, Rosemary Meza-DesPlas is known for exploring gender, sexuality, and identity issues through hand-sewn human hair drawings, watercolors and on-site drawing installations. A native Texan, she lived for many years in the Dallas/Ft.Worth metroplex. She received an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (Hoffberger School of Painting) and a BFA from The University of North Texas.
Ms. Meza-DesPlas has been sewing with her own hair since 2000. Her decision to collect and sort hair to utilize as a vehicle for making art is informed by socio-cultural symbolism, feminism, body image, and religious symbolism. An article on her hand-sewn human hair drawings was featured in the Huffington Post Arts & Culture section in 2015. Meza-DesPlas’ most recent drawings incorporate her gray hair.
In 2013 Toby Kamps, Director of Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston), selected her hand-sewn human hair drawings and watercolors for the exhibition Art on the Edge at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe. Ms. Meza-DesPlas was the exhibition director for the exhibition and cultural exchange Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art presented in Shenyang, China in 2014. She worked in partnership with the International Caucus of the Women’s Caucus for Art and LuXun Academy of Fine Arts.
Ms. Meza-DesPlas parallels the themes in her artwork with the written word and spoken word performances. In 2017, she presented the academic paper Heaviness, Hardship, Heft: Gender-based Burdens in Images at the 8th International Conference of the Image in Venice, Italy. Ms. Meza-DesPlas’ recent spoken word performances were at the Feminist Art Conference, Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, Canada; Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, NM; ARC Gallery in Chicago, IL and the Durango Arts Center in Durango, CO.
The personalization of social issues in a serial format is the structure for my art-making. Societal impositions upon body image, transformative perspectives about women and violence, conceptuality of intimacy, and socio-cultural burdens endured by women are the most recently explored topics. Social issues are viewed through a multifarious lens of mass media, social media and art history.
My drawings are created by hand-sewing my hair into various surfaces. I have been sewing with hair since 2000. The decision to utilize hair as a vehicle for making art is informed by socio-cultural symbolism, feminism, body image issues, and religious symbolism. Collecting and sorting my hair is a ritualistic act. The dichotomy of using hair captivated my interest: hair can be a sexy and engaging tactile to people or it can be repulsive – like a hair in your soup or a hair on your hotel pillow. There are religious connotations to hair which coincide with symbolism reflecting strength, sensuality and reverence: Delila cut off Samson’s hair and Mary Magdalen washed the feet of Jesus with her hair.
My drawing installations are composed of scratchy, nervous lines trailing across a wall. These large, on-site installations are drawn with conte; sometimes the drawings incorporate vinyl appliques, liquid graphite and specialty fabric. As a painter, I focus particularly on the medium of watercolor. Voluptuous layers of watercolor stain surfaces to create figurative forms. Washes of color depict the imperfections of flesh: flesh is not merely about accuracy for color and form, but it is about having an eye for the bump — and the lump– and the chunk of blemished flesh.
“The body – what we eat, how we dress, the daily rituals through which we attend the body- is a medium of culture. The body, as anthropologist Mary Douglas has argued, is a powerful symbolic form, a surface on which the central rules, hierarchies, and even metaphysical commitments of a culture are inscribed and thus reinforced through the concrete language of the body.” (Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, 1993) I examine gender role expectations and prevailing stereotypes in mass media through the lens of socio-cultural structures.
What does intersectional feminism mean to you?
Feminism is about gender equality. Intersectional feminism acknowledges that gender equality is impacted by additional societal classifications of race, ethnicity, class and religion. In order for feminism, as a movement, to be inclusive it evolved into intersectional feminism. My experiences as a feminist are tied to my ethnicity – my mother is from Coahuila, Mexico and my father’s ancestry is tied to Tamaulipas, Mexico.
How does activism show up in your work?
My interest in societal issues and how they impact women fuels the content of my creative work. The bodies of artwork I produce are focused around particular themes. These are some of the social issues (themes) I have addressed in my artwork: societal impositions upon body image, perspectives about women and violence, anger as a tool for change, and socio-cultural burdens endured by women. By fore-fronting gender-based burdens, inequities surrounded violence, poverty and politics and their impact on women, I am shining a continuous and consistent spotlight on these issues. Proactive visibility of inequality is necessary for change to occur –whether it manifests in small steps or larger advancements. For the artist, noise-making is fundamental.