My name is Calaya, and I am in Victoria Ehrlich’s Art History FYE class. Alongside our study of western art history from the pre-historic era to our present day (we are now learning about the Medieval period), our class utilizes the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center collections to enhance our study of art. In addition to taking a tour of the museum early on, and now, curating our own exhibition with artworks from the FAC at CC’s collection (the show will be up second block, come check it out!), last week we went to listen to the FAC’s artist-in-residence, Virgil Ortiz, give a presentation of his work.
During Ortiz’s talk, I learned about his background as a potter at the Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. Ortiz’s ancestors were all potters, and he learned the traditional ways of gathering clay, making paint from wild spinach, and baking the pottery in a wood-fired oven underground from his mother (his people are a matriarchal family, and knowledge is passed down through women). He now continues these traditions by teaching his younger nieces and nephews the ancient practices of making pottery. Still maintaining a connection to his ancestral designs and concepts, Ortiz has now branched out into making pottery with modern themes, along with films, jewelry, high-end fashion, and digital art. Much of his current art is social commentary, just like his ancestors made clay figures commentating on colonial times.
Ortiz’s current project at the FAC is an exhibition of costumes for his latest project, which is a film that tells the story of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 with Cochiti people and a sci-fi theme. He generously opened his studio for three days, during which students could come and assist with building his costumes. I went for a couple of hours one afternoon, and I started by helping Ortiz cut out form shapes for a mask. Then, he showed me how to bend the foam with a blow dryer and glue it to the mask base. I was making the mask of a conquistador, and it will later be spray painted a shiny black. Meanwhile, two of my friends were sewing black, glittering beads onto a gas mask, while other students were putting black and blue glitter on another. There were a few completed masks in the workshop, and a large pair of black wings for one of the costumes. The aesthetic of the costumes is sharp, futuristic, and draws on natural shapes, like feathers and serpents. The show is called Revolution – Rise Against the Invasion, and is open from October 6, 2018-January 6, 2019 at the Fine Arts Center.
It was exciting being in a professional artist’s studio and seeing how one would prepare for a museum exhibition. Virgil Ortiz was welcoming and very trusting of us, while still making sure the quality of his art was up to his standards. As a visual artist, I enjoyed being in a collaborative studio environment where what we helped to create will actually be put on display for the public to see. Thank you to Virgil for letting us come to your open studio!
Image Sources: ArtSlant, HuffPost, YouTube, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts