'Reception extraordinaire'

Music, dance and performances are planned to wrap up LGTBQ+ youth art exhibit


Zia Willow Flower, who also goes by Josephina "Jojo" Ortiz, will be performing two dance and musical numbers at the closing reception for a pop-up exhibition featuring LGBTQ+ youth titled "Love Who You Are, Love Who You Want."

The reception is planned for today (April 5), 4-6 p.m., in the Encore Gallery at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

Zia Willow Flower, a Taos Pueblo native, former Taos High School student and local drag queen, emphasized that the venue may be standing room only so be prepared to dance. She said her upcoming performance "is an extension of who I am and who I couldn't be as a child growing up."

Ortiz grew up at Taos Pueblo and started performing in drag at a very young age. In fact, she said, since she was 7-10 years old. However, she said it has only been the last two years that she has "performed freely in public."

Ortiz is getting her general educational development diploma at the University of New Mexico-Taos and plans to attend culinary school with a future in confectionary arts and baking. Zia Willow Flower, Ortiz's drag persona and stage name, has been through many iterations and evolutions, but she feels the persona's current form most accurately depicts her cultural heritage and roots.

In the first number, Flower will be lip syncing in Spanish to "Valentina" by American drag performer Alaska Thunderf__k, a parody of Louis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," that became last summer's less-than-innocent, international, and inescapable hit when Justin Bieber was later added as a collaborator. While the roots of "Despacito" may be in the reggatón and Latin pop movements, the song stirs up memories of Madonna's "La Isla Bonita," especially given the drag context.

Flower's second performance will be an electric duet with the drag queen, Miss Anastasia Hills, who also hails from Taos. Together, Flower and Hills will be performing "I Own The Runway" by American drag queens Miss Fame and Miss Violet Chachki. "Pain is beauty if you want to slay," chants the electronic anthem just before the beat drops. Few are likely to know this as intimately as its performers.

To add to the fabulousness and fanfare of the reception, Flower said gay readings from local poets will be featured, including Sabina Jones, who will be reading an original piece. Additionally, the local rapper, Toner, will be making a special appearance, and music and skits will be performed.

The pop-up exhibit, which concludes with this reception, was a collaboration with the LGBTQ+ community, the Taos High School Gender Sexuality Alliance and the Dream Tree Project. The inspiration came when the GSA Group at Taos High expressed an interest in doing an exhibition, and Irene Loy, Dream Tree Project's Outreach Coordinator, worked with the TCA to make it happen.

The exhibit includes more than 20 works of art created by youth in the local LGBTQ+ community, with mediums ranging from photography and mixed media to sculpture. According to Taos Center for the Arts Executive Director Deborah McLean, the exhibition happened serendipitously. "Art speaks. People use art to express social and political issues. There are times when it is not as prominent. These are times when artists are responding visually and with the written word," McLean said.

As the title suggests, "Love Who You Are, Love Who You Want," the exhibit and reception are about acceptance and tolerance: loving yourself, loving others, identity, diversity and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

The exhibit and reception were intended to be an educational experience for Taos youth from start to finish. The selection process for works in the exhibit started early this year.

Every aspect of the exhibition and reception, from hanging artwork at a visually appealing level to marketing, promotion and development, was planned to empower, support and educate the youth involved. McLean said that her staff guided the event, but ultimately they gave the participants the reins to run the show.

Students sought donations for the reception, which included pizza and refreshments, and they will look after guests attending the reception. "The planning of the exhibition and reception and performance event has been in the making for many months," McLean said, "with Irene Loy from DreamTree, many students from the Taos High GSA group, including Kineo Memmer, Josephina Ortiz and Robert Trujillo, who are members of the core planning committee, Ned Dougherty, Taos High teacher and advisor and TCA staff. It has been a collaboration led by students and guided by adults. The team invites and encourages our Taos community, young and old, to save the date Thursday (April 5) for a reception extraordinaire."

For more information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit