Art

Natalina makes a bold statement using reimagined discards

By Dena Miller
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 8/22/19

“Someday, all of the trash around us will become crystals, rocks and dirt. This planet, Earth, is amazing that way. We often say humans are destroying the Earth, when what we really mean is that we are creating an Earth that is not hospitable toward humanity.”

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Art

Natalina makes a bold statement using reimagined discards

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“Someday, all of the trash around us will become crystals, rocks and dirt. This planet, Earth, is amazing that way. We often say humans are destroying the Earth, when what we really mean is that we are creating an Earth that is not hospitable toward humanity.”

Let those thoughts settle in with you for a moment. And then, from this remarkable perspective, imagine the art that springs from eco-feminist Natalina, who has been reimagining discards with action, creativity and the power of the written word.

Natalina’s exhibit, titled “Love Letters and MetaMemories,” will open with a reception Friday (Aug. 23) from 4-7 p.m. at the University of New Mexico-Taos Klauer Campus south of town on County Road 110. It is free and open to all. Live music throughout and a projection art performance at 5:30 p.m. — both, likewise, provided by Natalina — round out the evening’s events.

'Love Letters'

It’s no exaggeration to say this conceptual show is anything less than astounding. It has taken over the entirety of public spaces in the Fred Peralta Hall, which houses UNM-Taos’ Art Department. Over 1,000 love letters, each painstakingly handwritten by the artist, have been suspended from the ceilings of the building, and hundreds of ceramic sculptures — from the diminutive to the life-sized to those in abstract forms — are on view.

“Aside from department offices and classroom space, we gave Natalina free reign to install her work throughout the department’s building,” said Sarah Stolar, chair of the school’s art department, of this unprecedented move. “Cutting her loose in this manner is an opportunity for her to explore all the different things she is capable of, and for us to witness what this great artist can do.”

What you’ll witness are the layers of “Love Letters and MetaMemories,” peeling away as those of an onion, each revealing something new but interrelated in narrative and imagery.

“The show favors androgynous and female forms and incorporates discarded elements in part to illustrate my vision for the world going forward,” said Natalina, while also noting her songwriting and music as the connection between her myriad installations. “Many of the words from the three songs I wrote for this exhibition are contained in the hanging letters and are incorporated into my ceramics.”

And when asked about the inclusion of “metamemories” in the show, she explained, “We are living a collective experience in addition to our own, egocentric narrative. My most favorite memories exist as still frames from a moving picture in my mind.” The “meta” in this regard refers to the thing itself, as in self-referential.

Favorite moments

Natalina searched the memories of others left behind in carousels of slides, the forlorn, abandoned precursors to the cameras of our smartphones. “I was fully prepared to cut and paste silhouettes into scenery and instead found a multitude of photos which matched my own favorite moments in time.” This has become the basis of the projection art to which you will be treated.

Her ceramic sculptures are either handcrafted or coil-built and finished with underglaze and [super-saturated salt solution] oxides as well as raku techniques and experimentation, she said, crediting artist Lee Akens for helping to craft these elegant, multidimensional works.

“I have studied under Lee for several years and his wealth of knowledge and experience with many techniques have helped me to actualize my vision,” she said.

Beyond her written words and clay pieces, however, it is her intense focus upon what she’s dubbed “alchemic upcycling” and is what you’re probably most familiar with. For those who look forward to the popular Glam Trash Fashion Show — planned Aug. 31, 5-7 p.m. on Taos Plaza this year — you may recall that Natalina was the 2018 grand prize winner with an entry made from inner tubes, a discarded tent and kombucha scoby.

She’s since taken those looks to conventional fashion show runways, photo shoots and art markets across the country. Today, she’s experimenting with crystallization of trash, starting with, as she said, “the most useless of trash: packing peanuts, broken sculptures and maybe the pencil I might be holding in my hand.

Cardboard

“The thing that excites me about crystallizing trash and objects that will someday be trash is that it will take the Earth a million years to transform all of our things back into Earth stuff. So, for our lifetime, all we see is trash unless we transform it ourselves.”

The role of “artist” is one in which Natalina didn’t see herself early on, although she always considered herself artistic as she dabbled in theatrics and music. Concentrations in philosophy and political science at Purdue University, from which she graduated, were overshadowed by the birth of her daughter, now 11.

“My first paintings were acrylic paint on cardboard,” notes Natalina of her creative journey. “I’d just had a baby and moved into a new apartment on campus at Purdue. The walls were a not very pretty off-white so, one day, I took some cardboard from the stack of moving boxes set out for recycling and some sign-making supplies and painted for several hours. I hadn’t taken any art classes in college or high school [but] maybe something about giving birth reminded me that I could make things.”

“She’s proven this to be true in both the sophistication and interdisciplinary aspects of her practice,” noted Stolar. “She certainly can create whatever she sets out to do, and does so in a fluent and universal language.”

Past growing pains

Under Stolar’s guidance, the overall aspects for the art department of UNM-Taos are thriving. “I think we’re well past the growing-pains stage,” she said. “Being in a community that not only needs, but wants and supports a solid art department has been so gratifying.” She noted the new academic year will contain a lot of exciting new collaborations and community events for students and the general public to enjoy.

“We also do plan to dedicate the Atrium Gallery this year to the installation of female artists, so the works of Natalina are the perfect way to kick this off,” she continued.

And, spoken like a true artist, Natalina said, “When plain words are not enough, when fancy words are not enough, wherever English fails me, art compensates.”

Fred Peralta Hall and its Atrium Gallery are located on the UNM-Taos Klauer Campus, 1157 County Road 110, south of Ranchos de Taos via State Road 68.

“Love Letters and MetaMemories” is available for free public viewing through Sept. 19, Mondays through Fridays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. For more information, call (575) 737-6200.

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