Presented by Strangers Collective
1157 County Rd. 110
Ranchos de Taos, NM 87557
April 5 - May 4, 2018
Opening: Thursday, April 5, 5-7 pm
Imagine an artist perched atop a newsstand, scribbling across magazine covers with vivid pastels. Sarah Palmeri’s installation piece The Magazine Project instantly conjures that radical visual, with reproductions of marked-up magazine pages arranged in staggering grids. The Denver artist is determined to seize the imagery typically wielded by mass media and flip the script. She sends advertising vernacular on a collision course with abstraction in this immersive exploration of contemporary feminine identity. Palmeri collaborates with Santa Fe curatorial project Strangers Collective to present The Magazine Project at UNM-Taos, the second stop on a national tour for the installation. The exhibition opens in the UNM-Taos Atrium Gallery on Thursday, April 5 from 5-7 pm.
From Andy Warhol to Cindy Sherman, artists have adopted and subverted mass media aesthetics for generations. Now, creators who grew up in the bright glare of the Digital Age are taking a crack at it—and they’re perfectly suited to the challenge. “Contemporary art is so much about social practice and engaging a community, and that is what mass media has done for ages,” says Palmeri. “Advertising has this incredible accessibility going for it, but I think art can use the same tools to expose entrenched cultural frameworks.”
Palmeri is a trained painter who got the idea for The Magazine Project when she started an experimental series of pastel drawings on magazine pages. “I was working with this idea of reclaiming your identity, in the way that graffiti artists tag space to take it back,” Palmeri says. “I wasn’t vandalizing these images of people, I was shielding or armoring them.” She used the drawings as studies for a larger series of abstract, mixed-media paintings on canvas, but puzzled over what to do with the original images. By making high quality reproductions of the works and arranging them in grids, she directed tsunamis of serial imagery for a powerful new purpose.
“The intent of mass media is this manipulative gender stereotyping,” says Palmeri. “To be the best man or woman, you should have this and look like this. The difference of intention in this project is that it’s challenging you to be self-reflective, to understand yourself and your relationship to other people.” The project sent Palmeri on a soul search about her own notions of gender, and the longer she looked, the more intricate her understanding became. Through the language of abstraction, she found a vibrant spectrum of gender that was in stark contrast to the broad strokes she’d been taught. “I grew up in a little town an hour outside of Baton Rouge, where we had a Piggly Wiggly and a stoplight,” she says. “I realized at a certain point how I’ve been put in this straitjacket: ‘You’re a girl, you’re so fragile, let other people take care of that.’ No, I’m capable of doing all of those things despite what you think women can or should do.”
Palmeri hopes to inspire similar meditations from her audience: in addition to the installation, she’ll set up a table in the space with art supplies and magazines for visitors to make their own works. Participants can submit their art at themagazineproject.com for potential inclusion in a future edition of Reassembled, the show’s companion magazine. The publication examines the role arts and advertising play in creating social change. Palmeri unveiled the first issue at the inaugural showing of The Magazine Project, in Denver’s Understudy art space in February 2018. She plans to tour The Magazine Project to five cities across the nation (Santa Fe and New Orleans shows are in the works), with additional issues of Reassembled emerging as the archive grows.
Palmeri teamed up with Strangers Collective to produce the UNM-Taos version of The Magazine Project. She’s been a member of the Santa Fe-based emerging arts group since 2015, when she was living in Santa Fe, and has exhibited in a number of their group exhibitions. Three of her paintings appear in their current exhibition Mirror Box at form & concept gallery in the Santa Fe Railyard. This is Palmeri’s first solo show with the collective, and also represents the group’s Taos debut. “Sarah’s project is conceptually sound enough to maintain these powerful contradictions, which is really exciting,” says Jordan Eddy, co-director of Strangers Collective. “It’s figurative and abstract, painterly and photographic, one artist’s broadcast and a grassroots collaboration with hundreds of people.”
Sarah Palmeri graduated with a BFA in Fine Arts from Louisiana State University in 2011, where she studied mass communication and studio art. She has worked with Think 360 Arts for Learning since early 2016, an arts education nonprofit that integrates the arts in schools and community centers around Colorado. Her work has been exhibited in Ann Arbor, Baton Rouge, Denver, Key West, Los Angeles, Taos, Santa Fe, and San Francisco, and she has been a member of Strangers Collective of Santa Fe, NM since 2015. Sarah is currently is living and working in Denver, Colorado.