Christoph Wagner always wanted to play the cello. The new assistant professor of cello at the University of New Mexico, Wagner started playing when he was six. Wagner says he watched his sister play the cello and never doubted that it was the instrument for him. What attracted him was the versatility of the instrument. “You can do so many things with this instrument. You can play very low, you can play very high pitches. So you can mimic a huge spectrum of expressions, sounds, timbres and colors,” Wagner said.
Queer people of color created house music, Justin Cristofer said – a Queer DJ, promoter and producer in Albuquerque. Cristofer aims to take the idea of a Queer DJ and expand it beyond pop music as well as highlight the history of house. House is a music genre characterized by having four-to-the-floor musical patterns and the tempo of 120 beats per minute, according to Harper’s Bazaar. Bringing house music to Queer Albuquerque spaces, Cristofer said, honors the history of the genre.
In pursuit of activism and pride, The Association for Jotería Arts, Activism and Scholarship at the University of New Mexico meets twice a month to organize events to create a space for Queer Latine, Chicanx and Indigenous students. AJAAS – a national collective of artists, activists and scholars – has existed since 2005. Their name and organization reclaims a Spanish slur against Queer folk, focusing on activism and community, AJAAS member Lama Quiroz said. “It's a way to reclaim that word in order to empower ourselves,” Quiroz said. The UNM chapter has been centered around education on the histroy and culture of the chicano power movement, Quiroz said. AJAAS attended the Latinx Visions conference along with hosting book club meetings this past year.
Pandora Torres, a Queer tattoo artist, works with her father at The Divine Eye Tattoo shop in Albuquerque. Torres’ presence as a Queer artist has helped her queer and feminine clients feel more open and comfortable while getting tattooed in her space. Tattooing for the last three years, Torres said that the majority of her clients are Queer. Her top priority, she said, is to ensure her clients feel safe and comfortable. “Spiritually speaking, I feel as though tattooing is a huge exchange of energy and it would be irresponsible of me to go into such an intimate procedure without making sure that everyone is happy, feels safe, comfortable and – above all – comfortable communicating with me,” said Torres.
Utilizing a variety of mediums and the color pink, Carmen Selam – a Queer Indigenous artist – uses pop-culture references and specific colors to amplify themes of Indigeneity and Queerness in her artwork. Currently, she is experimenting with risograph printmaking to create a zine titled “Resbians,” a combination of the words “lesbians” and “reservation.” Selam is Yakama and Comanche, and said she finds herself incorporating those two identities throughout her artwork. She calls herself “Yakamanche” – a combination of the two.
Phamily Tea House opened across central from campus last December, out of California. The restaurant has begun selling entrees at their Albuquerque location, Jerry Pham, restaurant manager, said. The entrees range in price from $8.99 - $15.99. The recipes were crafted by Chef Vu Pham. With over 30 years in the restaurant industry, Pham developed the recipes and spice mixes with his family and said that they continue to change and develop as they cook them in order to combine Vietnamese and Taiwanese cooking.
Moving from their first location on Broadway Blvd., Off-Broadway is located on Central Ave. near campus and sells vintage clothing. While they do sell costumes, the shop is primarily a vintage store with clothing from before the 1980s. However, the two work hand in hand, storeowner Susan Ricker said. Her goal is to find ways to mix vintage with contemporary fashion. “It's transformative to wear a costume,” Ricker said. “If you were all vintage from one period, like all 50s, (you are) in a costume because that's not what I call contemporary dressing. I sell vintage clothing primarily as contemporary fashion. So, you mix eras.”
Marina Perez, a contemporary Indigenous arts PhD student at the University of New Mexico, struggles with the concept of the art world. The art world often creates barriers for communities of color, which makes it harder for them to enter it, Perez said. It produces a binary between fine arts and community arts, contemporary arts and ancient arts. The separation, they said, often makes it hard for people of color to participate in the art world. “The art world is a colonial construct. To even think that we need to construct a completely different world away from our everyday lives … Communities of color don’t have access to be able to enter the art world,” Perez said. “Our knowledge is not embraced or acknowledged.”
Moving from their first location on Broadway Blvd, Off-Broadway is located on Central Avenue near campus and sells vintage clothing. While they do sell costumes, the shop is primarily a vintage store with clothing from before the 1980s. However, the two work hand in hand, storeowner Susan Ricker said. Her goal is to find ways to mix vintage with contemporary fashion. “It's transformative to wear a costume,” Ricker said. “If you were all vintage from one period, like all 50s, (you are) in a costume because that's not what I call contemporary dressing. I sell vintage clothing primarily as contemporary fashion. So, you mix eras.”
María Dolores Gonzales said that her book, written in Spanish, English and Spanglish, was put on the shelves independent of publishing firms. The literary community in Albuquerque is very rich, Gonzales said, but the community often lacks diverse representation. Gonzales – a retired UNM professor – attended Books on the Bosque’s local author palooza on July 15. She taught within the Spanish and Portuguese department before authoring “Atop the Windmill I Could See Forever” – a bilingual memoir that details her childhood in the southwest. “I’m trying to see – where is the Hispanic community? Where are the Hispanic writers? Where are the Latino writers? I think that is a big void in the literary world,” Gonzales said.
It’s safe to say that over the past three years, Taylor Swift has spoiled her fans. Starting with her 2020 release of “Folklore,” she has released six albums – three entirely new ones and two rerecordings. On July 7, Swift gifted her fans another nostalgic experience and released “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).” “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” comes 13 years after the original masterpiece. Swift has been rerecording her previous albums from when she worked under producer Scooter Braun. Braun had refused to sell Swift the rights to her music, so she is rerecording it. I am all for her owning her music and doing so in any way she can. And who doesn’t love being supplied with nostalgia?
With the goal of becoming an annual event, Jeff Sedden – owner and promoter of the Morgue and Krypt Horror Fest – planned the first one t in Albuquerque two years ago. A trustworthy team, Sedden said, has been the most important part of the Horror Fest’s success. Albuquerque has other conventions, but the overall goal of the horror convention, Sedan said, is to ensure that it becomes a staple in the community.
Sara Abbaspour – the new assistant professor of photography – completed her bachelor's in urban planning and design at the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in Iran; she picked it because it was the closest STEM major related to art. The research that the major required introduced her to photography – a passion that she ultimately followed. “We had to study different neighborhoods to be able to design for the people, and photography was a major part of it — to study the environment, to know the environment better or to study the behavioral patterns of people who are using that urban space … my love for photography started there,” Abbaspour said.
An evolution of screenprinting, called Risographs, mixes a specific amount of four colors to create the artist's desired color. The risograph printer uses premixed ink and lays one color at a time. The process allows for vibrant and fluorescent effects as well as unique mistakes. Risolana – a community risograph studio in the South Valley – aims to educate on this process. In an effort to introduce risograph printing to the community, Risolana holds 30 Under 30 events on the 30th of every month; participants sign up, bring in any art work and create 30 risograph prints for $30, co-founder Karl Orozco said.
Sam Snell – UNM alumni and artist – held the opening night reception of his first solo exhibition titled “Magical Thinking” on June 24. Snell’s idea of “Magical Thinking” is to merge Queer and spiritual identities to help people apply a spiritual lens to their life experiences. The exhibition is also the first solo show hosted by Tori Wilson, owner of Garagedoor Gallery and fellow artist. She immediately connected with Snell’s work and said she was excited to have the opportunity to share it with other members of the community. “When he contacted me to have this solo show here, it was an immediate yes,” Wilson said, “because that means that I get to be surrounded by his art for a whole month.”
“Green Earth Matters” was the original name of a newsletter Tara Ravishankar hoped to write – before there was an internet – about recycling resources in her local community. Now it is the name of her thrift shop, G.E.M. Ravishankar had always dreamt of opening a thrift store. She opened G.E.M. on Halloween of 2019 after a friend bought a house just north of 12th Street and Candelaria. She said she is primarily interested in keeping stuff out of landfills and creating a space for the community to donate the things they don’t want anymore.
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science holds Relaxed Nights – sensory-friendly experiences for the public. Anthony Fiorillo, the executive director for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, said the museum strives to make programming accessible to everyone and that Relaxed Nights are important to have. The Relaxed Nights stopped while the museum was closed due to the pandemic, but as the museum opens back up, they have decided to reintroduce them during their busiest months in March, June and July. The museum will also hold a Relaxed Night for veterans in November.
The Duke City Comic Con brought together fans to celebrate comics, video games, anime, movies and TV shows, June 16 - 18 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. In attendance were actors from popular media, including Jackson Rathbone from the “The Twilight Saga” and voice actor Alejandro Saab from “Genshin Impact” – a popular video game franchise. Jared Rotegas, a Con attendee, said that he is interested in both the social and material aspects of the Con. “(I want) to show my cosplay off and meet other people,” Rotegas said. “I’m also here to browse. I spent a little over a hundred bucks yesterday.”
A Queer prom was hosted by Meow Wolf and the Human Rights Alliance of Santa Fe on June 14. The HRA works to educate and engage the Santa Fe community in Queer and LGBTQ issues. The prom was held in honor of Shontez ‘Taz’ Denise Morris – a former Meow Wolf employee and member of the HRA. HRA is an organization first created to advocate for the civil rights legislation in the 1990’s and currently provides a scholarship and hosts pride festivities, according to the Santa Fe HRA website. Mark Westberg, a committee member for the HRA, worked with Meow Wolf to organize the prom. The event was focused on creating an environment that Taz would enjoy. The committee’s members' roles include community outreach with an emphasis on Queer youth, Westberg said.
Viva La Plant Shop officially opened their doors Thursday, May 11. Their new brick-and-mortar store is located inside of New Nuevo – a shared space centered in the Plaza of Old Town. Matt Vinson and Iris Valenzuela-Vinson, partners and owners of Viva La Plant Shop, began displaying their passion for plants with pop-up bus shops amid the pandemic in Memphis, Tennessee. Last summer they brought their business to Albuquerque. “We were able to adapt quickly when we moved, and we essentially almost had a community here already when we started, so it was a very easy transition for us and we felt like we were able to start quickly and make connections quickly,” Vinson said.