Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photos
A quiet, unassuming house on North Fifth Street in Belen will soon be the home to Wo/Manhouse 2022, a 50th anniversary tribute to Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist, immersive art installation Womanhouse.
Wo/Manhouse 2022: 50th Anniversary
What is home? For some, it is a place of refuge and calm; for others, it’s the source of strife and conflict, even violence.
In 1972, a group of students and Los Angeles artists transformed the rooms of a dilapidated house into a series of imaginative installations and performance spaces dedicated to the idea of home. This was the original Womanhouse, part of the first Feminist Art Program, established by Belen artist Judy Chicago at California State University, Fresno, and later expanded at CalArts.
Now, 50 years later, Wo/Manhouse 2022 is exploring what home is again, with 19 New Mexico artists from across the gender spectrum, transforming the rooms of a mid-century home on North Fifth Street in the city of Belen. Six of the artists participating in the retrospective are from Valencia County.
Megan Malcom-Morgan, executive director for Through the Flower, said more than 100 artists from across the state submitted proposals in hopes of being a part of the exhibit.
“This was only open to New Mexico artists,” Malcolm-Morgan said. “They will come in and create an immersive art project, where the entire house becomes an installation.”
The artists will be working within the confines of the home’s footprint, and won’t be allowed to alter the decor, Malcolm-Morgan explained. She and her husband, Jerah Cordova, own and live next door to the home, which they call the Sedillo house.
“Nothing in the house is to be removed; we are keeping the integrity of the home,” she said, “because the home is the canvas for the project.”
Built in 1926, the home has been unoccupied for almost 30 years, which has led to a time capsule of mid-century modern decor, from the shag carpets to the daisy wallpaper to the very gendered spaces of the all pink and blue bathrooms.
The original builder of the house is unclear, but it was long occupied by the Sedillo family, who have a significant history in Belen and New Mexico. One of the most notable members was attorney Filomeno “Filo” Sedillo, who became a mainstay in the Hub City and Valencia County politics, as well as being elected the state’s youngest attorney general at age 29.
His influence on the Valencia County Democratic Party as its chairman was so great that local Democrats were referred to as “Filocrats.”
As a filmmaker, Kara Sachs was initially hesitant to apply for a spot in the Wo/Manhouse show, but knew she had to take her shot at what she describes as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Sachs, a Belen native, returned home after two decades, is the director of the award-winning movie, “Milagros.” She developed the idea for her installation while in the shower.
“It popped into my head and I thought ‘that’s dumb’ but everyone I told about it thought it was great,” Sachs said with a laugh.
Tackling one of the most intimate spaces in a house, Sachs’ installation will be “My Life As A Bed.”
“It’s the place we all spend our most private and intimate moments — with our bed,” she said. “I thought, what if it wasn’t just an inanimate object? So this is from the bed’s point of view — its relationship to humans.”
Arguably nothing is more iconic and representative of home than the nightly tradition of family dinners.
The Belen family of Ana June, her husband, Chris Reidel, and their son, Graysen Riedel, 17, will be installing “Arsenic Hour” in the dining room, a piece that tackles the struggle of a modern family simply trying to end the day with a little togetherness.
Helen Atkins, an interdisciplinary artist and curator from Albuquerque, is creating an installation that explores domestic ritual called “Divinity Bathroom” in the blue bathroom of the Sedillo house on North Fiftth Street in Belen, the location of the Wo/Manhouse 2022 exhibit.
As a family Chris Reidel, seated, Graysen Riedel, 17, left, and Ana June, right, are installing “Arsenic Hour” in the dining room of the house being used transformed into Wo/Manhouse 2022. The piece examines the struggles of the nuclear family to remain connected and healthy in an increasingly disconnected world.
Jen DePaolo, from Albuquerque, will be creating a piece called “Chord” in the living room in Wo/Manhouse 2022, which honors six generations in her matrilineal line, with a meditation on time, transition, loss and survival.
The idea of the “Arsenic Hour” is decades old, describing the hectic time after work, when parents are juggling melt-downs, cooking and homework, trying to transition to peaceful family time, and might find themselves contemplating a little arsenic to smooth things out.
June, an assistant professor of English at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus, said the idea of representing that part of the day, as well as the fragmentation and dissociation of the family despite being gathered together, came from her own experiences as well as her mother’s.
“During dinner time as a kid, my father would plant himself in the living room, read a book or zone out, and my sister and I would be running amok. My mother told me when I was an adult, she had this fantasy of just frisbeeing plates through the window over my father’s head, just to see if he would notice,” June said, laughing. “I had my own challenges. Four kids, Chris was traveling, so many nights it was just me.”
She recalled a particularly hectic evening when, after she finally wrangled all four children to the table, she realized her youngest, Graysen, had managed to draw all over her jeans with dry erase markers without her even noticing. The arsenic hour indeed.
Chris Riedel, a self-described dabbler in all mediums, said the installation will be a dining room table covered with copious amounts of food, making a transition from healthy, more organic foods, to processed and packaged products.
A male figure with a cumbersome computer monitor as a head and two children consumed by digital devices, are impervious to the plates shattering above their heads, completing the picture of a modern, nuclear family.
For many, home is a sanctuary, a place of peace, away from the world. It is also a place you must leave from time to time.
As a feminist, 18-year-old Guinivere Mayse, of Los Lunas, wanted to use her installation to talk about how women have to leave the house every day with seven new “rules.”
Mayse, a dual credit student at The University of New Mexico, pursuing triple majors in art conservation, art history and art studio, said every day, women have a new way they could get hurt, get lost, a new way they could be trafficked.
“There’s a new way to act, a new diet to follow, a new haircut, new clothes, something new all the time. A man could do the same things and wear the same thing every day and be fine,” Mayse said. “I wanted to show what it’s like to leave the house, and it’s a scary process, so we have all these tools to help leave the house.”
The original Womanhouse exhibit was created entirely by women — who were predominately white, Malcolm-Morgan notes — and is recognized as the first public, feminist art exhibition. The 2022 reboot features artists from across the gender spectrum.
“We are going to try to look at what are the current issues,” she said. “This was open to all genders, it’s inclusive. It’s saying men live in houses, LGTBQ, plus their families.”
While Wo/Manhouse 2022 is the celebration of a milestone, Malcolm-Morgan said it’s also important because Belen is the home of Chicago and her husband, Donald Woodman.
“That’s really important, creating that sense of place for not just the project but for Belen as well,” she said. “The legacy of Judy continues here. This is her home, where she’s choosing to be and live her life.”
The project has been spearheaded by Malcolm-Morgan, but the execution of the idea is thanks to numerous local volunteers ranging from professors at The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus to Belen city councilors to local artists, photographers and students.
“There are so many people involved with this project. It’s amazing to see how willing and excited people have been,” she said.
Albuquerque artist Jen Pack, left, discusses her installation for Wo/Manhouse 2022 with Nancy Youdelman, right, the facilitator of the show. Youdelman is, herself, a successful artist, and one of Judy Chicago’s Fresno students and participant in the original Womanhouse.
On a bookcase in the den, a pair of cozy kittens wait for the space to be transformed into the immersive art installation Wo/Manhouse 2022. The exhibit is being installed at a mid-century home on North 5th Street in Belen.
In the den of the Sedillo house, color explorer Jen Pack, of Albuquerque, will create a space that explores intersections and liminal spaces through form, material and color for the Wo/Manhouse 2022 exhibit which will run through September.
As the 2022 installation has come together, Chicago said it has been incredible to see the level of response to the opportunity.
“There’s some hunger here and around us for more opportunities and for the chance (for artists) to expand their visions and practice,” Chicago said. “I’m personally interested to see what kind of feelings and ideas artists have coming from New Mexico about their experience in the home, how the expanded notions of gender affect, or don’t affect, the kind of art they want to make. I’m interested to see the issues they feel are important.
“It’s going to be a way to evaluate how much change has there been in the last 50 years and how much change hasn’t there been.”
During the retrospective, Through the Flower will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of Womanhouse with the opening of a historic exhibition at the Through the Flower Art Space in Belen, featuring a reinstallation of Chicago’s Menstruation Bathroom.
Wo/Manhouse 2022 will also include The International Honor Quilt, a collaborative and grassroots feminist art project initiated by Chicago in 1980 in conjunction with The Dinner Party.
The installation at the house on North Fifth Street will be open from 12 -5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, to ticket holders only. Those coming to the exhibit will start at the Through The Flower Art Space and be brought to the home as a group via shuttle to avoid having individual cars in the residential neighborhood.
For tickets to the Wo/Manhouse 2022 exhibit, which runs June 18 to Sept. 9, and other special events during the installation, visit womanhouse2022.com/tickets.
Tickets for the exhibition are $5 for Valencia County residents and students, $10 for New Mexico residents and $12 for non-residents.
Wo/Manhouse 2022 Artists
Helen Atkins (Albuquerque)
Helen Juliet Atkins is an interdisciplinary artist and curator. For Wo/Manhouse 2022, she is creating an installation that explores domestic ritual titled “Divinity Bathroom” in the blue bathroom.
Rosemary Carroll (Santa Fe)
Choreographer Rosemary Carroll will be activating the outdoor space with a performance installation. Before living in New Mexico, Carroll created dance and film installations in Brooklyn and New York.
Vladimir Victor Dantes (Los Lunas)
Vladimir Victor Dantes is a University of New Mexico graduate student pursuing a PhD in multicultural psychology and enjoys illustrating, beadwork and embroidery in his free time.
He will be working in the office, using the space as a shrine dedicated to those outcast by their families and communities for coming out of the closet and embracing their true colors.
Jen DePaolo (Albuquerque)
Jen DePaolo grew up in a working-class family in Buffalo, N.Y. DePaulo’s installation for the living room in Wo/Manhouse 2022, titled “Chord,” will honor six generations in her matrilineal line from her great great-grandmother to her daughter with a meditation on time, transition, loss and survival.
Laura Feierman (Rio Rancho)
Laura Feierman, a multidisciplinary artist who specializes in sculpture, was born in Los Angeles during the first Womanhouse show in 1972.
Her Wo/Manhouse 2022 installation in the pink bathroom will combine her personal experiences with vulnerability, insecurity, humility and tenacity while maintaining femininity, fantasy and female empowerment.
Lindsey Fromm (Albuquerque)
Lindsey Fromm is project director of the Albuquerque arts organization Friends of the Orphan Signs, and a faculty member of the art department at Central New Mexico Community College, where she teaches many courses including jewelry.
Her work in Wo/manhouse 2022 is a large altar in the living room titled “Birth Hearth.” This piece is informed by her son’s birth experience and is a celebration of the divine feminine.
Apolo Gomez (Albuquerque)
Apolo Gomez is a visual artist who has been selected to transform the master bedroom closet into a “Pleasure Closet,” an art installation about the dislocation of queerness, desire and shame.
Olivia Hartvig and Jules Hoffman (Medanales)
Olivia Hartvig is a multidisciplinary artist and birthworker based in Northern New Mexico on Tiwa land.
They and Jules Hoffman are currently working on an installation in the kitchen of Wo/Manhouse 2022 called “Delivery Kitchen.”
Hoffman is a singer-songwriter, who also uses videography, production and visual art as a way to connect beyond their music.
Ana June, Chris Riedel and Graysen Riedel (Belen)
Ana N. June, an assistant professor of English at The University of New Mexico-Valencia, her husband, Chris Riedel, a self-described dabbler in all mediums, and their son, Graysen Riedel, 17, will be installing a piece called “Arsenic Hour” in the formal dining room.
Stephanie Lerma (Albuquerque)
Stephanie Lerma is a New Mexico native, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, baker, knitter, musician, educator and has been a papermaker for the past 30 years.
For Wo/Manhouse, Lerma will be creating work for the laundry room.
Guinivere Mayse (Los Lunas)
Guinivere Mayse is an 18-year-old dual credit student at The University of New Mexico pursuing triple majors in art conservation, art history and art studio with a minor in international studies.
Her room will be the pantry, which will explore themes of horror and fear with leaving the house.
Jen Pack (Albuquerque)
Jen Pack, recently announced as one of the 12 New Mexico Artists to Know Now in 2022, is a color explorer and engages with the source through personal ritual.
S(he) will be in the den at Wo/Manhouse, which is a luminous room filled with soft natural light. It is the perfect space to continue exploring intersections and liminal spaces through form, material, and color as well as integration of personal story and cultural symbols.
Gabriel Partido (Las Cruces)
Gabriel Partido is a lifelong resident of New Mexico, a mechanical engineer, and an amateur artist. He will transform a bedroom in Wo/Manhouse 2022.
Kara Sachs (Belen)
Kara Sachs directed the award-winning movie Milagros. Her Wo/Manhouse 2022 installation, “My Life As A Bed,” will be displayed in a bedroom.
Sallie Scheufler (Albuquerque)
Sallie Scheufler is a multidisciplinary artist, organizer, and educator living on Tiwa land in Albuquerque. Scheufler’s “Encouraging Banners for Orgasms” will be installed in the hallway Wo/Manhouse 2022.
Price Vincent Valentine (Taos)
Price Vincent Valentine creates art working in themes of gender identity, domestic violence, and sociopolitical turmoil. Valentine will be creating an installation space in the small dining room tackling issues of gender identity and expectation.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.