The burning of Zozobra is an art form, an expressive depiction of rejuvenation that has gained constant recognition.
ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show exemplify the meaning of the event each year and have not only captured the essence of tradition, but have advanced the relationship between the extinction of gloom and broader concepts.
The annual show takes place the weekend before the fire at Old Man Gloom, which sits between the revival that takes place in the spring and the resolutions made at the turn of the year. Artist Will Shuster created the event in 1924 and has inspired other artists ever since.
Many new original works will be on display at ZozoFest and the Zozobra Art Show in Santa Fe, which begins today and runs through Sunday. Organized by the Kiwanis Club, this year’s gallery theme is an ode to the 90s.
Since 2014, the Kiwanis club has honored Shuster with its Decades Project. Event chairman Ray Sandoval, after hearing firsthand that the event had become obsolete, floated the idea of a 10-year journey through the decades leading up to the 100th anniversary of the fire of Zozobra.
Sandoval said he wanted to take people on a tour of history going back in time.
“There are basic elements in the ritual of getting rid of gloom, and we’re never going to take that away, but we want to provide a new interpretation,” he said.
Since the start of the project, each year has presented the decades in sequential order from Zozobra’s inception to its 98th fire. With only two years left until the milestone, it’s time to revisit ’90s staples like grunge music, Tim Burton, flip phones and Furbies.
“People are so talented,” Sandoval reflected on the state’s artists. “We have some really good things in store for people.”
ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show is a free event and proceeds from all art sales go to help children in New Mexico.
The exhibition will feature works by popular artists such as Mike Graham De La Rosa, festival veterans such as Jennifer M. Gutierrez and first-time submitters such as Su Walker.
Regardless of experience level, quality works of art will be on display, acknowledging this iconic celebration.
Middle school teacher Graham De La Rosa is the creator of Cosmic Desert, an expertly designed digital art project. The painter embraced the most modern form of creation in 2019, and his work captures elements of New Mexico through a unique blend of pop culture and tradition.
Growing up in Santa Fe, Graham De La Rosa observed and embraced its culture and stereotypes. From standards like distinctive art and heritage to outward depictions like aliens and the atomic bomb.
“I love those things, but there’s just this obsolescence that I really enjoyed playing with,” he said of the stereotypes. “There are these textures that I love in New Mexico…these elements that make up our lives.”
Graham De La Rosa was young in the 90s, but old enough to appreciate trends and draw inspiration from the music scene. His work, “Zozobra Not Even” – which will be featured on a ticket poster – is a take on Nirvana’s classic “Nevermind” album cover.
His piece is his first submission to ZozoFest, an event for which he has great admiration. He reflected on how Zozobra presents an opportunity to confront and overcome their respective issues.
He said, “Will Shuster put a mirror on New Mexicans and their day-to-day issues and said it was good to have them, let’s celebrate them as a community.”
Art comes full circle
Gutierrez is a retired elementary school teacher, which is only to be expected given that her art debut also started in elementary school – creativity is on full swing. She said she was always sitting and doodling, making posters and flyers for her classmates, family and herself.
A woman of many artistic professions, she said, “My artwork is whimsical. I like to make people smile. »
Gutierrez will be attending her fifth ZozoFest and was excited about the ’90s theme. She shared her inspiration from the decade, particularly her admiration for Tim Burton, best exemplified in his work, “Scissorhand Zozo.”
She said of the event, “It’s interesting to hear from other artists and how they create. It’s fun to look at all the artwork and it helps the kids. It’s worth it.”
Many works will be exhibited at this year’s event, from veterans to newcomers.
The first time is a charm
Walker is an internationally acclaimed artist, working primarily in the realm of aliens and Sasquatch. Although she only started drawing in 2016, she said she has been working in crafts for four decades. The Zozobra Art Contest leading up to ZozoFest and the Zozobra Art Show was Walker’s first contest, and she did her research.
“I’ve studied all kinds of Zozobras throughout history,” Walker said. “It was fascinating to watch Zozobra change over the decades.”
For the competition, Walker explained that she explored what was famous in the 90s and designed her piece based on some of the biggest trends and entertainment. His Zozobra, which was named Zozobra Youth Poster 2022, comes with a Furby next to his leg and sports a Jedi robe and lightsaber while chatting on a flip phone. Darth Maul’s menacing face serves as a backdrop of fireworks.
Walker shared, “I just had fun doing it before anything else. I was shocked when I got the email from (Sandoval). “
ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show continue to grow, showcasing the many talented artists who reside in the state.
Reviving the tradition
Art from ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show will be for sale with proceeds going to the Kiwanis Club to help improve the lives of children and families in New Mexico. Sandoval said he received 450 submissions to the competition from first- and second-graders alone. There were 150 total submissions specifically for ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show.
Sandoval said, “As people learned about the Decades Project, creativity boiled over and participation escalated. We are really happy about that. We have reinvigorated the tradition.
No matter the generation, the artists of ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show remind us that tradition and progression can coexist, especially when there is a common denominator: shaking off the darkness. Gloom has no concept of time or generational differences, but can still be burned every year.