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‘Resistance through art’

SANTA FE, N.M. — Andrea Senutovitch was in the car with her daughter just after she received her breast cancer diagnosis. Her daughter Alexandra, 25 at the time, began to panic on the trip back from the doctor’s office in Albuquerque.

Senutovich told her photographer daughter to create a series of pictures based on how she was feeling at that moment. Senutovitch, also an artist, collaged her own work onto Alexandra’s prints.

“It saved both of us,” the mother says now, as therapy

Their “Metamorphosis” series, created in early 2016 not long after the cancer diagnosis, showcases women in vulnerable positions, symbolizing what Senutovitch and her daughter felt during their trying time.

The series was first displayed two years ago. Today, though, the art and the illness itself takes on a different meaning. Senutovitch, currently cancer-free, says she was lucky that Medicaid came through for her treatment, but she knows that many women won’t be as lucky.

And with cuts to Medicaid and Medicare on the agenda for some in Washington, D.C., worries about health care access are rising. Senutovich said she has friends diagnosed with breast cancer now who are opting for more natural treatments because they can’t afford standard care.

“(My diagnosis) was a year before I saw the system could even be taken away… . I was so grateful that I didn’t have that extra stress, because you really have to focus on getting better and the extra strength (that) requires,” she said.

Senutovitch and her daughter are showing the “Metamorphosis” series again starting this weekend as part of an exhibition designed to showcase ongoing “assaults” on women and the female experience.

“Feral Howl: A Feminist Response to Our Time” intentionally coincides with the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, as well as the massive Women’s March that was staged the day after Trump was sworn in.

The art of about 10 female or non-binary artists showing at Freeform Art Space also dives into broader themes that the artists connect to feminism, such as government impacts on nature or “Mother Earth.”

The pieces include an artist’s response to being detained by the Santa Fe Police after flashing the crowd at a post-election protest. Other topics are transgender suicide rates and the feminist experience through the lens of women of color.

“We just want to continue that feral howl of resistance and partly the exhibition is a way to continue that resistance through art,” said lead curator Kristin Barendsen. She said Trump’s election has incited anger and the show is a way to look at the “historic and current assaults” on women, female-identifying people and the environment.

The entire exhibition was built from a project Barendsen and her art collective, The Furies, created following election night, when they destroyed a Trump piñata out of frustration. They took the pieces and made photos and video using naked women, either re-enacting hitting the piñata or in crime-scene-like positions with the wreckage of the Trump figure surrounding them as they lay on the ground and with tape that says things like “One Billion Rising” or “Rape Free Zone.”

And while some have criticized the work for depicting violence, Barendsen says its message means more than just its literal images. It’s about the effect of the Trump administration on women, women’s resilience and taking back the power, she said.

Artist Ahjo Sipowicz made “Rise Raise Rage” based on a photo of them flashing at a post-Trump election protest. Sipowicz was later detained by Santa Fe police for the act. (Courtesy of Ahjo Sipowicz)

Though there have been several art shows in Santa Fe addressing feminism and politics, she said none of them have used images of Trump himself. She said that’s likely because the artists didn’t want to get into a “partisan” fight.

“We felt (these shows) weren’t edgy enough or topical enough to this year (and) this situation … . We felt if we don’t see that around, we should create that,” she said.

The show opens tonight and the artists will be participating in a live show Jan. 20, when visitors can take turns on another piñata. Barendsen also will read an essay she wrote about the aftermath of the election, artists Nikesha Breeze and Ahjo Sipowicz will be doing other kinds of on-site performances, and April Hartford and Senutovich will give artist talks about their displayed work.

Other artists in the show include Sarah Hewitt, Alicia Piller, Sarah Stolar and Andrea Vargas-Mendoza.


Correction: An earlier version of this story spelled Andrea Senutovitch’s last name “Senutovich.” An earlier version also indicates a suggested donation for the exhibition’s opening night. The opening night is free and the suggested donation is specifically for the Jan. 20 evening of performances