Zozofest and Zozobra Art Show captures Zozobra in '90s form

ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show artists bring back the ’90s

“Zozobra Not Even” by Mike Graham De La Rosa. (Courtesy of Mike Graham De La Rosa)

The burning of Zozobra is an art form, an expressive representation of rejuvenation that has earned constant recognition.

ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show exemplifies the meaning of the event each year, and has not only captured the essence of tradition, but progressed the relation of extinguishing gloom to broader concepts.

Ray Sandoval

The annual exhibit takes place the weekend before the burning of Old Man Gloom, which falls between the rebirth that takes place in spring and the resolutions made at the turn of the year. Artist Will Shuster created the event in 1924 and has served as an inspiration for other artists since.

Plenty of new original work will be on display at ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show in Santa Fe, which begins today and runs through Sunday. Hosted 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 Chair Ray Sandoval, after hearing firsthand the event had become stale, conjured the idea of a 10-year journey through the decades leading up to the 100th anniversary of the burning of Zozobra.

Sandoval said he wanted to take people on a tour of history by going back in time.

“There are staples to the ritual of getting rid of the gloom, and we’re never going to take that away, but we want to provide a new interpretation,” he said.

Since the project’s inception, every year has featured the decades in sequential order from the creation of Zozobra to now its 98th burning. With only two years 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 folks.”

ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show is a free event and proceeds from all art sales go toward helping the children of New Mexico.

The exhibit will feature work from popular artists such as Mike Graham De La Rosa, festival veterans such as Jennifer M. Gutierrez, and first-time submitters such as Su Walker.

No matter the experience level, quality artwork will be on display, recognizing this iconic celebration.

Capturing elements

Graham De La Rosa, a middle-school teacher, is the creator of Cosmic Desert, an expertly-crafted digital art project. The painter adopted the more modern form of creation in 2019, and his work captures the 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 his culture and stereotypes. From standards like distinctive art and heritage to outsider representations like aliens and the atomic bomb.

“I love these things, but there’s just this staleness to them that I just really liked messing with,” he said about the stereotypes. “There’s these textures that I just love about New Mexico … these elements that make up our lives.”

Mike Graham De La Rosa projects his Zozobra art “Zozobra Not Even” behind him. (Courtesy of Gema Tarango)

Graham De La Rosa was young in the ’90s, but old enough to appreciate the trends and be inspired by the music scene. His work, “Zozobra Not Even” – which will be featured on a ticket poster – is a take on the classic cover art for Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album.

His piece is his first submission to ZozoFest, an event he has great admiration for. He reflected on how Zozobra presents an opportunity to face, and overcome, one’s respective troubles.

He said, “Will Shuster put a mirror to New Mexicans and their everyday problems and said it’s fine to have those, let’s celebrate those as a community.”

Art comes full circle

Gutierrez is a retired elementary school teacher, which is fitting considering her start in art also began in elementary school – creativity comes full circle. She said she was always sitting and doodling, making posters and fliers for classmates, family and herself.

A woman of many artistic trades, she said, “My artwork is whimsical. I like to make people smile.”

Gutierrez will be participating in her fifth ZozoFest and was excited about the ’90s theme. She shared her inspiration from the decade, especially her admiration of Tim Burton, best e

Jennifer M. Gutierrez shows off her art for the 2022 ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show. (Courtesy of Jennifer M. Gutierrez)

xemplified in her work, “Scissorhand Zozo.”

She said about the event, “It’s interesting to hear the other artists and how they create. It’s fun looking at all the artwork, and it helps out the kids. It’s worth it.”

Plenty of work will be on display at this year’s event, from veteran to debut artists.

First time’s a charm

Walker is an internationally-recognized artist, primarily working in the realm of extraterrestrials and Sasquatch. Though she didn’t start drawing until 2016, she said she had been working with crafts for four decades. The Zozobra Art Contest leading up to ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show was Walker’s first competition, and she did her research.

“I studied all kinds of Zozobras throughout history,” Walker said. “It was fascinating to see Zozobra change through the decades.”

Su Walker holds her contest-winning entry for ZozoFest at her studio in Rio Rancho. (Liam Debonis/Journal)

For the contest, Walker explained she explored what was famous in the ’90s and designed her piece based on some of the more prominent trends and entertainment. Her Zozobra, which was named the 2022 Youth Zozobra Poster, is accompanied by a Furby near its leg and sports a Jedi robe and lightsaber while chatting on a flip phone. The menacing face of Darth Maul serves as the fireworks in the backdrop.

Walker shared, “I just had fun doing it above everything else. I was shocked when I got the email from (Sandoval).”

ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show continues to grow, showcasing the many talented artists that reside in the state.

Reanimating tradition

The art at ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show will be for sale and proceeds go to the Kiwanis Club to help improve the lives of New Mexico’s children and families. Sandoval said they received 450 contest submissions from first and second graders alone. There were 150 submissions overall specifically for ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show.

Sandoval said, “As people learn about the Decades Project, the creativity has gone off the scale, and the participation has gone off the scale. We’re really happy about that. We’ve reinvigorated the tradition.”

No matter the generation, the artists of ZozoFest and Zozobra Art Show remind people that tradition and progression can coexist, especially when there is a common denominator: to shake off darkness. Gloom has no concept of time or generational differences, but can still be burned away every year.

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