La Mecha Contemporary gallery is sharing beauty with Borderland art lovers, while also raising consciousness about societal issues and tensions.
The gallery at 3803 Frutas Ave. in South-Central El Paso is hosting a free opening reception for “Create Something Beautiful: the Founding Members’ Group Show” from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday.
The exhibit will be on view through May 20.
The gallery’s name signifies the founding group’s effort to inspire local artists, said co-founder Zoe Spiliotis, who added, “I would say that although this was initially something I brought forth as an idea, I am a co-founder along with these other wonderful artists who have invested their support and ideas to make it come to fruition.”
She said, “I’ve never been good at naming things, including my own art, so the name was suggested by Adrian Aguirre, as a reflection on the mission of the gallery: to create a spark or fuse to ignite the local art scene and as an enduring flame for our artist members passion for creating art.”
La Mecha Contemporary is a nonprofit artist-led gallery that is dedicated to the celebration of art and creativity that enriches artistic discussion and educates the public about the work of contemporary women and underrepresented artists, she said.
Spiliotis, who is an assistant professor of art and the districtwide coordinator for the art discipline at El Paso Community College, said she “is a New Mexican-based artist whose work is based on mathematical principles exploring the principles of repetition, symmetry, movement and visual perception through the use of patterns.”
She added that her work “explores perception and the quest for transcendence; creating a space where wonder meets the ordinary and where heaven meets the earth.”
“I teach studio classes (design and drawing), as well as art history at the Transmountain Campus,” she said.
Spiliotis, who earned a Master of Fine Arts from New Mexico State University, recently was awarded two fellowships through the Humanities Collaborative between the University of Texas at El Paso and EPCC, funded by the Mellon Foundation, for her project to develop a color identity for the city of El Paso and to create a series of student-led digital murals.
She said “the idea behind La Mecha started because of many conversations I have had with other artists over the years and what I noticed as a lack of opportunities to exhibit regionally, especially for local women artists. The art community is very small, and sustaining a gallery in El Paso is hard because we don’t have a strong gallery presence enough to encourage the public to make visiting galleries or collecting art part of the general culture of the area.
“So, after witnessing the experience my husband, artist Adrian Aguirre (also a founding member of La Mecha), had as a fellow with Strata Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and finding their gallery model very inspiring, I approached a group of like-minded local artists about trying to make our version for the El Paso area,” she said. “What we found were social gallery businesses, like what we wanted to make, all across the country, and those examples served to support and inspire us as we thought deeply about the type of gallery offerings that would best address the needs of our unique community.”
The Falstaff Art Complex
The opening is the latest event taking place on the grounds of The Falstaff Art Complex, an area that once served as part of a former brewery that now has become the site of El Paso’s latest art community.
In a news release, organizers said visitors can see “beautifully rendered visuals weave delicately through personal reflections and abhorrent societal issues, creating hope and highlighting tensions, to capture the complexity and diversity of the world around them.”
The goal of the show isn’t only “creating something aesthetically pleasing. It’s about creating something that has the power to inspire, provoke, and create change. It’s about using art as a tool for social and political transformation and positively impacting the world around us,” the release states.
Spiliotis said, “We believe in the power of community and the value of creative space for women and underrepresented artists.”
What to expect at La Mecha Contemporary
“Our gallery model gives each artist member a chance to have their own solo show, as well as providing for at least one group show opportunity each year,” Spiliotis said. “So, you can expect to see a new show each month dedicated to one of the members. One of our main goals was to help develop local artists careers by providing an opportunity for a solo show, which are hard to get, and then offering them the opportunity to experiment and display their art and ideas on their own terms.”
She said, “We also have a dedicated room for juried groups shows, which will change monthly, and this is an opportunity for us to learn more about local artists who want to show with us and have them exhibit at the gallery.”
The gallery will also feature visiting artists and curators exhibits.
“This month we will host the University of Texas at El Paso’s 3D departments (sculpture, metals and ceramics) for their show ‘360,’ which coincides with International Sculpture Day, and next month (May 25-June 24) the entire gallery is dedicated to El Paso Community College’s 46th Annual Student Art Exhibition,” Spiliotis said.
She said the gallery also has Launch Fellows, who “are artists who have applied and been awarded a yearlong membership at the gallery. Typically the artists selected for the Launch Fellowship are emerging artists, recent graduates, or are new to the area or haven’t had the opportunity to exhibit or be connected to the art scene in the region. We had envisioned the fellowship as a way to help support and encourage these artists to keep pursuing and making art during pivotal transition years, when most artists lose their academic art community and enter back into the working world and have less time to dedicate to their art practice.
“Through collaboration and mentorship, our member artists give our Launch Fellows direct guidance as they transition into new phases of their art career and learn to navigate their professional artistic practice. The Launch Fellows are awarded a solo show and have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of working at a gallery to expand their resumes and to add to their professional development.”
La Mecha Contemporary isn’t pushing any particular message or medium, Spiliotis said.
“Not in our art,” she said. “In fact we don’t favor any distinct style. Instead we promote a range of diverse and authentic individual expression through a varied material practice, imagery and style.
“We are dedicated to making sure women or women-identifying artists have fair representation as artists in the Borderland. But we also have male members and artists that fit into other underrepresented groups that we also want to promote to our local Borderland community.”
The gallery is open during “our opening receptions, which take place every Last Thursday night from 6 to 9 p.m. and during other special events planned at The Falstaff Art Complex, and on Saturdays from 12 to 5 p.m. and by appointment,” Spiliotis said. “We anticipate also being open on Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m. as we help build the community at The Falstaff and more of a gallery-going culture in El Paso.”
The price ranges for the art “varies greatly depending on the show, the art and the artist,” she said.
“But in this show we have a wide range from prints starting at $50 to approximately $5,000 for some of the paintings,” Spiliotis said. “We also have a few planned juried group shows (of national, international and local artists) dedicated to art priced under $200. Both of these are great opportunities for collectors or aspiring collectors in El Paso to purchase work directly from the artists at great prices.”
The opening reception will feature original art by Spiliotis, Aguirre, Cleo Arevalo, Tauna Cole, Maggie Day, Jackie Mitchell Edwards, Eva Flynn, Alix Gaytan, Elizabeth Galvin, Nabil Gonzalez, Sharbani das Gupta, Katrina Laine, Yashoda Latkar and Jean Wilkey.
Food and drink will be available from Cafe con Leche, El Tiger and Deserto Pizza.