Amanda Rowan an American photographer based in Los Angeles is opening a Multi-media exhibition titled Place Setting, at the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from May 20 to June 30, 2022, At this premier exhibition The Acequia House is re-opening its doors from a historic house museum into a contemporary art space that engages with its history in association with the Women’s International Study Center (WISC).
In a year when much of the world was confined to their homes or under imposed travel restrictions due to coronavirus, Amanda Rowan also occupied a domestic environment – but not her own.
Created during Rowan’s Fellowship at the Women’s International Study Center at Acequia Madre House her visually arresting new exhibition, ‘Place Setting’, is a multimedia performance piece of photography, film, and sculpture.
The result of the project is a collection of work – including recreated elaborate dinner parties from archival recipe books – which explores the surrealist narrative of domestic labor as well as themes of property and independence linked to the trappings of class and gender.
Video for Place Setting: Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/709924901?ref=em-share
In celebration of her collaboration with the Acequia Madre House, Rowan has released a line of placemats and tablecloths featuring her work created with the permanent collection: Like:
LANZA: Discuss the Acequia Madre House, its history, and how this determined the development of Place Settings?
ROWAN: The home was established by Eva Fényes, during the gilded age a space to foster creativity. After her divorce, she left NYC in the late 1800s and purchased the land in Santa Fe. New Mexico at that time was a territory and very much the wild west. Her daughter and granddaughter continued this legacy. I had the honor to be able to engage with the unique personal objects that they collected over decades in art patronage. It made me connect with the beauty of the domestic arts.
LANZA: How did three generations of women who inhabited the Acequia Madre House have an effect throughout the making of the art?
ROWAN: I was inspired by Eva’s tenacity to leave the structure of her high society and privilege in NYC to seek out a life of freedom and adventure in the American West. But what indeed draws me to her story is the way she cultivated artists throughout her life. She created a place where independent thinkers, artists of all media, and especially indigenous craftspeople could be in conversation together. I was drawn to the generations of personal objects. Items like hat stands, fine silver, forks, and spoons corresponding to courses and dishes, have lost their utility for most. But they carry such a rich history of the lives of these women and many women throughout time. I was thinking about the tradition of collecting and wanted this project to breathe new life into these inanimate objects.
LANZA: What is the Fellowship program provided by the Acequia Madre House?
ROWAN: “The Women’s International Study Center provides Fellowships to women working in the arts, sciences, cultural preservation, and business. Month-long residencies with stipends allow fellows to focus deeply on their projects and engage with the Santa Fe community. Because WISC was inspired by the women of the Acequia Madre House and operates on the property, it seemed most natural to invite WISC fellows to engage more deeply and more creatively with the Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Collection.” Jordan Yong, WISC Director
LANZA: What was your process, time frame, and methodology in the production of the film, photography, and sculpture?
ROWAN: I approached this project as a film set. My biggest challenge and lesson with large productions such as this is that I can’t do everything. Learning and accepting this has allowed me to work with incredible collaborators from florists to bakers and photo assistants who help bring these large productions to life. I created the lighting and sets and then would step inside the frame to be the subject. These images would not have been possible without @renegadefloral @bakeitupbuttercup @horoscopecakes @floresdebosquez @tannewillow @pamelagarciaphoto @kormi_lamarr @kunja.p @pilarlawphotography @gabriellamarksphoto
LANZA: How did the sense of place -the American Southwest have an effect on Place Settings?
ROWAN: In addition to the objects inside the house, a large inspiration for this work came from the religious idolatry of the Virgin Mary seen throughout New Mexico. I was interested in examining how her mythology parallels the expectations of women. Specifically, the dichotomy of virtue as a commodity that can be sold through marriage while promoting fertility through sexuality. I hope that this work takes the viewer through a narrative to question gender and consider notions of domestic labor as a spiritual offering and an act of feminist rebellion and celebration.