Yolanda Domí­nguez

Yolanda Domí­nguez

Las Vegas, N.M. — Yolanda Domí­nguez, a world-renowned visual and performance artist and social activist from Spain, will present her first street art installation in the United States during a visit to New Mexico Highlands University March 24 — April 4.

Domí­nguez is at Highlands thanks to the university’s Ballen Visiting Scholar Program. She will teach classes and workshops to students in women’s studies, media arts, sociology, criminal justice, and fine arts.

The Madrid-based Domí­nguez has gained global recognition for her evocative street art installations aimed at generating social change in issues such as gender, health care, and consumption. She is also an acclaimed photographer.

“Today, art is a wonderful place to make social criticism and to visualize and reflect on conflicts which we are living,” Domí­nguez said. “Art is a fundamental way of communication between humans and can be transformative in nature. For me, art has more to do with a space to connect people than just items for sale in a gallery.

“I really love to teach and am very excited about the idea of visiting Highlands University. It will be an enriching experience in every way. To interact with the students for two weeks and activate scenes with them is a wonderful opportunity. I also learn a lot when I share my work,” Domí­nguez said.

Domí­nguez will be featured in a number of public events, with the first a public forum March 25, 6 — 7 p.m., in Ilfeld Auditorium, 900 University Ave., followed by her art exhibit opening from 7 — 8:30 p.m. in the Burris Hall Gallery, 903 National Ave.

Other public events include a Las Vegas Plaza Performance March 28, 12– 2 p.m., with Domí­nguez reenacting portions of her “Poses” and “Fashion Victims” installations; a Las Vegas Plaza Performance April 4, 12 — 2 p.m., featuring Highlands media arts students; and a Farewell Discussion and Public Reception April 4, 6 — 8 p.m., Margaret Kennedy Alumni Hall, 905 University Ave.

Domí­nguez, 37, is a professor at the EFTI School of Photography in Madrid, teaching courses such as art as a tool for social transformation. She also teaches in the Madrid School of Marketing, with a focus on experiential marketing direction for the creative industries.

Domí­nguez studied fine arts in Madrid’s Complutense University and earned a M.A. degree in art and technology from European University in Madrid. She also completed a M.A. in concept and creation in photography from EFTI School of Photography.

Her work has appeared in galleries and museums from Spain to Germany, Australia, Brazil, and beyond. In 2010, she received a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Culture to promote Spanish art abroad.

Domí­nguez’ 2011 street art installation “Poses” recreated high-fashion model poses from magazines, employing everyday women in public places. The installation drew international attention and acclaim — sparking a flurry of global news media coverage and dialogue on the internet and blogosphere.

In a 2011 interview, Domí­nguez said: “The streets are the new canvas for artists. In my street art, I try to express deep questions — sometimes dramatic — but always with irony and humor. In ‘Poses,’ I tried to express what many women feel about women’s magazine and the image of women in the media — absurd, artificial, a hanger to wear dresses and bags, and only concern about being skinny, beautiful women. We don’t identify with this type of woman.”

More street art installations followed, including Domí­nguez’ 2013 “Fashion Victims” installation inspired by the tragic 2013 factory fire in Bangladesh that killed 1,227 textile workers. The installation included fashionably dressed women lying on the sidewalks of downtown Madrid, covered with rubble. 

Last June, Highlands University sociology professor Erika Derkas heard Domí­nguez interviewed on NPR regarding “Fashion Victims.” Derkas contacted Domí­nguez to see if she might be interested in visiting Highlands. The artist said yes and Derkas spearheaded the successful Ballen Scholar proposal.

“Yolanda Domí­nguez is a brilliant artist who has the ability to turn pressing contemporary social issues into dialogue and engagement,” Derkas said. “Her work focuses on issues like society’s very narrowly defined concept of women’s beauty and our consumption practices.

“This will be a monumental, incredible opportunity for our students to work in concert with this renowned artist activist to develop their ideas — and make them public. I’m so grateful to the Ballen Scholar program for making this possible,” Derkas said.  

While at Highlands, Domí­nguez will work closely with media arts professor Megan Jacobs’ Design Projects for the Community Class to develop performance art pieces for the Las Vegas Plaza and other locations.

“I think working with Yolanda Domí­nguez is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students to think about how art isn’t just on walls, but can be in the public sphere,” Jacobs said. “Performance art is like learning a new language. They’re exploring a new conceptual medium that can be more vulnerable, but also the rewards can be greater.”

Jacobs added that the collaboration between students and faculty from different disciplines on campus is an important — and exciting — element of Dominguez’ visit.

“Domí­nguez addresses many of the issues that our students will face in the criminal justice field, particularly the exploitation of women,” said criminal justice professor Gloria Gadsen, whose sociology and sexuality class will work with Domí­nguez. 

“We hope that Yolanda Domí­nguez will help our students create bridges between private issues and global issues,” said history professor Kristie Ross, whose introduction to women’s studies class will work with Domí­nguez. “Megan and Erika have the artistic vision we needed for Yolanda Domí­nguez’ visit. We are all thrilled.”