Students Work With Ballen Scholar Yolanda Domí­nguez

Yolanda Domí­nguez

Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Yolanda Domí­nguez, left, a visiting Ballen scholar and Spanish artist and professor, works with Highlands media arts senior and Las Vegas native Brianna Alderete on her pose for the Posesperformance art installation.

Las Vegas, N.M. — New Mexico Highlands University media arts students are working closely with visiting professor and artist Yolanda Domí­nguez of Spain to develop performance art pieces they will perform around Las Vegas March 28 and April 4.

Domí­nguez is a world-renowned visual and performance artist and social activist who is teaching at Highlands for two weeks, thanks to the university’s Ballen Visiting Scholar Program.

The Madrid-based Domí­nguez is working with media arts professor Megan Jacobs’ Design Projects for the Community class. Media arts graduating senior Analicia Casaus, 27, is in the class.

“It’s been a very exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with a performance artist like Yolanda Domí­nguez,” Casaus said. “I’m learning that art is limitless and comes in many different forms. It’s interesting to see how we can connect through art, and how it can sometimes be a form of protest, but in a peaceful way.”

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.

The media arts students are working with Domí­nguez to recreate her 2011 street art installation, Poses, where the artist employed everyday women to perform absurd high-fashion model poses on the sidewalks of Madrid. Poses drew international attention and acclaim — sparking a flurry of global media coverage and Internet dialogue.

On March 28, the media arts students will fan out across town and the Highlands campus, striking Poses in public places like the historic Las Vegas Plaza at noon.

“The streets are the new canvas for art and I create scenes in the street to involve people, and make them think,” Domí­nguez said. “I try to use humor and irony because it’s often the best way to talk about conflicted ideas. Art is a wonderful place to make social criticism.”

Food is the topic for the original performance piece the media arts class is creating with input from Domí­nguez. They will perform the piece April 4.

“What’s most important about this performance piece is that the students are connected to the idea and are working well together,” Domí­nguez said.

“For their midterm, the idea was for the students to think in a globalized manner, and they were very interested in the topic of food because it’s primal and access to healthy food is so important,” Jacobs said. “With their performance piece, we’re lending a critical lens to food practices that are invisible and yet harmful to the human body when consumed, like GMOs — genetically modified organisms.

“With performance art, the students are learning to direct their own pieces and will experience the immediacy of how their work is perceived. Yolanda Domí­nguez’ thought process for street are is very progressive and I think it’s where current art is headed,” Jacobs said.

While at Highlands, Domí­nguez is also teaching classes and workshops to students in sociology, women’s studies, criminal justice, and fine arts. Sociology professor Erika Derkas spearheaded the successful Ballen scholar proposal.

“The students I’ve worked with at Highlands are so talented and enthusiastic. They and their professors are wonderful,” Domí­nguez said.

An art exhibit featuring Domí­nguez’ work continues in the university’s Burris Hall Gallery through April 4. The gallery is at 903 National 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.

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.