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Review: Falling out of the box with ‘RAW’ exhibit


At the Doña Ana Arts Council Gallery, international artist and Las Cruces resident Sonya Fe has literally put her whole self into her paintings in a daring exhibit of art she has never shown before.

Because of its graphic content, this exhibit is not for the faint of heart, and parents should be aware before taking their children. Fe addresses issues relating to abuse, aging, child trafficking, depression and more in graphic and beautiful drawings.

The show, entitled “RAW,” reflects some hard truths in the world. Each piece deserves to be gazed at and dissected for its layers. Pieces like “My Broken Heart” and “We Should Learn to Like Our Periods, Dogs Do,” encompass both beauty and pain in a way that can cause a gut reaction.

Questions come to mind easily, and answers do not. Why do so many of Fe’s figures wear masks? What kind of masks do they wear? Why are the women sometimes falling apart like mannequins? Why are many of the men depicted as skeletons?

More than one of the drawings have dogs in them, and more than one includes Fe’s own son. Some are simple in nature and, to me, some of these are the most heart-wrenching. “Don’t Leave Me,” has two children side by side, clinging to one another, pressing into one another and it’s easy to see them as siblings who will be torn apart in the next moment. “My Baby Sitter Was Bigger Than the Moon,” depicts a woman, naked and round as the moon, standing in a cemetery with the moon behind her and a child’s hands reaching for her.

Gallery Manager Penny Peace curated the show and said there have not been a lot of negative reactions, rather people have been disturbed by the work but respectful of it as well.

“Honestly, as long as I get a reaction, I’m OK,” she said. “We have had people that have been bothered by some of the visuals because it’s such a dark ugly underbelly here. Domestic violence exists and child abuse exists, and we just can’t hide from them.”

Peace said one woman was so distressed she said, “This is so dark I can’t even look at it anymore.” It turned out the visitor was a former social worker with children’s protective services.

“To me, good art does bring up emotions,” Peace said.

The exhibit is the creation of a master storyteller working on paper with drawing materials. The story Fe tells is drawn from her own heart and experience.

Sonya Fe, Doña Ana Arts Council