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Independent brings art with tough topic to Edgewood

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Submitted Photo Denver-based artist Chloé Duplessis' latest show, "Negro Stories," got national attention.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Tamara Bicknell-Lombardi

The Independent

Vision Editor’s comment: A partnership between artist Chloé Duplessis and The Independent newspaper, along with other community partners, resulted in a panel discussion on Aug. 14 and the opening of the artist’s show, which will be on display at The Independent’s office through Sept. 16.

Duplessis is a Colorado-based artist originally from Louisiana, and her latest show, “Negro Stories,” got national attention at its most recent venue in New Orleans in June.

Duplessis is a legally blind artist whose medium is digital collage. She started off making physical collages. As her vision started to decline, she made some “adaptations and adjustments” to the way she was creating art. By increasing the pixels, she was able to continue her work and adjust her ideas about what it means to go blind gradually.

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In addition to being an artist, she is also a mom. “Having a kid enhances the commitment” to her art, she said, adding, “When my vision goes, she will have a record of how I saw the world.”

Duplessis has been creating art “informed by history and culture” for the last 6 or 7 years, she said.

The scope of her work encompasses more than just an image. She researches history, using her medium to tell people’s stories. “I firmly believe we need to hear each other’s stories. Everyone is relevant,” she said. Those represented in “Negro Stories” are stories about discrimination.

“It’s powerful to acknowledge that we don’t have history figured out,” she said. “If history is unchanged, then we ignore the possibility for us to be more connected than we are.”

Duplessis said as people begin to unpack these stories with compassion and love, the focus becomes history, culture and healing.

She said her life’s work is mindful, in the sense that she is representing the voices of the unseen, children and those whose lives have already been lost, elevating the voices of marginalized people. She spends six months doing research and then she collects the stories to support the research. She said, “It’s not just an artist interpretation, it’s actual truth because its someone’s real story.”

So why does she want to bring an art show from a large city like Denver to a rural East Mountain community like Edgewood?

“What is extraordinary about partnering with media, is that they advocate for the people with everyday things,” she said, adding, “I am from a small town in the South and I remember my grandfather reading the paper. I love edifying rituals.”

Duplessis and The Independent’s editor and publisher, Leota Harriman, were brought together by an intensive business training program by and for women in Albuquerque several years ago, indirectly. A mutual friend introduced them.

“I wanted art on the walls in our gallery space at the office,” Harriman said, adding, “I started off with sort of a selfish motive initially. The pandemic interrupted our regular exhibitions. Once Chloe and I started talking about her art, we decided to add a panel discussion.”

The newspaper has a gallery wall space and had hosted regular exhibitions of work by members of the Route 66 Arts Alliance, which was interrupted by COVID-19, meaning the IndependArt space has been vacant for more than a year.

“Art is fundamentally about communication, and it reaches people in a different way and on a different level than the written word,” Harriman said.

The purpose of the panel was to bring together a diverse group of local people with a willingness and commitment to have a respectful conversation with people they may not agree with.

The role of the newspaper was to provide the forum to have difficult conversations in a respectful and compassionate way, a step in reaching out to neighbors, and to present something different than a hyper-politicized fight, Harriman said.

The panel discussion was livestreamed on The Independent’s Facebook page. Harriman’s interview with the artist about the exhibition and panel discussion is available on YouTube.

Vision Editor’s comment: After contacting Duplessis, the artist wrote in an email, “I live and work in Denver, and my next show will take place in the RiNo Art District (River North Art District in Denver) mid-October. This show will be the official closeout show for my annual exhibition, ‘Negro Stories,’ and will feature images from the Denver, New Orleans and New Mexico shows.”

For more information, visit duplessisart.com.

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