Juxtaposing layers of the past with sounds of today was on Professor Szu-Han Ho’s mind when she began putting together “Madrigal,” the title of her multi-media work that is part of The Transformative Surface, a fall 2012 exhibition at the University of New Mexico Art Museum.
Figuring prominently in her piece is John Donald Robb and his contribution to preserving Hispanic folk music in New Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s. One framed silkscreen displays a photo of Robb and his wife Harriet and another silkscreen print displays lyrics of a folk song from the John Donald Robb Musical Archive in the Center for Southwest Research. Visitors can listen to the recorded songs, which are blended with present-day sounds recorded live in the atrium of Popejoy Hall.
“I was drawn to the melancholic melodies of these songs, the solo voices and the solemnity,” said Ho, who teaches Art & Ecology in the UNM College of Fine Arts Department of Art and Art History. In her research, she listened to about 75 percent of the collection, which consists of nearly 3,000 folk songs. “I was struck by the diversity and types of performances that are in the archive. This is an amazing resource for our region.”
Ho is also a classically trained violinist and explores song and sound in her work. She joined the faculty of the UNM College of Fine Arts in 2011.
The Transformative Surface was the first group exhibition of its kind at the UNM Art Museum to feature innovative new media, video, and sound works of art by nine faculty artists from the departments of Art & Art History and Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media, along with six guest artists from San Francisco and Santa Fe.