Daisy Quezada, a 2012 BFA in Studio Arts graduate, uses a unique sculpture technique to speak out about social issues in Mexico and the U.S.

August 2016—The room had been ransacked, but the looters left behind the quinceanera dress, draped over a dresser drawer, lace spilling toward the floor. The gown looked abandoned, lonely, a memory degraded by time and others’ desperation, greed, and carelessness. Her mother, who brought her to this home so many years after leaving it, looked at the dress in silence.

This moment inspired a striking art sculpture by Daisy Quezada, a 2012 BFA in Studio Arts graduate, and set in motion a multi-faceted career in art and teaching that would continually draw from the strife and beauty of Mexico and turn a spotlight on its social issues.

“Having that experience and trying to translate it for everyone was amazing,” Quezada says. “It was a spark, and the first of many projects that have focused on identity and culture.”

Quezada’s father and mother were born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States, where Daisy was born. In her childhood home in Southern California, she was scolded for drawing on the walls, but her parents supported her desire to be an artist. It was going to get her into college, they knew, and that was an incredible achievement; her mother had a third-grade education and her father worked three jobs while he attended high school.

In the summers, the family would travel to Mexico, and Quezada would soak up the texture and the history, struck specifically by the issues of immigration, gender inequality, labor, and class for a “population that has been left feeling devalued and lost within their own culture,” she explains.

Quezada put together a portfolio of drawing and sketches of objects and portraits, and submitted that with her application for Santa Fe. The school appealed to her because of its strong faculty and for the access to the ideas and creativity of fellow students—writers, musicians, and a range of artists.

“When I was finishing my undergrad there, I felt like I was just beginning to understand the potential for my art,” she says.

So Quezada enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Delaware in Newark, and it was there that she perfected her unique technique: applying layers of porcelain slip to a garment, then draping it to create a shape, then firing the piece in a kiln. Doing so burns away the fabric but leaves behind its folds and textures, freezing the clothing in time and space.

That’s the technique Quezada used for “Rosa,” the piece that was inspired by her mother’s abandoned dress. Using photos, they recreated the garment before Quezada turned it into a life-size art installation.

She’s since applied that technique to peasant blouses and underpants, creating fragile pieces that call attention to the “coyotes” who transport and often abuse the people they bring over the border, as well as Mexico’s “rape trees.” Human traffickers have been known to hang undergarments and other pieces of clothing from trees where immigrants have been sexually assaulted to intimidate others into doing whatever the traffickers say.

One of Quezada’s pieces related to the rape trees was featured in the 2016 Taiwan Ceramics Biennale, and other works were shown as part of “The Narrative Figure” show at the David Richard Gallery in Santa Fe this summer. She’s now working on pieces for a show that will be held at the Denver Art Museum in 2017.

Though her work most often focuses on what’s happening in Mexico, she’s firmly planted in Santa Fe, a place she says has been warm and welcoming personally and professionally. She teaches at the local Academy of Love of Learning: El Otro Lado and is a faculty member with SFUAD.

“I feel like I’m still growing and learning, but I don’t think I would have gotten to where I was if I didn’t eat, sleep, and breathe art every day,” she said. “Even when I’ve hit rough patches, the community here helped me remember that I have a powerful story to tell.” —Christine Van Dusen