My work often looks at how we speak publicly about our private experiences. Whether that be through how we present ourselves, or how we see ourselves represented by or excluded from the mainstream. I use culturally and historically significant materials including hair, jewelry, found footage, and text to do so. Woven into my work are my interests in adornment, stereotypes, and personal/public narratives.
Sam Fresquez responds to issues of vulnerability and resilience through the lens of gender, examining the rigid and hyper-masculine culture surrounding NASCAR through performance and sculptural installation such as intricately beaded racing flags and fire suits. These fire suits—sturdy, thick, and rigid—are employed by drivers for protection. The racing suits are displayed hung on the wall “until the next race”, and are scaled to fit the artist yet represent the fictional “first Latina NASCAR driver.” The colored glass beads have been methodically placed to create familiar patterns such as flames or surprising slogans like “YASCAR”—drawn from a corporate branding campaign by NASCAR to celebrate Pride Month. The beaded artworks are at once strong and fragile, functional and decorative. Fresquez’s works challenge the rigidity of such binaries and asks the viewer to imagine new societal arrangements that might structure our lives.
(Excerpt from CALA Alliance Press Release, 2022, Alana Hernandez)
Sam Fresquez also collaborates with Merryn Omotayo Alaka to produce immersive spaces that reference rituals of self expression and public representation. Fresquez and Omotayo Alaka construct their intriguing worlds from personal experience: the installation series titled It’s Mine I Bought It, a nod to the Princess Nokia song Mine, both revels in the ways that Black and Brown women wear their hair and rejects the incessant interrogation of these traditions. Fresquez and Omotayo Alaka both acknowledge as formative in their own lives the elaborate rituals of hairdressing, the use of synthetic hair as a facet of self-expression, and the fact that society imposes strict expectations upon the hair and appearance of Black and Brown women in public spaces.
In considering their installation of multiple floor-length suspensions of synthetic hair, each meticulously gathered into tassel, bubble, and chandelier forms, Omotayo Alaka says, “Because of the scale and material, we are hoping that viewers have a physical relationship with the sculptures…we want the feminine body to be represented and seen here.” These representative objects tend to transform a space, says Fresquez, “They become a landscape, and it really becomes its own world.”
Sam Fresquez in Collaboration with Merryn Omotayo Alaka