Santa Fe’s cultural and historical influences from around the world are on display throughout the city in shop windows, art galleries and homes. Among these diverse artifacts, milagros and tin hearts are common, especially during the winter holiday season. Milagros, meaning “miracles” in Spanish, are small religious folk charms made of metal. Tin hearts, which are expertly cut, punched and crafted by artisans in Mexico, are the Catholic symbol of the sacred heart.
Andrea Soorikian, a local artist, applies a detail-oriented lens of color and texture to set these traditional symbols into new contexts, both sacred and secular. Bringing contrasting elements together to create expressive artwork, she incorporates tin hearts and milagros from Mexico in wreaths and wall art made with colorful fabrics, ribbons, textured materials and silk, paper or painted tin flowers, or sometimes showcases them in detailed floral arrangements. By removing these symbols from their original cultural and religious contexts and repurposing them in her artwork, Soorikian empowers observers to imbue the artwork with their own interpretations and meaning.
While Soorikian was not introduced to the religious contexts of the heart symbol until her adult life, she says she has been drawn to the symbol since she was a child. She adds that she’s conscious of balancing these artifacts’ competing religious and secular contexts with her own visual interest in the symbols. “It’s more the kind of visual impact they have on me and the way that it transforms the piece,” she explained.
Soorikian’s unique and complex style is clear in her intricate and visually exciting artwork. “I love lots of little things,” she says. “I like a lot going on. I love to keep my eyes on things.”
While Soorikian has lived in Santa Fe since the early ’90s, she began her career as a freelance floral designer in New York after studying at the University of Michigan. Over time, the direction and scope of her work has expanded. “It grew beyond floral to the whole event,” she says, “creating the whole mood, setting the vibe, all of that.”
Soorikian has returned to her artwork after nearly thirty years in floral design. “I started really missing my art and just making things,” she explains.
Today, Soorikian harnesses her diverse expertise to breathe life and color into events, to cultivate intriguing and striking interior and exterior spaces, to produce immersive and dynamic visual artwork, and even to create wearable art. In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Soorikian began making face masks in her unique style as she ramped up for Election Day. “I made one for me,” she says, “and then I started posting them, and they just kept selling and selling.”
Soorikian’s work spans a wide range, from face masks, wall art and wreaths featuring tin hearts, milagros and intriguing color palettes to creating dramatic floral settings and orchestrating events. She is a master of opposing elements.
In her own artwork and in collaborations with clients, Soorikian brings both creative chaos and visual harmony. “I think one of my strengths, as a designer and as an artist, in working with clients, is helping them interpret and create their vision,” she says. “It’s usually that kind of really cool partnership where they come to me because they like what I do.”
Geoff Lambeth is a writer and photographer based in Santa Fe. He spends his free time backpacking, traveling to new places and enjoying old music. Passionate about pursuing under reported issues and sharing untold stories, Geoff aims to showcase a range of experiences and viewpoints through his work.