Shontez “Taz” Morris normally spoke a language all her own.
Phone it cat discuss. A devout animal lover — notably of felines — Morris developed her possess brand name of conversation with other folks, a single normally punctuated with meows and purrs and other cat-similar noises.
That linguistic yen spoke to Morris’ humor and individuality as a lady, an African American and a visual artist, claimed her mom, Anita Bennett.
Morris, who lived in Santa Fe considering the fact that 2013, died Thursday at the age of 43 of troubles related to bronchial asthma, her mom mentioned. She was well known in the Santa Fe neighborhood for her work facilitating and marketing arts exhibits at Meow Wolf and as a protection guard.
“She explained she could convey herself much more with her art right here in Santa Fe,” Bennett mentioned Monday. “She felt much more at peace, absent from a ton of negative things. When I known as her to speak, she utilised to say, ‘Mom, do not stress — I’m surrounded by folks who really like me.’ ”
Shontez Morris was born August 15, 1978, in Stuttgart, Germany. Her father was serving there in the U.S. Military at the time. Bennett recalled her daughter coming into the environment with a glimpse of joy on her facial area.
Immediately after returning to the U.S., the family lived in Brooklyn, wherever Morris made a talent for drawing and portray. As she grew, her visible artwork celebrated girls as warriors and as delicate, sensual souls.
A single of her most pointed out functions is of a woman lion tamer, domesticating the not-so-ferocious large cat with a flower and adore.
In a 2019 interview with New Mexico Leisure Journal, Morris claimed her work “portrays sensuality, spirituality and self-confidence that straddles the borders of racial challenges and contradicts how the Black girl is portrayed in today’s media. … All of my items depict the female in sensual goddess and extraterrestrial form.”
Her brother, Andrew Morris Jr., reported of his sister’s operate: “I see her art as her.”
Her childhood years have been not uncomplicated, as she recalled in a March 2020 chat at Web-site Santa Fe. She mentioned she was “bullied for just staying me.”
She spoke of how her grandmother Louise Fagan-Coy not only compensated for Morris to get artwork classes but labored to enroll her in the Boys and Ladies Significant College, where nationally acknowledged principal Frank Mickens instilled a feeling of satisfaction in her and other learners.
Mickens served as a positive Black role design at a time when his sister necessary it most, said Andrew Morris Jr.
Her creative aspect was established off by “tough you up” employment as a corrections officer and armed stability guard in New York, as she recalled in that 2020 converse.
Following living in Atlanta for about a calendar year, she moved to Santa Fe in 2013. She utilized her qualifications as a corrections officer to do the job as a protection guard, such as at arts situations and for the previous Skylight nightclub on San Francisco Street.
Kate Kennedy, who co-owned the Skylight, stated Morris “wanted to do what she could to secure people she liked. She observed artwork as a supply of both equally strength and vulnerability. So, building a protected place for them to do that in was the intersection where by art and defense came with each other for her.”
In Santa Fe, Morris was a graduate and advisory board member of Leadership Santa Fe and a board member for the Santa Fe Human Legal rights Alliance, Kennedy said.
She said Morris lived in an condominium not significantly from the New Mexico Army Countrywide Guard foundation. Whilst painting and sketching her individual function, she could listen to the troopers conducting drills, which brought forth memories of her instruction as a corrections officer.
“It warmed her to listen to the sound of training,” Kennedy stated.
The family will keep a community memorial services for Morris at 1 p.m. March 29 at Rivera Family members Funeral Dwelling and Memorial Yard. That night, close friends and relatives members will honor her with a general public celebration of everyday living and dance get together from 8-11 p.m. at Meow Wolf.