SFUAD’s 2015-2016 SITE Scholars
SITE Santa Fe is a local nonprofit contemporary art museum located in the Railyard Arts District. After being closed for approximately a month in order to set up a new set of exhibitions, SITE finally reopened to the public on March 19. Its new shows include the final installment of SITE’s 20th anniversary exhibition, SITE 20/20, with artists such as Terry Allen and Wangechi Mutu, an exhibition to display the future renovations of SITE by New York architecture firm SHoP, as well as this year’s SITE Scholars exhibition. SITE Scholars is an education initiative designed to give college students studying the arts an introduction to what it is to be a professional artist. The program is run by Joanne Lefrak, SITE’s director of Education and Outreach, who herself studied visual arts in college. “What I found when I was in college and what also still seems to be the case is when students who go through an art program graduate with an art degree they’re not really sure how to transition into being a professional in the arts,” Lefrak says. “So that’s one of the things that we can help with at SITE because we work with professional artists all the time and so we can give students a glimpse of what that feels like.”
SITE Scholars has been a program as SITE since 2012 and is a yearly collection of approximately 15 students studying the arts in northern New Mexico colleges and universities, such as the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe Community College, the Institute of American Indian Arts, St. John’s College, and many others. SFUAD has three students in the program this year, one of whom is studio arts major Marina Eskeets. Eskeet’s piece is four skateboards made of micaceous clay hanging on the gallery wall. Titled “Hózhó Náhásdlíi’,” which in Diné or Navajo means “beauty is restored,”
the piece is designed “to recreate a ceremony” or connect the contemporary world Eskeets lives in with her indigenous roots. “As young indigenous people we often aren’t living on the rez or within the boundaries that we originated from,” Eskeets says, “so we don’t often get the time to go back to say our prayers, to make offerings…We often find new hobbies and passions that in some ways kind of replace those, not in a negative way but in a more contemporary way.” Eskeets says she bonded with fellow indigenous youths by skateboarding through her hometown and decided to combine that with the traditional material of micaceous clay that is used to make pots in Navajo culture. Eskeets also says that her experience with SITE Scholars has been an invaluable one. “…Having…a diverse audience that comes to see your work has been…a good blessing I think. Because when you’re going to school it’s a little bit different to just have in-classroom critiques and having a professor speak to you, but when an audience comes in and is curious about your work and wants to know more about it, I think that’s where the reward really is.”
Senior studio arts major Phát Lê was also chosen as one of this year’s Scholars. When asked about his experience with SITE Scholar’s so far, Lê says, “It was really fun. To see everyone’s work come together, to see the whole show come together—it was really amazing… I feel more humble to be part of this show.” His sculpture, “Caging Nest,” is a commentary on the double standards society commits trying to protect children from sexuality while still identifying them based on sex. On his future with SITE Scholars, Lê says, “I’m hoping we get more knowledge from professional workers and how the art world works. And working with SITE Scholars I have more knowledge of that and definitely gets me more engaged to the artwork.”
Chase Stafford is the third SFUAD student selected for this year’s Scholars. His piece takes shape through fluorescent light projections on fixtures made of wood and conduit Stafford constructed. “I’ve always been interested in making fluorescent light works and I have a friend who’s named David Nelson who was, at the same time as me, making these pieces and I was a little bit more jealous of him trying to figure how he was doing it, what was going on,” Stafford says. “…So I was looking at his works and seeing all these cords and I was kind of thinking about how I couldn’t get around making the works and hiding the cords unless I was building walls and building rooms to fit the florescent light bulb. But then when I started projecting these pieces I found out that the cords and the conduit and all the piping and stuff really aided in this idea of making…believable florescent works.” Stafford, as well, had nothing but positive reviews of the SITE Scholars program. “I actually didn’t expect to get so much help out of putting this piece up. Because this piece, as simple as it looks, is a little bit difficult to navigate and actually curate because it comes out into the space. I think they did an incredible job. I couldn’t be more happy about it.”
The SITE Scholars exhibition is open from March 19 to April 3.