Every two years, four Bay Area artists are given the SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art) award. It is a very big deal; the winners, selected by SFMoMA assistant curators Apsara DiQuinzio and Tanya Zimbardo, are chosen from a pool of over 250 nominees. Targeted at Bay Area artists who are working independently and are exceptionally talented, the SECA award is specifically designed to recognize those who have not yet received widespread attention. The prize will result in a group show at the SFMoMA next December, along with a corresponding catalog.
This year, which marks SECA's 50th anniversary, the artists Mauricio Ancalmo, Colter Jacobsen, Ruth Laskey, and Kamau Amu Patton were selected. Working across video, installation, drawing, painting and embroidery, their grouping represents the diversity of artists working in the area, and their forthcoming group show promises to be every bit as dynamic. While the bi-annual exhibition always gets people talking, this year seems particularly exciting.
This essay features two of the award winners, Colter Jacobsen and Ruth Laskey (SFAI and CCA alumni, respectively). (We tried, but were unable to coordinate studio visits with the other two artists.) Living and working just a few miles apart in San Francisco, their studio practices could not be more divergent. Although both use rooms in their homes for studios, Jacobsen's practice is messy and expansive. Laskey's process, on the other hand, is contained and spare. Likewise, Jacobsen's watercolor, found, and drawn pieces tap into a feeling of displaced nostalgia; Laskey's work is more interested in formal abstraction and process-based material.
These are exciting differences. By selecting artists with such varying practices, the curators have acknowledged the breadth and scope of the work being made by younger artists in San Francisco and beyond. As Jacobsen points out, "I know so many artists who were up for the award, all of whom where more than worthy of it. In a way I am just one representing a large community."
Laskey at her loom
Laskey in front of her warping board
Translucent obituary piece in Jacobsen's window
Found paintings in Jacobsen's home
Jacobsen wears one of the masks he's created
Jacobsen's collaboration with Kevin Killian
All photos c. Carmen Winant.