Visual Arts

Saskia Jordá Wins 2015 Contemporary Forum Award

Scottsdale artist Saskia Jordá, whose flocks of suspended wooden birds were recently featured at both Mesa's Spark! Festival of Creativity and Scottsdale's Canal Convergence, received the 2015 Arlene and Morton Scult Contemporary Forum Award at Phoenix Art Museum on Wednesday, May 13. The Contemporary Forum, a support organization for Phoenix Art Museum, previously recognized Jordá with a Contemporary Forum Artist Grant in 2009. 

Artists and community members gathered that evening to hear 2014 recipient Rachel Bess discuss her work, which includes primarily small-scale oil on panel paintings reflecting themes of death, impermanence. and the struggle for control or knowledge. Bess is represented by Lisa Sette Gallery. Also announced were this year's Contemporary Forum grant and award recipients.

The prestigious Scult Award, which is named for its benefactors, has previously been awarded to Colin Chillag (2013), Annie Lopez (2012), Gregory Sale (2011), Mayme Kratz (2010), and Jon Haddock (2006). The award recognizes artists whose work "has demonstrated a sustained degree of excellence" and who have "demonstrated significant growth in their work over their career."

Scult Award recipients receive $5,000 and a solo exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum. Grant recipients receive $1,500.  Both award and grant recipients are announced to the public each May, and recipient works are featured at the museum the following May. The solo exhibition of works by Rachel Bess, and another exhibition featuring works by 2014 grant winners, continues at Phoenix Art Museum through Sunday, May 31.

The 2015 Contemporary Forum Artist Grant recipients announced Wednesday night include Anna Garner, Nathaniel Lewis, Abbey Messmer, Rembrandt Quiballo, Kazuma Sambe, Rossitza Todorova, and Claire A. Warden. Each enjoyed a bit of podium time inside Whiteman Hall, where a nearly full house got to hear tales about the artists' work spaces, inspirations, challenges, and artistic impulses.

Several of these artists are currently exhibiting pieces in Phoenix. Messmer shows her work, including oil paintings based on underwater photographs meant to convey different perspectives for the self, at a shared Grand Avenue space called The Lodge Art Studio. She's also part of the Eye Lounge artist collective that has a gallery on Roosevelt Row. Nathaniel Lewis created one of 29 installations and performance pieces selected for this month's ARTELPHX at The Clarendon Hotel. 

Jordá notes that she actually learned she'd been selected several weeks ago, after coming home to a voice mail from Vanessa Davidson, curator for Latin American Art at Phoenix Art Museum. Jordá shared the typical "it's an honor just to be nominated" riff  when we spoke with her by phone Thursday afternoon. But her sincerity and genuine gratitude were apparent. "There are so many deserving artists in Arizona," she says.

Artists can self-nominate for Contemporary Forum grant consideration, but award nominations can only be submitted by Contemporary Forum members. Jordá says Heather Marek, who'd followed her work for some time, asked whether she'd mind being nominated after seeing the Migration bird installation Jordá created for Scottsdale Public Art. 

Nominated artists are asked to submit photographs and information about several of their works. Jordá submitted not only Migration, but also works inspired by the Yarnell Hill Fire, the Mexican Quinceañera coming of age ceremony for 15-year-old girls, and others. She's currently creating new works, which will be exhibited at Coconino Center for the Arts starting in September and at Prescott College early next year.

Exhibitions by 2014 Contemporary Forum grant and award recipients are on view at Phoenix Art Museum through May 31, 2015. Find more information on the Phoenix Art Museum website

Correction: This article originally stated that grant winners receive $500. The correct award amount is $1,500.