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Arizona Artists Tackle Consumerism and Terrorism at Phoenix Art Museum

If you've passed through security at your local airport lately, it's likely you'll take special notice of a Nathaniel Lewis installation featured in the "2015 Contemporary Forum Artists Grant Winners" exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum.

His Playland Security, created in 2016 with wood, metal, and fabric, sets the experience of airport screenings in a childlike setting, but with a twist. One of three mannequins, placed by a bin containing a pair of shoes, wears bright, primarily-color clothing. But he's also sporting an explosives vest seemingly rigged with several sticks of dynamite. 

Lewis is one of seven Arizona artists featured in this exhibition inside the Harnett Gallery — where you'll also find a solo exhibition by Scottsdale artist Saskia Jordá. Both exhibitions continue through June 12, in the gallery where Phoenix Art Museum previously showed drawings by famed Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo

In addition to Lewis, the "2015 Contemporary Forum Artists Grant Winners" exhibition features artists Anna Garner, Abbey Messmer, Rembrandt Quiballo, Kazuma Sambe, Rossitza Todorova, and Claire A. Warden. They work in various media — including painting, ceramics, and Polaroid film. Todorova's Lumens, a collection of wall-mounted geometric shapes, were made with paper and silver tape. 

Contemporary Forum, a contemporary art support organization for Phoenix Art Museum, recognizes several Arizona artists each May. Up to seven emerging artists get Contemporary Forum Artist Grants in the amount of $2,000 (up from $1,500 in 2015), and one mid-career artist receives the Arlene and Morton Scult Contemporary Forum Artist Award, which includes a $5,000 cash award. 

Recipients are featured the following spring in Contemporary Forum exhibitions at Phoenix Art Museum. The artists now on view were honored last May, and a new crop of winners were announced on Wednesday, May 11. They will be shown at the museum next spring. 

Like Lewis, Quiballo is showing work that prompts reflection on the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His montage of images referencing the saturation of contemporary society with digital images includes the faces of two men identified as 9/11 terrorists — which are rarely seen except by visitors to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. 

Sambe's From Cradle to the Shipment, comprising ceramic piglets suckling at their mother's teats, explores consumerism. It's a 2016 work, as are all but two pieces other artists. Regular gallery-goers will recognize some of these works, or subtle variations, from earlier exhibitions — perhaps having seen Quiballo's work at Eye Lounge in the Roosevelt Row arts district or Messmer's work at The Lodge Art Studio in the Grand Avenue arts district. 

"Saskia Jordá: A Geography of Line" and "2015 Contemporary Forum Artists Grant Winners" continue through June 12 at Phoenix Art Museum. Find more information on the Phoenix Art Museum website

Correction: This article originally misidentified Anna Garner's MSDS, P281 as a piece by Claire A. Warden.