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.”


Ruth Laskey


Laskey at her loom


Laskey’s desk


Laskey’s work


Laskey in front of her warping board


Colter Jacobsen


Jacobsen’s planner


Jacobsen’s desk


Translucent obituary piece in Jacobsen’s window


Found paintings in Jacobsen’s home


Jacobsen wears one of the masks he’s created


Jacobsen’s room


Jacobsen’s collaboration with Kevin Killian

All photos c. Carmen Winant.

2010 SECA Winners 18 January,2011Carmen Winant

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Carmen Winant

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