Press Release

June 8, 2021

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

MEDIA CONTACT: Virginia McInnis | [email protected] | 480-874-4663

‘Forever Becoming: Young Phoenix Artists’ Opening This Fall at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) presents works by emerging Phoenix-based artists in a group show titled “Forever Becoming: Young Phoenix Artists,” on view Sept. 11, 2021 – Jan. 23, 2022.

“The current moment is marked by lots of change in the world and that is a space where contemporary art museums can thrive. Providing a platform for young local artists who are responding to the evolving times became an important goal for SMoCA and we are grateful to have such a talented pool of artists in the valley,” said Jennifer McCabe, SMoCA director and chief curator.  

The 11 artists featured in this exhibition are younger than, or near, the age of 30, including Mia B. Adams, Merryn Omotayo Alaka, Vincent Chung, Steffi Faircloth, Sam Frésquez, Estephania González, Lena Klett, Cydnei Mallory, Brianna Noble, Lily Reeves and Papay Solomon. This will be the first museum exhibition for many of the artists, although several participated in past or current juried Arizona Biennial.

Curator of the exhibition, Lauren O’Connell reflects, “upon moving back to Arizona in 2017 and getting reacquainted with the art community, I started to meet more and more artists who were graduating from ASU. I wanted to highlight this group of artists that were mostly under 30 years old and making incredibly powerful work. The artists selected show a high level of criticality and professionalism, and, once asked to participate, all jumped at the chance to make new work for the exhibition. It has been a privilege to work with these brilliant emerging artists who have promising futures ahead of them.”

Participating artist Brianna Noble, whose paintings will be on view this fall, said this is their first time exhibiting in a museum, ever.

“It means so much to be recognized by my community and to be seen amongst peers that I admire. It feels like a huge supportive leap for my career,” Noble said. “I can’t wait for the opportunities that may come from it.”

The new works created for “Forever Becoming” speak to the resilience and determination of a new generation of artists who expose the complexities of becoming within the rapidly evolving ethos of today. These artworks address a variety of topics, including marginalized communities, social justice, environmental degradation, exploration of sexuality and reckoning with personal narratives. Several of the works focus on healing the mind and body from past traumas and remediation of environmental degradation from human intervention.

“In my new body of work, I use braided hair and pony beads as a symbol of identity and vulnerability. The acts of both hair braiding and beading are laborious, meditative and repetitive; a process that serves to be transformative in nature. I view this new work as a reinterpretation of the historical significance of African hair braiding and beading, and to serve as a metaphor for the passage of time, the phases of grief, and an extension of my body. This exhibition has provided me a platform to start a conversation surrounding identity, vulnerability and visibility; and I am grateful to be given such a space to do so. I am so honored to be working with SMoCA and Lauren and to have their support and encouragement along this journey,” said Merryn Alaka, artist.

This group of artists intersect in several ways: each artist graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Science or Master of Fine Arts from Arizona State University between 2016 and 2019; additionally, several of the artists collaborate with each other on artwork. Despite these crosscurrents, the diverse group of artists have distinctive styles that allow the viewer to see a wide scope of contemporary art, including figurative painting, abstract drawing, sculpture, video and installation, to name a few.

“Growing up in Phoenix, it always felt like this was a place where things were constantly in a state of flux, for better or worse. I still think that Phoenix is a place of many changes, and while this can be a destabilizing force many times, I also think that it creates a lot of possibility as well. I see this positive force especially in my peers here, and I am honored to be included in this exhibition alongside so many artists who I truly admire for, among many things, their intelligence, skill, vision and drive,” said Lena Klett, artist.

While participating artists are currently living and working in Phoenix, not all are originally from the Valley. Estephania González moved to Arizona from the mid-west in order locate herself near the U.S. Mexico border. González explains, “Living in the borderlands as a woman inhabiting a constant state of Nepantla, my colonized body is forced to reckon with this in-between state. I traverse the arid desert, learning about this land’s history and ecology as my relationship to Madre Tierra continues to unfold.”

Artists who come from different places have the ability to share new perspectives with audiences in the Phoenix-metro area. Artist Papay Solomon’s work is greatly influenced by his home country of Liberia and West African diaspora. Steffi Faircloth is similarly influenced by her hometown of Nogales, Arizona.

“Working in video has allowed me to be more performative and has made me think about the many different ways that you can document your body, language and, ultimately, experiences.
When I moved to Phoenix, I gained the perspective to be critical of my Bordertown experience. Being a part of this exhibition allows me to continue to challenge stereotypes that are associated with Bordertowns, as well as being Mexican American.”

“Forever Becoming: Young Phoenix Artists” is organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art.

Featured image collage created by Scottsdale Arts. All images courtesy of the artist. Row 1 (left to right): Cydnei Mallory, “Six Evolve I,” 2018; Estephania González, “Nāntli Cemanāhuatl,” 2019; Mia B Adams, “Unruly,” 2021; and Lena Klett, “Untitled Shrine (for dirt clod),” 2021. Row 2 (left to right): Vincent Chung, “bitter wind to hold my shaky hands,” 2021; Merryn Omotayo Alaka, “America(nah),” 2019; Papay Solomon, “Heavy (Weight) – Benjamin Gasinga Gaspard – Rwanda,” 2019; and Brianna Noble, “The One,” 2021. Row 2 (left to right): Lily Reeves, “Where Are We,” 2020; Sam Frésquez, “The First First Responder,” 2019; and Steffi Faircloth, “Untitled,” 2021.


Through its partnership with the city of Scottsdale, the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts (formerly known as Scottsdale Cultural Council) creates diverse, inspired arts experiences and educational opportunities that foster active, lifelong community engagement with the arts. Since its founding in 1987, Scottsdale Arts has grown into a regionally and nationally significant, multi-disciplinary arts organization offering an exceptional variety of programs through four acclaimed branches — Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), Scottsdale Public Art and Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation — serving more than 600,000 participants annually. In conjunction with the City of Scottsdale, we also host more than 200,000 people annually on our campus through a robust rentals program.


Founded in 1999, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) explores the best of contemporary art, architecture and design. Global in its focus, the Museum is a unique and vital cultural resource for the Southwest, serving local audiences as well as visitors from the United States and abroad. Designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder, SMoCA’s minimalist building (an ingenious renovation of a former movie theater) has four galleries for showcasing changing exhibitions and works from the Museum’s collection, along with SMoCA Lounge, a living, functional art installation and space for community engagement. The Museum presents a wide variety of educational programs and special events for adults and families, including lectures, readings, performances, docent-led tours, workshops and classes. SMoCA also features an outdoor sculpture garden housing James Turrell’s “Knight Rise,” one of the renowned artist’s public skyspaces, and “Scrim Wall,” a monumental curtain of translucent glass panels by James Carpenter Design Associates. The Museum’s retail store, Shop@SMoCA, offers classic design objects and furnishings, contemporary jewelry, art and architecture books, and imaginative gifts for all occasions.


Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

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For interviews, additional images or information, please contact:

Virginia McInnis

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Scottsdale Arts

Phone: 480-874-4663

Email: [email protected]

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