Thursday, June 10, 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Virginia McInnis | VirginiaM@ScottsdaleArts.org | 480-874-4663
Local Artist Jacob A. Meders Creates Immersive Installation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) transformed SMoCA Lounge into a gallery with the exhibition “And It’s Built on the Sacred,” a full-room installation by local artist Jacob A. Meders (Mechoopda/Maidu), on view through Oct. 17, 2021.
Jennifer McCabe, SMoCA director and chief curator, said running a museum during the pandemic has required out of the box thinking, but one way SMoCA has risen to the challenge is by shifting how it utilizes its spaces.
“Although we continue to adapt to the shifting environment, we remain committed to working with the community of hugely talented artists based in Arizona,” said McCabe. “We transformed our temporarily underutilized multi-purpose space into a gallery, and by doing so are cultivating connections in new and profound ways. Currently SMoCA features work by four Arizona-based artists, alongside two artists of national and international prominence.”
“And It’s Built on the Sacred,” a mixed-media installation, is a reflection on what is sacred and holy and facilitates an open dialogue about novelties and the handling of unwanted Euro-American religious objects.
For this installation, Meders took found objects and painted traditional markings of Indigenous people on them. In doing this he is reconsidering how meaning can be layered and reclaimed in these commodities. By layering imagery and significance in these found objects, Meders raises questions about whether what is considered holy can also be considered sacred and how easily expendable the sacred can be.
This stems back to the long history of Western European civilizations taking the sacred sites of Indigenous peoples and building their own religious structures on them. Temples, missions and churches were all constructed on sacred sites during the expansion of Western colonialism, which forced Indigenous people to leave the land of their ancestors.
It wasn’t until 1978 — a year after Meders was born — that the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed to remove prohibitions on Indigenous people of the United States from practicing their traditional religion or cultural practices. This suppression and the trauma it caused have had a long-lasting effect on Indigenous people, many of whom used the Christian religion to mask or hide their traditional ways of believing.
“Building on, replacing and destroying what is sacred has been the gentrification of Indigenous land,” Meders wrote. “To know what is sacred and to understand what is sacred would be to respect and honor what is sacred. Clearing the land with appropriation and commodification is the crafted tools of cultural dismissal and destruction.”
At the center of the installation lies a circular floor created from dirt that Meders sculpted by hand. Hidden beneath the dirt is a triangular pattern created using willow — the primary material used for basket weaving by the people of Mechoopda from Chico, California, where Meders is originally from. This earth floor brings sacred land into the gallery and represents a space for healing, gathering and reflecting. Suspended around the dirt floor are Mexican blankets that Meders uses as his canvas for painting traditional Indigenous patterns significant to the Mechoopda peoples.
In all the components layered throughout the exhibition, Meders is asking visitors to reflect on important questions around the sacred and holy and to acknowledge the problematic history behind these objects. Combined, all the components of the installation “re-Indigenize” or reclaim the gallery as a sacred space — layering old and new histories.
Meders, who is a master printmaker, also created an edition of signed and numbered prints for the public to take home with them to continue ruminating on the exhibition and the questions it poses.
“SMoCA acknowledges that the land we are on is the unceded, sacred land of Indigenous peoples and we honor those who are connected to this land,” said Julie Ganas, curator of engagement and digital initiatives and curator of the exhibition. “Working with Jacob on this exhibition imbued a renewed energy within the Museum and has transformed the gallery into a space for reflection. It was an enormous pleasure for us to work closely with Jacob to bring this meaningful and profound exhibition to life to share with the community.”
“And It’s Built on the Sacred” is organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by Julie Ganas, curator of engagement and digital initiatives.
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.
SCOTTSDALE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
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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