Saskia Jordá

Scottsdale resident Saskia Jordá was one of 31 artists awarded a $5,000 Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. (Sean Deckert/Special to the Progress)

Scottsdale resident Saskia Jordá was one of 31 artists recently awarded a $5,000 research and development grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

“Receiving this grant in a community this rich in deserving artists is a huge honor and one that allows me to keep working in the studio and on larger projects,” Jordá said.

The R&D grant supports Arizona-based artists as they work to advance their artistic practice, expand their creative horizons and deepen the impact of their work.

Jordá plans to use the grant to develop, “Disputed Territories – Disputed Bodies,” her new project series that aims to explore themes of place and cultural identity. 

“Conceptually, the work questions the ways in which we divide, use and share land, and how our borders – or lack thereof – determine our interactions with the land we inhabit,” she explained. “How do individuals become ‘of one place’ if the place is constantly in question? And how does an immigrant navigate through borders and does it affect their experience of assimilating a new place and identity?”

Jordá is an immigrant herself; she moved from Venezuela to Arizona with her parents in 1994 and attended Chaparral High School her junior and senior year.

After graduating from Arizona State University and the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she earned her MFA, Jordá co-founded the Taliesin Artist Residency Program, which she directed from 2005 to 2017, and has been teaching drawing and textiles at college level since 2012.

“As a descendant of generations of immigrants, I’m interested in this transitory experience and the process of assimilation, how I become ‘of a place’ and how my body interacts with its surroundings, physically and culturally,” Jordá said.

Jordá will represent the themes of place and cultural identity via installation, drawings and soft sculptural extensions of the body.

“I intend to combine two-dimensional works and soft sculptural wearable forms into an installation and a dynamic environment, or territory, where the viewer can walk into – and partake in – various transitory experiences,” she said.

The “Disputed Territories – Disputed Bodies” series will draw from Jordá’s previous works that also use mapping as the main visual language.

For example, Jordá’s "A Geography of Line," a solo exhibition that was on display in 2016 at the Harnett Gallery inside the Phoenix Art Museum, used the vocabulary of mapping and geography to further explore themes of mobility, home and connection of place.

“[The ‘Disputed Territories – Disputed Bodies’ series] seeks to build upon the themes of place and cultural identity that are increasingly central to my practice – themes that I’ve found can be drawn out and enriched by inserting the human body into the work,” she said.

Jordá said a subtext to the series interprets, in particular, the female body as the actual territory in dispute. 

“Looking at policies that are being discussed in the political and legal spheres about our bodies, I am finding rich ground in this reading of the themes I’m exploring,” she said.

Jordá added: “‘Disputed Territories – Disputed Bodies’ derives from my personal experience of assimilation and is amplified in the current ongoing border issues and body-rights politics. Living in a border state, and as a female worrying about policies that will affect our bodies for generations, this project series takes on an additional sense of urgency.”

The R&D grant will help cover Jordá’s cost of materials, fabrication and documentation.

“And, most importantly, it would gift me valuable work time to critically look at my work through a different lens, encouraging me to advance my own trajectory,” she added.

Later this fall, Some of the works in Jordá’s “Disputed Territories – Disputed Bodies” project will be included in Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts’ exhibition “Counter-Landscapes: Performative Actions from the 1970s - Now” from Oct. 26 through Jan. 26, 2020.

“Counter-Landscapes” is the museum's first large-scale group exhibition focusing on performative actions in contemporary art, a medium that women artists embraced and propelled forward.

Funded projects include a four-mile long mural, a children’s book about transracial adoption, a celebration of women in Jazz and an experimental fusion of break dance, among many others.

This was a milestone year for ACC, as the 52-year-old organization more than doubled the number of available awards from 15 to 31 thanks to a new public-philanthropic partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation and funding from the Newton and Betty Rosenzweig Fund for the Arts.

Previously, Jordá – who has exhibited widely within the U.S. and internationally – received various awards, from the Arlene and Morton Scult Contemporary Forum Award of the Phoenix Art Museum to an Artist Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts in 2010.

“There are several other wonderful organizations, museums and public art programs offering support throughout Arizona, but it is still challenging for most artists to fully balance an art practice and living expenses without extra support,” she said. “The R&D Grant is one of the highest monetary awards in the state, and we could definitely use more support like this in our Arizona art community.”