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Meet The Women Of The San Diego Art Prize

The exhibition of work by the four finalists, originally set to open last weekend, has been officially rescheduled for September

Clockwise from top left: work by Griselda Rosas, Melissa Walter, Kaori Fukuya...

Credit: Griselda Rosas, Melissa Walter, Kaori Fukuyama, Alanna Airitam

Above: Clockwise from top left: work by Griselda Rosas, Melissa Walter, Kaori Fukuyama and Alanna Airitam, this year's finalists for the San Diego Art Prize.

The 2019 San Diego Art Prize has been in the works for so long, it seems strange to keep including the "2019." Now, the show of works by the 2019 finalists scheduled to open last weekend has been officially postponed until the fall. Opening September 3 at Bread & Salt, the show will run through October 24 and announce the eventual winner.

Organized by San Diego Visual Arts Network, the finalists were announced in October 2019. Earlier that year, they had also announced an overhaul from their previous model, used since the prize's inception 14 years ago. The project paired two emerging artists with two established artists, who would then produce new work together throughout the year to prepare for an exhibition. For the 2018 prize, Anne Mudge chose emerging artist Erin Dace Behling, and Bob Matheny selected emerging artist Max Daily.

In 2019, when Chi Essary took over as curator, the move was made to eliminate the pairings with established artists, have each of the four artists involved be emerging artists — four finalists — and each of them win some cash. The four for this general "year" (a year that will always somehow smudge our history books with its pre-, during- and post-pandemic signposts) all happen to be women: Alanna Airitam, Kaori Fukuyama, Griselda Rosas and Melissa Walter. And you can meet them all here.

Alanna Airitam

San Diego photographer Alanna Airitam draws on the old Dutch masters — their skillful use of light, the regal poses that seem to not just exude art but define it. In some ways making a broad statement for representation and in other ways reclaiming what counts as art, her portraiture and still life photography pull from centuries of work.

Airitam's work is as rich with symbols and objects as it is with light and characters. Airitam opened an exhibition at the Athenaeum Art Center the weekend the coronavirus shutdowns began. Read about her recent work here and the way she spins newness — fresh, unexpected, speculative and surreal elements — into her photography.

Photo credit: Alanna Airitam

"How to Make a Country (2019)," a self-portrait by photographer Alanna Airitam.

Kaori Fukuyama

San Diego visual artist Kaori Fukuyama's work is the kind of art that reminds you that light exists. Ranging from oil on canvas to ink and paper, fishing wire-like monofilament suspended from the walls to light refracting through plexiglass, what unifies her vast collection of work is its exploration of the interplay between light, shadow and color.

Read about Fukuyama's recent solo exhibition, her high-profile mural in North Park and how her work is often a response to the last piece or series of works she's created.

Photo by Kaori Fukuyama

Wave of Change by Kaori Fukuyama.

Griselda Rosas

Griselda Rosas is, it seems, suddenly everywhere. And so is her work. The cross-border artist's broad repertoire — from large hanging sculptures suspended from ropes to mixed media pieces she embroiders at her kitchen table after her son goes to sleep — is specifically inspired and informed by place. The origins of the materials she uses and where they've traveled to seem as important to her as the shapes they take in her works.

Read about Rosas' big year — now partly interrupted — and the way each of her works represents a series of migrations.

Photo by Griselda Rosas

A mixed media paper and thread work by border artist Griselda Rosas

Melissa Walter

San Diego visual artist (and longtime illustrator for NASA) Melissa Walter’s work is subtle, often inviting a viewer to lean in close. Some are compact, crisp, white sheets of paper cut and layered, and sometimes, the only shape or form is found in the relief or the shadows. Other times, she forms massive installations, showcasing her unmistakable inclination towards white paper, shadows and shapes but serving up splashes of color, film, metal and other materials here and there.

Her new works mark a shift for her: not just studying science, but considering our role in it. "Rather than think specifically on celestial objects or scientific theory, I really started thinking of the morality of space travel," Walter said. Read more about the origins and transformations of her process and the work she's doing during the pandemic.

Photo credit: Studio MAHA

Melissa Walter's 'Of All Things' large-scale installation work at ICE Gallery, 2019.


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Julia Dixon Evans
Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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