Step Aside, Miss O'Keeffe

SFUAD seniors take Santa Fe art to new places

So you're fingerpainting with your 3-year-old one afternoon when she (or he) suddenly announces, to no one in particular, "I want to be an artist when I grow up." Cute, you think. She'll grow out of it. A few years later, you find out from the principal that she's been skipping algebra to hang out in the art department, and before you know it, she's applied to the Santa Fe University of Art and Design with every intention of pursuing that childhood dream. You want to support her, you really do, but you know that the life of an aspiring artist is just about as heartbreaking as the life of a wannabe rockstar. What's a parent to do?

If I were to make some quick generalizations about art in Santa Fe, it would probably sound something like this: bold colors, Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired "abstract contemporaries" (which to the untrained eye sometimes do look a bit like something your three-year-old could have painted). Of course, this isn't to say there aren't a helluva lot of talented artists in this town, but if you spend enough time walking up and down Canyon Road, the art scene can start to seem a bit, um…monotonous? (Steeling myself for angry comments.) OK, so maybe I have grown a bit jaded since moving here, but a brief trip to the Santa Fe University Art and Design for the graphic design senior thesis exhibit proved a refreshing reminder of the potential (and potential capital gain) of art.

On the Friday of the event, graphic arts students Stephen Lucero, Robert Tucker, Corey Johnson (SFR's new art director), Jake Goodman, Tim Edeker, Chris Peralta and Ben Smith presented their senior theses projects as part of an exhibit titled Twelve Over Seven. The classroom-turned-gallery buzzed with creative energy, and I found out after speaking with the artists that each piece was also intended with a practical application in mind—a nice little underhanded jab at anyone who'd ever told these kids not to try and make it as an artist.

Designs ranged from a quirky, minimalist, cartographic representation of the Star Wars universe to a snowboard logo and a thoughtfully detailed Santa Fe guidebook. My personal favorite, however, was Goodman's typeface design "Buenhombre Sans." Typography is an interesting field to dabble in, he explained, because unlike other forms of art, there are copyright issues involved.

"I started in studio art," he tells me, "but I was always designing letters. There's something intuitive about it. Now, I'm trying to get my name out there."

While Goodman and Johnson both looked ready to get out of their ill-fitting suits and throw down at the Public Enemy concert the following evening (impending graduation apparent), all of the students fielded questions with impressively professional grace. And their work reflected an equal level of creative maturity.

So if your kid starts showing a bit of interest in art, maybe suggest that she take a graphic design course somewhere along the way. She'll be more likely to land a job straight out of college, and who knows, maybe she'll even come up with the next Helvetica.

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