Collaborating with local artists for the cover art of special issues has become one of SFR's favorite traditions in the last few years—in just the last few years, we've seen original work from Nico Salazar, Angel Wynn, Jared Weiss and Marie Sena. Generally, when we're gearing up to approach an artist for a special issue, we work up a shortlist of our faves, then carefully weigh the work, the impact, the style. For this year's Locals Guide, however, the list only had one name: Eliza Naranjo Morse.

Morse really only shows at venues such as the Institute of American Indian Arts' Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and mobile gallery Axle Contemporary (she says they share a similar ethos), and appears in what she describes as "considered collections." And even though we were nervous about how she'd respond, Morse tells us that designing an SFR cover has been a bit of a secret goal of hers since she was a teenager. Lucky us!

A resident of Española, Morse spends much of her time these days building a house on land that's been in her family for generations. There, she's created studio space in what will eventually become her bedroom; and there, she says, she feels connected to her family members who came before or still live on the land today.

"It's surrounded by family," Morse says. "I grew up on this piece of land, so to come home to it and get older on this land and feel a sense of stewardship; I'm here for a moment. What can I do to take care of it? It's not for me to reinvent—I'm a piece of something that's ongoing."

For her piece on the cover, however, Morse was comfortable with trying new methods, like working with glow-in-the-dark paint, along with her tried-and-true ones, like making her own paint from clay.

"We had talked about community," Morse says, referring to her first meeting with SFR art director Anson Stevens-Bollen, "and I spent time talking to my brother, who is one of my best friends, about community in Santa Fe. And I think a theme I found, what my heart lent itself to, was family."

Morse says the image shows a bear, beetle and ant on a pilgrimage.
Morse says the image shows a bear, beetle and ant on a pilgrimage.

Morse says that the animals on the cover—a bear, a beetle and an ant—are joining together on a pilgrimage. Behind them, a landscape culled from Morse's own personal microcosm juts out, and a sunrise shines over the scene. The bear, she says, is meant to convey a certain level of world-weary wisdom; the overall statement becomes one of newness and personal and global hope, and there's an unspoken, perhaps familial connection between the creatures.

"The story of our lives is enormous, right?" Morse says. "How do you even tell that? I'm still trying to figure that out."