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Rose B. Simpson in “Everyday Icons”Descriptive Audio

May 26, 2024

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On a rare snowy day in Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, artist Rose B. Simpson assembles a maquette for a new public sculpture. The three small figures are models for the 12 concrete sculptures that stand nearly 11 feet tall at the Field Farm meadow in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Gazing forward with soft expressions and eyes that are hollowed through the back of their heads, the sculptures embody ancestors watching over the landscape. Simpson’s work stems from these moments of observation and connections to the past, emphasizing the processes of making and becoming in which we discover new ways of being and of healing. Working quickly and intuitively in her studio, the artist shapes her clay sculptures by hand using a technique she developed called “slap-slab.” Each of her clay sculptures is embedded with fingerprints and other evidence of the artist’s hand, leaving traces of the act of making that produced the work. “I’m trying to reveal our deep truth,” says Simpson, “and that deep truth is process.” 

The history, culture, and land of Santa Clara Pueblo are highly influential in the artist’s practice. Simpson’s ancestors have lived in Santa Clara Pueblo for millennia. On a walk through a nearby mountain range, the artist and her daughter use footholds made centuries ago, and find other signs of the bodies that once shaped the environment. Given the knowledge and heritage of her ancestors, Simpson finds ways of continuing their shared narrative. Building upon the skills passed down to her by her mother, Roxanne Swentzell, and her great-grandmother, Rose Naranjo, both artists and ceramicists, she creates and explores inventive ways of making work, understanding herself and her home, and continuing her lineage.

Living near the “lowrider capital of the world,” Española, the artist became inspired by the region’s car culture. Searching for empowerment, Simpson began work on a lowrider of her own called Maria (2014), which is both a sculpture and a functioning car. Painted with a black-on-black design, Maria references the forms used in traditional pottery of the region. Maria Martinez, a Tewa potter who developed the black-on-black style, is the car’s namesake. In Simpson’s first processional performance, what she calls a “Transformance,” Maria drove loudly alongside the metal and leather-clad performers. However, in a 2022 “Transformance,” the artist decided to omit Maria from the performance, exploring new modes of empowerment and ways of taking up space. Moving between worlds and modes of being is not new for Simpson, and these spaces of in-betweenness have become most generative for her. “When you can’t ever be comfortable in one place, the discomfort can create an incredible environment for investigation,” she reflects. “You kind of have to fall back and close your eyes, and hope that where you land is exactly the place you need to be.”

More information and credits


Executive Producer: Tina Kukielski. Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director & Producer: Ian Forster. Editor: Bryan Chang. Director of Photography: LeRoy Grafe. 

Assistant Curator: Jurrell Lewis. Associate Producer: Andrea Chung. Design & Animation: Ryan Carl, Nikita Iziev. Composer: Andrew Orkin. Additional Music: Chocolate Helicopter. Additional Vidoe Editor: Addison Post. Additional Photography: Jarred Alterman, Allie Humenuk. Assistant Camera: Javier Castillo, Christina Zuni. Location Sound: Matthew Betlej. 

Video Post-Production Services: Cut + Measure. Video Post-Production Producer: Alex Laviola. Colorist: Chris Ramey. Video Post-Production Coordinator: Catherine DiRosa. Online & Conform: David Gauff. Additional Animation: Andy Cahill. Audio Post-Production Services: Konsonant Post. Re-Recording Mixer & Sound Editor: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Assistant Editors: Ellen Askey, Michelle Hanks. Audio Description: 3Play Media. Station Relations De Shields Associates. Legal Counsel: Withersworldwide. Additional Curatorial Research: Susan Thompson. 

Additional Art21 Staff: Lauren Barnett, Hannah DeGarmo, Lolita Fierro, Joe Fusaro, Molaundo Jones, Emma Nordin, Anna Pruett, Jessica Svenson, Noor Tamari, Nora Wimmer. Interns: Stephanie Ades, Sekou Cherif, Yeon Cho, Michaela Esteban, Emma Flood, Renee Rienecker, James Santiago, Adam Varca, Dani Wieder. 

Artwork Courtesy: Rose B. Simpson, Jack Shainman Gallery, Jessica Silverman Gallery. Archival Materials: Drury Bynum; Chiaroscuro Gallery, Santa Fe; Addison Doty; Ben-Alex Dupris; Darrick Fields; Global ImageWorks, LLC; Kate Russell; Tim Salaz; Naomi Vegas. 

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees, Bandelier National Monument, Jennifer Bindman, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Fawn Douglas, Sydney Freeland, Sasha Hecht, ICA Boston, Maria Martinez, MASS MoCA, Permaculture Flowering Institute, Roxanne Swentzell, Shaandiin Tome, The Trustees / Field Farm.

Major underwriting for Season 11 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Lambent Foundation, The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Toby Devan Lewis, Robert Lehman Foundation, and Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman.

Series Creators: Susan Dowling and Susan Sollins. ©2023 Art21, Inc.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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