Recent Acquisitions by Women Artists: Laura Spalding Best, Sam Fresquez, and Merryn Omotayo Alaka
Laura Spalding Best, The Bountiful Mirage, triptych, 2018, oil on found objects. Museum Purchase. Funds provided by Robert and Sheryl Greenberg. 2021.33.3. Currently on view in the Contemporary Art Society/Joyce Broan Gallery.
Laura Spalding Best has been studying and painting the urban landscape of the Sonoran Desert for many years. Working with oil paint on metal and found objects, Best seeks to analyze and quantify the complex infrastructure that makes our desert cities livable while also appreciating the unexpected beauty that can be found in power lines and transformers or canals and highways set against a boundless southwestern sky. She likes to show how functionality meets natural beauty.
Best chooses to paint on found objects—like the ironing boards in the tryptich A Bountiful Mirage—because she loves using something that had a history before her, that has been passed down, and has been part of daily domestic life.
Laura Spalding Best is an artist living and working in Phoenix, Arizona. She received her BFA from Arizona State University. Best recently received a Contemporary Forum Artist Grant and a Pollock-Krasner grant. She has been involved in numerous solo and group exhibitions in downtown Phoenix and has completed several public murals. She has been the exhibitions manager at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art since 2006. Her work was featured at TMA in Arizona Biennial 2018 and Arizona Biennial 2020.
Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez, Bundles Bundles II, 2021, Kanekalon hair and braid clamps, foam. Museum Purchase. Funds provided by Robert and Sheryl Greenberg. 2021.33.1. Currently on view in the Contemporary Art Society/Joyce Broan Gallery.
Phoenix-based artists Sam Fresquez and Merryn Omotayo Alaka are friends and frequent collaborators. Their work makes strong statements about feminism, stereotyping and culture. TMA’s recent acquisition, Bundles Bundles II, was part of a collaborative installation titled It’s Mine I bought It at Lisa Sette Gallery in Phoenix. It featured a series of hanging forms created of synthetic hair (which is sold in units called bundles), formed into elaborate braids, bubbles, tassels and chandeliers.
It’s Mine I Bought It, which references the song “Mine” by the rapper Princess Nokia, both celebrates the ways that Black and Brown women wear their hair and rejects the constant interrogation of these traditions. The artists acknowledge that elaborate rituals of hairdressing have been formative in their own lives. The use of synthetic hair has been a facet of self-expression. They also recognize that society imposes strict expectations upon the hair and appearance of Black and Brown women in public spaces.
Sam Fresquez and Merryn Omotayo Alaka met when both were pursuing bachelor of fine arts degrees at Arizona State University. Alaka, who is from Indianapolis, grew up in a house filled with African art and crafts, thanks to her Nigerian-born father. Fresquez grew up in Mesa, Arizona, spending after-school hours in her grandmother’s art supply store and weekends going to NASCAR races with her father. She melds Latinx and other influences with historically and culturally significant materials. Her video work was featured at TMA in Arizona Biennial 2020.