Alibi V.27 No.21 • May 24-30, 2018 

Arts Interview

At Home in the World

Place is unpacked at Sanitary Tortilla

The walls of the gallery at Sanitary Tortilla Factory (401 Second Street SW) are bare. Instead, new works by Kacie Smith and Emma Difani are laid across the floors, which we carefully step around. A fresh coat of white paint is drying, and soon their joint exhibition, Still Moving, will open. The works by these two Albuquerque-rooted artists examine the world outside—how we interact with landscapes both urban and pastoral and integrate ourselves into them, making home wherever we go.

Emma Difani uses printmaking to explore stratified topography
Emma Difani uses printmaking to explore stratified topography
Emma Difani
Difani's work is born of time spent at a printmaking residency in Oklahoma City; Difani's pieces are about being in isolated Cantabria, on Spain's north coast, studying “transhumance,” a traditional way of migratory ranching. Though independent bodies of work, each expresses ways of interacting and being in place, bringing to it a certain sense of wonder.

A few days before Still Moving opened (the show runs until June 22), Difani and Smith spoke to us about their work.

Alibi: How do your works speak to each other?

Difani: I'm using a city setting and experiencing nature in that, and [Kacie] is using a less constructed setting, and [looking at] how people influence it. It's like an inverse of my work.

Smith: Emma is from here, and looking at Oklahoma City. I live here, and I was a visitor and researcher in Spain. In both cases we have fresh eyes and curiosity.

Difani: It's very much about exploration and getting to know these places through direct experience with the land.

How do these mediums illuminate these ideas?

Smith: What was surprising to me in my time was … there was actually a tension between the history of the place, the culture and tourism. … I decided for the show to make a lot of handmade objects and ceramic pieces, but also photographs printed on vinyl. For me the materials of this show are about clashes in certain ways. What does it mean to live a traditional livelihood of migratory ranching now.

Difani: Most of my work in this show uses printmaking techniques. I am doing a residency at a printmaking studio in Oklahoma City, … the reason I'm attracted to printmaking is the ability to endlessly layer. To me that speaks to the layering of all these plants and people and buildings living on the same ground, built up. … I think of these as maps. You have symbols that repeat and mark these spaces.

Kacie Smith created works based on time spent in rural Spain
Kacie Smith created works based on time spent in rural Spain
Kacie Smith

How do you think these things will translate to being seen here?

Difani: For me, the broader themes are still relevant here. … Most of the world lives in urban environments, this was just my personal reckoning with that. … I was trying to appreciate little things more—this might be a little square cut out of the pavement to make way for a tree, but all these other little things take advantage realizing its a great habitat for them, too. Now it is a mini four-foot square environment, even if it wasn't the primary intention.

Smith: I was very aware the work would end up here. I'm using myself as a filter. It's my experience; I'm talking about who I met, how I thought about it. I'm sort of teaching about the place, this area of the world that is relatively unknown [that] … is at this critical moment. Will this lifestyle continue into the next generation? I expect people here will be curious.

How did the show end up with this title?

Smith: I went to this Goya show while I was in Spain, and there was a painting of him as an old man and he writes on it, aún aprendo, “I'm still learning.” We were thinking about that for awhile—this constant search to dig deeper, observation, life as an artist, … but the phrase was a little melancholic, too.

Difani: We liked the idea of continuance—that it is never done. Still working. Still moving.

Smith: The weird part then, is you think about stillness. Still moving. It's a contradiction, too.