Art M.F.A. Grad Attends SOMA Summer 2015 in Mexico City

Intense creative work and artistic dialogue part of eight-week international program

Kate Jarboe, who earned an M.F.A. in art at SMU Meadows in spring 2015, was selected as the school’s 2015 winner of a post-graduate fellowship to attend the annual SOMA Summer program in Mexico City this past summer.

SOMA Summer is a unique program that brings together artists, curators, critics and art historians from all over the world for eight weeks of collaboration and discourse. Conducted primarily in English, the program introduces participants to the dynamic art scene of Mexico City through visits to museums, openings and artists’ studios. SOMA Summer is designed to promote intense creative work and open dialogue and is built around a series of seminars and workshops led by renowned Mexican and international artists. Participants also meet weekly for individual critiques with a variety of artists and curators.

Thanks to a collaboration between the SMU Meadows Division of Art and SOMA, an alum from the M.F.A. program is chosen to attend the program each year.

This year, Jarboe was one of 36 attendees from around the globe. Below is her first-person account of her experience:

The group of participants in SOMA Summer 2015 included 36 international artists/curators from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Lebanon, Iran and Serbia.

As participants in SOMA Summer we took part in weekly seminars, which were led each week by a different visiting international scholar or artist. The focus of the seminars changes from year to year, depending on that year’s overarching theme. In 2015, the focus was on French writer Georges Bataille’s ideas about excess and its relationship with contemporary art. Bataille “considered excess in the form of waste or ‘expenditure’ not as a malaise, but as an outlet of energy that needs to be spent.” This was interpreted in various ways by the roster of visiting lecturers: Jorge Luis Marzo (Spain), Cuauthémoc Medina (Mexico), Mariana Botey (Mexico/U.S.), Juli Carson (U.S.) and José Luis Sánchez Rull (Mexico).

The seminars were supplemented with shorter artist lectures, including those held at SOMA every Wednesday night as part of the year-round Miércoles de SOMA program. We heard from Colective Nerivera, Daniel Peltz, Virginia Colwell, Tyler Coburn, Diedrich Diedrichsen and Camel Collective.

During two of the eight weeks, the seminar was replaced with tours of museums, galleries and artist-run spaces in Mexico City. In week one, Eduardo Abaroa (Mexico) led a guided tour of cultural sites that hold importance to 20th-century and contemporary Mexican art. During week four, Carla Herrera-Prats (director of SOMA Summer) led visits with curators and artists at contemporary art spaces around the city.

Each week also included at least one visit to an artist’s studio in Mexico City. These were hosted by Yoshua Okón, Miguel Ventura, Rocío Boliver (aka La Congelada de Uva), Vicente Razo and Jota Izquierdo. In addition, each week there was the opportunity to have an individual critique with at least one visiting artist or curator.

For the closing event/exhibition, I worked with my collaborator, who was a graphic designer, along with a local rotulista (professional sign painter) to produce a site-specific mural painted directly on the interior wall of the SOMA building with an accompanying single-channel video piece. The closing event provided us with a public screening and exhibition opportunity. In addition, SOMA Summer produces an annual publication with contributions from each of the participating artists; you can download the 2015 publication here.

In addition to the exhibition, I was also invited to add my artist’s books to the collection at Aeromoto, an artists’ book library in Mexico City, and to collaborate on a future event there. Since returning to the U.S., I have been invited to be interviewed by an art blogger in Mexico City about my work and influences. I made some lifelong connections in Mexico City, both personal and professional.

The opportunity to attend SOMA Summer was an amazing experience and I am grateful to SMU for the financial help with tuition. I plan to apply for future grants and residencies in Mexico City, to continue working on several projects I started during my stay. These projects are based on archives housed in various institutions around the city, and require deeper investigation.

Read more about SOMA.

Read more about SMU Meadows M.F.A. in Art.