GRIC Member Exhibits Work at Phoenix Art Museum

Emma Hughes
Gila River Indian News



Gila River Indian Community member Laurie Steelink is a multidisciplinary artist. Her work has been exhibited nationally and is currently on display from April 24 through Sept. 19 at the Phoenix Art Museum as part of the “Desert Rider” exhibition.


Desert Rider explores the socio-political realities and imaginative interpretations of automotive and skateboarding subcultures through diverse works by local Arizona and regional artists, focusing almost exclusively on Latinx and Indigenous perspectives that have defined the identity of the Southwest, according to a Phoenix Art Museum press release.


Desert Rider is an exhibition inspired by modes of transportation in the Southwest that invite reflection and introspection of collective cultural imagination.



“It’s about representation and representation of the people of the Community,” said Steelink, “I think it’s important that people recognize that there’s representation in all sorts of areas outside of the Community.”


Her artwork, “Pony,” is composed of found objects: a metal car hood, plastic hubcap, metal “Mustang” emblem, red wheel spike lug nuts, acrylic paint, cotton, synthetic yarn, adhesive stickers, Masonite, and electric light fixtures.


She shared what the art piece means to her, “It made me think of those moments growing up and wanting to identify with something other than where I was,” she said.


Raised in Tucson, Ariz., Steelink’s birth mother is the late Sandra Cawker, District 4, and her grandparents are Evelyn Porter and Herbert Cawker.



She currently resides in San Pedro, Calif., where she founded “Cornelius Projects,” an exhibition space in 2012 that also serves as her work studio.



It wasn’t until college that she began making artwork. She received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from Mason Gross School of Arts, Rutgers University.


Reconnecting with and referencing her ancestors, culture, and community has helped her better define her artwork.


“I think it is more defined than it ever has been in the course of my art making,” said Steelink, “I really do think that the more creativity that is encouraged in us, all of us, the better we are as a Community and as human beings and the recognition of our connection to the natural materials, the natural world, is really important in being able to process that creativity.”



The following is Steelink’s statement for the artwork, “Pony”:


“Pony is a memory

Pony is an emblem

Pony is an anthem

Pony is a launch pad for a voyage

My child-self believed my profound love for horses came from my ancestry.

I didn’t grow up with my culture or traditions so that’s what I held on to.

I desired freedom at birth.

I’d save my allowance so I could ride.

I stole my parents car when I was 14 years old...well...I took it without their knowing.

I was always rebellious. Still am.

I put metal to the pedal in their Chevy sedan and rode around.

For a short while, that Chevy sedan was my Pony...”