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Selina A. Scott: In Her Own Words
Mar, 28, 2023
Selina A. Scott: In Her Own Words
Selina A. Scott knew she wanted to be an artist from as early as she can remember. Now, her practice in portraiture allows her to explore her own identity, specifically her Diné and Hispanic roots.
With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing from Arizona State University, Scott carefully considers every element in her artistic practice, paying attention to each material down to the wood grain. Her new series examines the significance and multigenerational impact of maternal family figures kneading dough, whether for tortillas or fry bread. These paintings capture special moments in her life, while reigniting memories for other Indigenous and Hispanic families.
We spoke with Selina to learn about the inspiration behind her work, her new series, and more. Here she is, in her own words.
“I try to represent both sides of my culture in every artwork I create, and this positively influences my self-esteem and helps me understand who I am. My favorite detail I add to represent my Diné culture is a turquoise ring on the hand. There is hardly a day that goes by that I’m not wearing turquoise, so I thought my paintings should, too.”
Selina A. Scott, Self-portrait. Courtesy of the artist, Photo: Mya K. Scott.
PhxArt: Tell us about who you are and what typically inspires your work. When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Selina Scott: From as far back as I can remember I loved to draw. My dad was a huge influence on my interest in art and always encouraged my dreams of becoming an artist. He used to draw horses, and I would copy him. He would tell me that art could be my full-time job someday. Ever since then, I only ever wanted to be an artist. I grew up in a Diné (Navajo) and Hispanic household in Tempe, Arizona, with my parents and two sisters. Both of my cultures became my greatest inspiration and motivation for my art because it’s how I made a deeper connection with my heritage. It also allows me to feel closer to my Indigenous and Hispanic roots and understand the impact they have made on my identity, especially when I felt like I didn’t belong in either. Knowing there are so many others who felt the way I did inspires me to create more work about being bicultural.
PhxArt: What are the media that you prefer to work in, and why? What are the topics or subjects that you most focus on, and how did you become interested in them?
SS: In my practice, I often use a combination of pencil, pastel, acrylic, and oil paints. I am very detail-oriented and like to take the time to add every feature to the subject I am painting or drawing. I have always been drawn to portraits and capturing every unique detail that makes up the face of a person. The precision of pencils and slow drying time of oil paint ensures I can add every little detail. My favorite compliment I receive from people who view my work is that my paintings feel alive or real enough to touch.
I started drawing people from a young age, so it was only a natural progression that I took to self-portraits to explore my own identity. I try to represent both sides of my culture in every artwork I create, and this positively influences my self-esteem and helps me understand who I am. My favorite detail I add to represent my Diné culture is a turquoise ring on the hand. There is hardly a day that goes by that I’m not wearing turquoise, so I thought my paintings should too.
Selina A. Scott, I Swear, 2021. Oil on wood panel. 48 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: How has your practice evolved?
SS: I was a very timid artist growing up and didn’t see my voice emerge until college. I attended Arizona State University (ASU) and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing in 2021. Being surrounded by other amazing creatives at ASU helped me hone my skill, refine my voice, and gain the confidence to share it. As I create more self-portraits and share more of myself in each work, I feel more comfortable. With this comfort, there is room for taking on new risks and tackling difficult themes. Along with new conceptual ideas, I have seen a new attention to detail in all aspects of my work. I owe this to a few of my professors at ASU. They encouraged me to carefully consider every element in my artistic practice, from concepts, to the surfaces I create on. I started working on wood panels during my final semesters and it inspired a completely new series of work. Every wood panel I work on has been carefully studied and selected for its wood grain. The natural pattern is unique to each piece and inspires a one-of-a-kind composition for the work I create on it. The interaction between surface and subject, and recognizing the life from each piece of wood has brought a deeper meaning to my work.
PhxArt: Who are your greatest artistic influences?
SS: My greatest artistic influences are Frida Kahlo and Kehinde Wiley. They both express their own identity and culture in a beautiful, vibrant way. Frida influences all my self-portraits, and I look to her whenever I implement object symbolism. She is a true example of strength because she shared the most vulnerable parts of herself in her paintings. Kehinde Wiley became an inspiration of mine ever since I saw his painting Marechal Floriano Peixoto at Phoenix Art Museum. I was struck by the color and life jumping off the canvas. I revisit this same painting every year and can’t get enough of the details in the embraced hands and flowers decorating the couple.
Selina A. Scott, Mya, 2021. Oil on canvas. 28 x 22 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: What’s something you’re currently working on or have recently exhibited?
SS: My current work is an extension of my portraiture and focuses on the hands of our maternal figures hard at work making tortillas. Kneading dough and making tortillas or fry bread is a core memory from my childhood when we would visit my Nali (paternal grandmother) on the reservation. I debuted this idea while live painting at the first Indigenous Peoples’ Day event in Phoenix last year. So many people connected with this piece, even in its early progress and unfinished state. This simple gesture between a grandmother and her grandchild amounts to a greater love and multigenerational impact than simply making tortillas for a meal. I want this series to capture this moment in my life and reignite memories for other Indigenous and Hispanic households.
Selina A. Scott, See Through Me, 2021. Graphite, colored pencil, and acrylic on wood panel. 24 x 28 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
PhxArt: What is some advice you’d give to aspiring artists just beginning to build their professional practice?
SS: For any new artists starting their careers, I encourage you to be your authentic self and never give up. Art takes a mental, physical, and emotional toll, but it is worth it when you see the outcome of your hard work. The greatest advice I can give to aspiring artists is to find a community that supports you and your work. From this past year alone, I have found so much support and new friendships by visiting local art shows and networking at different events. I’d like to give a shout out to my friends at Cahokia and Xico for accepting me with open arms and guiding me on my journey as an emerging artist. Ahéheé and gracias!
PhxArt: What can our community expect to see next from you? Anything on the horizon?
SS: I will share all upcoming shows and future events on my social media and website. For now, I am busy in the studio working on this new painting series and experimenting with new ideas.