I believe the social function of art lies in presenting truth as an important form of self-awareness. As an activist and artist my recent work is built on the practice of understanding the importance of my creative commitment as a source of potential change generating public discourse on critical issues.
Shelby Head is a contemporary artist who is known for her ability to connect her accomplished form with social content. She constantly experiments and challenges herself to create her work with new materials extending her visual vocabulary as well as the content. Head lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a Tulsa Artist Fellow. In 2020, she was awarded a 2020-21 Tulsa Artist Fellowship and has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Jentel Artist Residency, Vermont Studio Center, and the CT Office of the Arts. She has traveled extensively to many artist residencies and embraces new information and new ways of thinking. Always experimenting in her studio, Head works with materials and methods that support her ideas.
The National Endowment for the Arts supported visual artist Shelby Head during her social practice arts residency in the San Luis Valley in Colorado. San Luis, Alamosa, and Adams State University served as the artist’s host and creative home during the fall of 2019. She visited San Luis and surrounding communities for an extended period of time to take part in preserving the history of the 1843 Sangre de Cristo Land Grant through community participation and art.
Working alongside the San Luis Land Rights Council members, Head focused on collecting stories from the beneficiaries of the 1844 land grant issued under the Mexican land grant system. She recorded through film nine grant heirs’ personal stories concerning the historic land rights to La Sierra. Seven of these stories became large wall projections in the 2020 exhibition titled La Sierra at the Cloyde Snook Gallery on the campus of Adams State University. The centerpiece for the exhibition is a large-scale shrine designed and installed by San Luis sculptor and heir, Huberto Maestas, with artwork from Carlos Sandoval and items donated from Pete Espinosa. The shrine is dedicated to the spirit of La Sierra and to the generations of families who have used the mountain range for water, grazing, logging, wood, hunting, and fishing. The 2020 exhibition titled La Sierra will travel to universities and museums throughout Colorado before finding a permanent home in San Luis.
Head is currently working on a new series that asks questions about queer theory using toilet pictogram inspired figures as form and gender as a subject.