Founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the not-for-profit organization CENTER supports socially and environmentally engaged lens-based projects through education, public platforms, funding, and partnerships.
Image-making holds a unique power to confront audiences with uncomfortable truths, advance cultural understandings, and promote social justice. Through the advancement of artists and their work, CENTER serves to deepen public understanding of lens-based media’s complex history and ongoing cultural significance. By establishing trans-disciplinary partnerships between artists and justice-driven communities, historians, cultural critics, students, and the art world, CENTER advances projects that respect all people, open minds, and engage our shared humanity.
As part of CENTER’s annual award program, recipients are offered an exhibition at selected venues across the country. This year, the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts is pleased to host this important exhibition showcasing the creative work of the 2021 and 2022 CENTER award and grant recipients. CENTER’s mission resonates deeply with the curatorial emphasis at the Turchin Center which supports exhibitions addressing critical issues facing our nation and the world today. Placing an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the selection of our artists and exhibitions enables the Turchin Center to fulfill its vision of an equitable future for the arts.
David Walter Banks, “Radical Family Farms”
David Walter Banks, winner of CENTER’s 2022 Project Launch Grant, is a photographer and artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. His work ranges from stylized conceptual portraiture to environmental-issue based documentary photography. Banks has been interviewed by PDN, Rangefinder, TIME’s Lightbox, PhotoEditor, and CNN about his work. His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Georgia and the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection at the New York Public Library.
Banks has lectured at Western Kentucky University, Ohio University, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, University of Miami, SCAD, UNC Chapel Hill, and UMass. His clients include Rolling Stone, TIME Magazine, Apple, The New York Times, Toyota, The Wall Street Journal, Target, The Washington Post, Variety, and Red Bull, among others.
Esha Chiocchio, “Horned Locus” from Good Earth Series
Esha Chiocchio, winner of CENTER’s 2022 Environmental Award, is a photographer and filmmaker who uses her combined knowledge of visual storytelling and sustainable communities to inspire social change. As an optimistic realist, she focuses on solutions to social and environmental challenges. Her current project, Good Earth, celebrates agrarians from diverse sectors who are revitalizing land through regenerative practices. She has photographed around the world for publications, non-profits, and commercial clients, including National Geographic, High Country News, Jardins du Monde, and Bonefish Grill. Esha teaches photography to high school students on four continents with the Fredric Roberts Photography Workshops and to adults through the Santa Fe Workshops. She has BAs in Anthropology and French from the University of Colorado, an MA in Sustainable Communities from Goddard College, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa.
Luis Corzo, “Advisor for Negotiations”
Luis Corzo, winner of Center’s 2022 Social Award, was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala; he currently resides in Brooklyn. He is a multidisciplinary artist who received his BFA in Photography and Contemporary Creation at IDEP, Barcelona in 2012. He primarily works using the different disciplines of photography, but also works with video to explore the obscurities of human activity and the space in which we inhabit. His work has been exhibited in New York, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Bilbao, Hiroshima, Sydney, and Guatemala City among others.
Lizzy Cross, “Coast and Valley”
Lizzy Cross, winner of CENTER’s 2021Personal Award, was born and raised in Palo Alto, CA. She received her BFA in painting with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Long interested in the arts, Cross attended the California State Summer School for the Arts. She was an Artist in Residence at the Vermont Studio Center ion 2005, and attended the CUNY MFA Visual Arts Program in Hunter, NY in 2008-09. She is currently working on a book chronicling her experiences during a miraculous recovery from a chronic illness.
Leah Dyjak, “Stage IV”
Leah Dyjak, winner of CENTER’s 2021 ME&EVE Grant, received their BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2006 and their MFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015. In 2021, As We Play God, Dyjak’s most recent body of work received the prestigious Howard Foundation Grant through Brown University in 2022. Dyjak’s work has been exhibited nationwide at places such as the Houston Center of Photography, Blue Star Contemporary in San Antonio, and The Front Gallery in New Orleans. Their work is in multiple private collections and has been acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University. They are a past recipient of a Goldfarb Fellowship at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in Woodside, California. They have been in residence at the Anderson Ranch in Colorado and most recently at the NARS Foundation in New York City. Recent publications include the Architectural Review, London, and the Leonardo Journal of Art and Science, MIT Press. Currently, they hold the position of Assistant Professor of Visual Art at Wheaton College MA and lives in Providence Rhode Island. The Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown Massachusetts represents their work.
Dan Fenstermacher, “Feed Me”
Dan Fenstermacher, winner of CENTER’s 2022 Multimedia Storytelling Award, is an internationally recognized photographer merging documentary storytelling, and street photography. Both activism and humor are key elements of his work. He has photographic experience on four continents including working for Apex Advertising in Accra, Ghana, as a portrait photographer in Sydney, Australia, a Professor of Fine Arts at Xiangfan University in Hubei, China, and as an artist-in-residence in San Ramon, Costa Rica, culminating in a solo exhibition at the Museo de San Ramon. He holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Photography from San Jose State University, is a member of the Full Frontal Flash Collective, Bay Area Photographers Collective, and Chair of the Photography program at West Valley Community College in Saratoga, CA. When not teaching, he photographs for Content Magazine, the SF Standard, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Peter Merts, “instructor Wilfred Mark”
Peter Merts, winner of CENTER’s 2021 Social Award, was born and raised in the swamp country of southern Georgia. He graduated from Duke University, then spent time in the English Lakes District and Steamboat Springs, Colorado – and eventually settled in the San Francisco area. Merts worked with black and white film for many years, primarily medium format, and spent many, many hours in a darkroom. Currently his process is entirely digital. He specializes in documentary, portrait, and fine art forms.
His work has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Economist, Newsweek Online, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, and others. Some of his prison arts photography was funded by the California Arts Council, which administers the state’s Arts in Corrections program. In 2015, Peter Merts and Dr. Larry Brewster published Paths of Discovery—Art Practice and Its Impact in California State Prisons (second edition). In 2022, Merts published a monograph of his photographs as Ex Crucible: The Passion of Incarcerated Artists, with Daylight Books.
Ella Morton, “Antigua at Blomstrandhalvoya“
Ella Morton, winner of CENTER’s 2021 Environmental Award, is a Canadian visual artist and filmmaker living in Tkarón:to/Toronto, on the land of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenoshaunee and the Wendat peoples. Her expedition-based practice has brought her to residencies and projects across Canada, Scandinavia, and Antarctica. Working primarily with lens-based media, she uses experimental analogue processes to capture the sublime and fragile qualities of remote landscapes. Reflecting on how the medium of photography is changing in the digital age, she aims to uncover how photographs can show more than a straightforward depiction of reality, and how the alchemy of analogue techniques can be reinvented in the present day to tell deeper stories within images.
Morton earned a BFA from Parsons School of Design (New York) in 2008 and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in 2015. She has exhibited her work internationally, including shows at Lonsdale Gallery (Toronto), Foley Gallery (New York), the Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins), Contemporary Calgary (Calgary), Galérie AVE (Montréal), Viewpoint Gallery (Halifax), Photographic Center Northwest (Seacle), the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art (Kelowna) and Hanstholm Art Space (Denmark).
Her work has been featured in Contact Photography Festival (Toronto), Exposure Photography Festival (Calgary), the Antimatter Media Art Festival (Victoria) and the Arctic Film Festival (Norway), among others. Her work has been published in the NPR Picture Show, Analog Forever Magazine, Lenscratch, Lomography Magazine, Becer Photography Magazine, the Toronto Star and the British Journal of Photography. Her practice has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the National Film Board of Canada.
Arista Slater-Sandoval, “Touched”
Arista Slater-Sandoval, winner of CENTER’s 2022 Personal Award, was born and raised in Grand Rapids Michigan. In 2007, she moved to Washington D.C. to pursue a BFA in photography at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. While there she completed a five-month Teachers Assistance and residency program in New York City at the Center for Alternative Photography. After completing a BFA, she moved to Cambridge MA, and attended the College of Art and Design at Lesley University where she obtained an MFA in Fine Art Photography in 2013. While in grad school she pursued issues in communication, identity, love, and romance thought alternative photographic processes.
Since moving to Santa Fe in 2016, she teaches full time at the Institute of American Indian Art while balancing studio time. She continues to work in alternative photographic processes and approaches while tackling large issues in feminine and multi-racial representation, domestic spheres, and intimate relationships.
Heather Evans Smith, “Paint It Blue”
Heather Evans Smith, winner of CENTER’s 2022 ME&EVE Grant, is a photo-based artist whose work reflects her southern roots, motherhood, womanhood, and a whimsical imagination she relied on as an only child in a rural town. Her photographic imagery explores the ideas of memory, loss, and family in conceptual settings. Smith’s work has been exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions at venues including the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock, England, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, NC and Leica Galerie Milano in Milan, Italy. She is a Critical Mass 2014, 2018, and 2021 Top 50 recipient as well as a 2022 Silver List artist. Her first monograph, Seen Not Heard, was published by Flash Powder Projects in 2016 followed by her self-published monograph, Alterations, in 2020. She just released a monograph of her Blue series in September 2022. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Maximilian Thuemler, “Libation, St. Simons Island, Georgia”
Maximilian Thuemler, winner of CENTER’s 2022 Project Development Grant, was born in Berlin, Germany and received a BFA in Illustration from Parsons School of Design in New York. His work has appeared in Fraction Magazine, Tabula Rasa Magazine, Office Magazine, Ain’t Bad Magazine, and Accessible Objects among others. It is also part of the Yuko Nii Foundation Collection in Brooklyn, NY. Thuemler is a recipient of the 2021 Creator Labs Photo Fund and the 2020 Lucie Foundation Emerging Artist Scholarship. He is also among the 2021 Critical Mass Top 50. Recent group exhibitions include Corona Culture at Alte Muenze in Berlin, Salon #1 at New Collectors in New York, Tabula Rasa Magazine Volume IV: Performance at Usagi NY, and Thank You, Have a Nice Day at Galerienhaus Berlin. He is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.
Ana Cristina Vallejo, “Neuromantic”
Ana Cristina Vallejo, winner of CENTER’s 2021 Excellence in Multimedia Award, is an interdisciplinary mixed media artist and conceptual documentary photographer from Colombia; she is currently based in New York. Having a background in biology, Vallejo roots her practice in researching trauma, brain plasticity, and human consciousness. She incorporates experimental and holistic approaches to investigate the potential that art, social bonds, and collective experiences offer to heal and transcend challenging experiences. She invites sympathy, chance, and collaboration to delve into human perception, memory, and emotions and explore alternative and autonomous ways of portraying reality and subjectivity.
Growing up with a schizophrenic father, in an anxious family system, and in a country that has normalized war and violence, Vallejo is drawn to how neglect and trauma affect our emotions, mental health, sense of worth, and relationships. She is interested in looking with fresh eyes at marginal communities and psychological states that are often excluded and reduced to stigmas by society, becoming recipients of our fears and projections of the unprocessed parts of ourselves.
Vallejo graduated from the New Media Narratives program at the International Center of Photography in NYC as a recipient of the Mary Ellen Mark Memorial Scholarship and a Director’s Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited in festivals and venues including Photo Vogue Festival (Milan), Ph Museum Days Festival (Italy), Currents New Media Festival (Santa Fe, California), Month of Photgraphy in Los Angeles (MOPLA), Foam (Amsterdarm), Berlin Photo Week, Lumix festival (Germany), and Organ Vida Festival (Croatia). In 2021 she was selected Foam Talent, and earned the 1st prize of The PhMuseum Women Photographers Grant.
Jane Whitmore, “untitled”
Jane Whitmore, winner of CENTER’s 2021 Project Launch Grant, is a licensed clinical psychologist. In addition to her doctorate in psychology, she has a master’s degree in anthropology and formerly worked as an archeologist in New Mexico and Arizona. She has traveled extensively around the world. Originally from New York, Whitmore has lived in New Mexico for 47 years. Whitmore’s father was a photographer; she jokingly says that she grew up in a darkroom. She received her first camera from her father when she was seven, and he enthusiastically supported her photographic efforts.
In 2018, Whitmore closed her clinical psychology practice. Now she is able to devote her time and energy to her photography and writing projects which are an outgrowth of her professional work and her father’s influence. Through these projects, she strives to promote human rights, and respect for cultural diversity; to evoke compassion for the human condition; and to enhance cultural pride. Whitmore uses photography and writing to advocate for these issues by documenting the experiences of prehistoric, historic, and contemporary cultures.