SFCC’s Hidden Talents

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Clayton Peshlakai

Clayton Peshlakai has been an artist since he was a child. He became a welder over 30 years ago and has worked in various settings from heavy industrial to fine arts. He owns and operates his atelier, Skyhorse Studio, the production facility for his metal sculpture. Owen Contemporary art gallery in Santa Fe represents his sculptures. Clayton is also a welding instructor at SFCC where he enjoys giving back to his field.


Emily Stern

Emily Stern is an Assistant Professor of English, Creative Writing, and Humanities and interim chair of Advising and Communication in the Santa Fe Community College Communications, English, and Reading Department. For her B.A., Emily studied interdisciplinary, culturally-responsive, and justice-centered teaching and learning at The Evergreen State College before receiving her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goddard College. An excerpt of her memoir, This is What It Sounds Like, about her mother’s death from AIDS is 1993, will be in the anthology by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing up with the AIDS Crisis, to be published Fall 2021 by Arsenal Pulp Press.

You can find out more about Emily’s writing and consulting at emilystern.com and more art on Etsy.

“Don’t Ask Your New Self to Be Your Old Self” is a cumulative mixed-media study of limits, proximities, and capacity. It
tells stories I don’t remember and shows the stitching together of my understanding. I began creating images eight
months after experiencing one and then a second traumatic brain injury with brief losses of consciousness, within a few
days of one another. Historically, I’m a writer, performer, and teacher. Since my injuries, reading and writing are very
different — slow and not free. But, everything is very different. I’ve come to believe that making this art began as an
unconscious attempt to understand and accept my circumstances, using the most engaging, convenient, cheap, and
inspiring supplies available in my immediate surroundings.
The first 30 images became “The Shape of What Spilled”, the basis of a manuscript-in-progress of the same name and
shared in the 2018 group art show “Crush/Repeat” in Seattle, WA.
More than once, I’ve attempted to re-create an effect I used in images in “The Shape of What Spilled”, and had no idea
what I had done, some taking months to emerge, and some not yet still. Pieces and creative processes relied on using
and musing my immediate environments, like my yard and old books, MRI and CAT scans and other x-rays, and a lot of
repetition. From what I can recall, which is very little, creating felt meditative and desperate in the confusing haze of my
new reality of busted memory, pain management, and slowed and different cognition and executive functioning skills.
Images that have continued to show up include distance, the diver, cicada wings, astronaut, anatomy, trees,
magnification, new and hybrid species, wood, X-Acto knives, carbon paper, access and barriers, owls, and photography.
The characteristics of a piece of wood direct my visions. In the last year and a half or so, I’ve been lucky to dumpster
nearly all of the wood I use from scraps in the Santa Fe Community College Fine Woodworking and Media Arts
Departments, and generous local woodworkers and friends in woodsy landscapes. I was drawn to work directly with and
on wood, using collage, ink, charcoal and drawing, disintegrating book bindings, painting, epoxy resin, and then burning
and carving. I’ve blown out five different wood burners, in tool and voltage. I long to wield a hot carving knife that can
sculp. My materials are a too-big and too-heavy, and difficult to move (according to my loved ones) collection of found
bric-a-brac and art supplies that revealed themselves as a decades-long-awaited treasure and investment.
One cluster of work was created as a result of my processing and communication challenges in my closest relationships
amidst the onset of pandemic circumstances, as mother, friend, housemate. Frequently, I experience cognitive static
and confusion. I can’t easily retain information in conversations, or in reading. There’s a frantic yet neurologically melty
and slow reality that asserts itself involuntarily. My experience of “remembering” is staring into invisible ink on a bright
white wall, with shards hurled at me from the abyss of no context, and I’m learning to not to be shocked by their stark,
contextless truths. Sometimes, shards assemble into stories and information; more often, I catch clues in a windstorm of
slowed cognition. Each memory is new again, and startling — sometimes traumatizing and incapacitating. Like, if the
movie Groundhog’s Day and Sylvia Plath had a baby, it would probably have to think a lot like Deepak Chopra to make it
past 21.
For these moments, I made images to talk, instead. I also use them in conversations and meetings. Placed in front of me
like cue cards, they remind me that I’m brainstorming or that it’s “time to listen”. At my house, since the pandemic,
we’ve all used them now.
Challenges with communication and transcendence seem and are pervasive. Transcendence largely relies on
vulnerability, timing, fearlessness, and acceptance — and using and doing what’s available and feels good at the time.

Estevan Ortega

Estevan Ortega is a Santa Fe native. He got interested in art while working for Prescott Studios here in Santa Fe. While building sculptures and traveling the United States with the artist, he got very exposed to the art world. While doing art as a hobby, Estevan has opened two businesses in Santa Fe, one a bungee jump ride for the mall, and the other a large subcontractor for FedEx Ground. Now on his third venture Estevan hopes to do art and fabrication full time. Estevan has been teaching in the welding program at SFCC for the last 3 years.

Jake Lovato

Jake started welding at age 14 as a freshman in high school. He learned fabrication on the job and attended TVI “CNM” at night to learn the technical side of welding.  In the last 40 plus years of welding his resume includes commercial, industrial and welded art. He has 20 plus public art projects and numerous art pieces in public and private collections.

 “I like making art! May it be from found objects or new materials, belt buckles, gates, furniture or just a cool piece of art to hang on the wall. I enjoy spending time with my best friend and wife Tania.  We enjoy camping, Hiking, the outdoors and mission trips are my other passions.” 


Lucas Gonzales

United States b. 1977 Abiquiu, New Mexico

Based in Espanola, NM, USA, Lucas Gonzales’ paintings are reflective of multiple genres including portrait art, progressive concepts/abstraction, and landscape painting.  In addition, the styles depicted in his paintings are varied, including: impressionism, painterly, and abstract.  His works are bold with tonal contrast and offer an extraordinary balance that creates harmony and a sensation of equilibrium.  Gonzales utilizes varied lines and textures to project movement that is eye-catching and ultimately draws the viewer to a distinct and exceptional focal point. His works reveal unconventional techniques that are not constrained by the usual artistic boundaries.  Since an early age, creating art has given him an exhilarating feeling and rejuvenating sense of fulfillment.

He took an interest to drawing in early childhood while growing up in the rural villages of Canjilon and Abiquiu, NM.  Many hours spent sitting passenger in the vehicle as his parents drove gave him ample time to observe stunning New Mexico vistas, providing his landscape scenes with an uncanny sense of intimacy and familiarity.  His works are deeply inspired by the natural world.  Massive skies, clouds, mountains, animals, and plants make up many of his unique compositions.    Gonzales is a self-taught (auto-didactic) artist that has dedicated most of his life studying the works and techniques of other artists including Lyn Boggess and Anselm Kiefer He has experimented with a variety of genres and media, presently finding a niche in the use of oil, gouache, and watercolors. 

Gonzales remains very passionate about art and thoroughly enjoys the process of cultivating his own unique style.  His art has been juried into the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico 12th National Juried Members Exhibition (2020) at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art Gallery in Taos, NM, exhibited at the Dia de la Tierra Art Show (2017) at Amaro Winery in Las Cruces, NM, at the Dona Ana Community College (DACC) Faculty & Staff Art Show (2016) at DACC East Mesa Campus in Las Cruces, NM, and at the Chris Flores One-Man Show (2012) at the Bond House Museum in Espanola, NM.  Gonzales is an art collector and advocate that strives to promote and expose up-and-coming artists to a broader audience. He prides himself in carrying on the artistic legacy of his ancestors who have been creating art in the northern Rio Grande Valley for many generations.

“The outdoors and being in nature is my spiritual place; it’s where I go to reflect, gain insight, and inspiration. I try to capture the essence of the outside and bring it inside, whether painting en plein air or in studio, I strive to give the viewer a sense of place. I want them to experience the cold air, the sunshine, the cool breeze, and to feel as if they are standing in the middle of an open field.”