Cauleen Smith and Amber Esseiva

  • Cauleen Smith. Photo by Dustin Askland. Courtesy of the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey.

  • Amber Esseiva. Courtesy of the speaker.

  • Cauleen Smith, Sojourner (still), 2018. Digital video, color, sound. 22:41 min.

  • Installation view, Cauleen Smith: Give It or Leave It, the Institute of Contemporary Art, University Philadelphia, Sept 14 – Dec 23, 2018. Center, Epistrophy, 2018. multichannel video (color, sound), four CCTV cameras, four monitors, projection, custom wood table, taxidermied raven, wood figures, bronze figures, plastic figures, books, seashells, minerals, jar of starfish, Magic 8-Ball, maneki-neko, mirror, metal trays, plaster objects, wood objects, wire object, fabric, glass vase, plants. Courtesy of the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey.

  • Cauleen Smith, Cane, 2019. Gouache on paper. 12 x 9 in (paper size); 14 1/2 x 11 in (frame size). Courtesy of the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey.


  1. Sep 10, 2020, 7:30 – 9 pm
Join us on Zoom


Join us at 7:30 pm EST for a live Zoom conversation between artist Cauleen Smith and Amber Esseiva, Assistant Curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Please note this virtual event requires pre-registration. Please contact with any questions ahead of the event.


For each of its virtual conversations, the Carpenter Center will publish a limited-edition booklet with an edited transcript of the exchange, images, and biographical material. These booklets will be made available for free both as digital downloads and in hard copy upon request. In this time of online gathering, this publication series is meant to serve as a material record of Carpenter Center programming and an art historical resource for future scholars and artists.

Subscribe to Carpenter Center Conversations here. 

Amber Esseiva

Amber Esseiva is the Associate Curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA VCU). As a VCUarts alumna, Esseiva has been essential to the ICA’s programming since joining the institution. Esseiva curated select commissions from the ICA’s inaugural exhibition, Declaration (2018), and curated shows featuring work by Corin Hewitt, Jonathas de Andrade, Julianne Swartz, and others. Most recently, she curated Great Force (October 5, 2019 – January 5, 2020), the ICA’s recent exhibition featuring new commissions and recent work by an intergenerational group of twenty-four artists, exploring how art can be used to envision new forms of race and representation freed from the bounds of historic racial constructs. Esseiva has also curated Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla (November 9, 2019 – July 1, 2020), the second iteration of the ICA’s annual commission series, which debuts new work by the El Salvador-born multidisciplinary artist, and a solo exhibition by Martine Syms (February 16, 2019 – May 12, 2019). Her forthcoming project is a solo exhibition with LA-based artist Kandis Williams titled A Field.

Esseiva received her M.A. in 2015 from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard). At CCS Bard, she curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions featuring works by artists such as David Altmejd, Louisa Chase, Roe Ethridge, Gabriel Orozco, Jason Rhoades, Mika Rottenberg, Kenny Scharf, and Avery K. Singer. She also co-founded the interdisciplinary curatorial journal aCCeSsions and was appointed the curator of the 2014 M.F.A. graduate thesis exhibition at the Bard MFA Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts in Hudson, NY. In addition to thesis exhibitions, she has worked closely with M.F.A and B.F.A students through professional development and mentorships.

From 2015 to 2016, she worked extensively curating exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists. Highlights include Anything on a Surface Has Space, a discursive event at The Judd Foundation; and a solo exhibition by artist and VCU alum Alina Tenser at the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. After her stay at CCS Bard, Esseiva was appointed director of Retrospective gallery in Hudson, NY; and curator at SEPTEMBER in Hudson, NY.

Cauleen Smith

Cauleen Smith (b. Riverside, California, 1967) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, she makes things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants.

Her films, objects, and installations have been featured in group exhibitions including the Whitney Biennial (2017), Prospect 4, New Orleans (2017), the Studio Museum Harlem; the Contemporary Art Museum Houston; the New Museum; and the BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK. She has had solo exhibitions at MASS MoCA; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Institute for Contemporary Art Pennsylvania; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and upcoming at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston; and a two-person exhibition with Theaster Gates at the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art.

Smith is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the inaugural Ellsworth Kelly Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Art in 2016; the 2016 Herb Alpert Award for Film/Video; the Rockefeller Media Arts Award; the Creative Capital Award for Film /Video; the Chicago 3Arts Grant; the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Artadia; a Rauschenberg Residency in 2015; and most recently in 2019 Smith was an artist in residence at Artpace. Smith was born in Riverside, California and grew up in Sacramento. Smith earned a B.A. in Cinema from San Francisco State University in 1991 and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1998. Smith studied with Trinh T. Minh Ha, Angela Davis, and Lynn Hershman-Gleeson at San Francisco State University. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2007. Smith lives in Los Angeles and is a Professor at CalArts School of Art.

Generous support for Carpenter Center programing is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.