Michael Arcega works across media to create art that is informed by language, history, and geography. In his most recent work he has adopted methodologies used in the anthropological study of world cultures that often emphasize “otherness,” but Arcega turns the tables, positioning North America as “the other” whose symbols and rituals must be studied and understood. Though a socio-political critique, Arcega’s work also has a playful element, providing familiar entry points to alternative ways of thinking about the people who colonize the landscape. Recently, Arcega has been exploring the cultural residue of the Nacirema people of North America. Applying strategies of the late anthropologist, Horace Miner, Arcega attempts to better understand these people’s lives and their daily practices.
Arcega is an Assistant Professor of Art at San Francisco State University. He received an MFA from Stanford University and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2012, he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has been exhibited at the Asian Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the de Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Cue Arts Foundation, and the Asia Society in NY among many others. Arcega’s work has been discussed in publications including Art Forum, The New York Times, Art Practical, Art News, X-TRA, SF Chronicle, Art Papers, and Flash Art among others. He has been an artist in residence at the 18th Street Art Center, Montalvo Arts Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, the Fountainhead Residency, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Al Riwak Art Space in Bahrain, and the Recology Artist Residency Program.