Photo by Jasmin Shirazian | Sarah Lasley, true to her character, goofs around on Cal Poly Humboldt's art quad grass Sept. 1

New arts faculty hit the scene

Justin Maxon and Sarah Lasley among new arts staff
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by Jasmin Shirazian and Jack Hallinan

With the recent upgrade to a California Polytechnic, many changes have been occurring on campus. Among these changes is the addition of new arts faculty members Justin Maxon and Sarah Lasley.

Justin Maxon is a photographer and educator who grew up on the Hoopa Reservation and in Eureka. He moved to Santa Cruz to attend Cabrillo College, where he had his first experience with photography in an academic setting. 

“I wanted to do environmental science, and then I took a darkroom class and I was just like, ‘this is it,’” Maxon said. “I already loved photography, but I didn’t actually think that I could do it, then as soon as I took that class, I was like, ‘this is what I have to do.’”

As an artist, Maxon’s focus lies in community based work that has an impact. Although he has a background as a journalist, he considers himself a documentary photographer who prefers to work on long term projects. Maxon’s recent work “A Field Guide to a Crisis” is an ongoing project in collaboration with people residing in sober living homes in Eureka. The work focuses on flipping the narrative of those dealing with substance abuse disorders by “repositioning them as experts in how to survive crisis.” Maxon brings this philosophy of community-based work to the classroom when he teaches his Professional Practices class. 


“A lot of the folks in the program are like, ‘I wanna work in a specific communal context…’ Well, that can be your art form,” Maxon said. “How you collaborate with people, and the aesthetics of that collaboration and how that is visualized [can be art].”

This semester Maxon is teaching Darkroom Photography I, Digital Photography I, and Professional Practices in Art. 

  Sarah Lasley, an award winning filmmaker, has joined Cal Poly Humboldt’s film department. Lasley previously taught at the Yale School of Art for over a decade, and later at the University of Texas San Antonio. Lasley is now a part of the Lumberjack family, teaching FILM 378, a digital production workshop showing students the ropes of video and film editing.

Lasley has had her work featured in several film festivals, including the world-renowned AVIFF Cannes FIlm Festival in France. 

Lasley has been creating art of all mediums from a very young age, though she began her filmmaking journey in 2006 during her time at Yale School of Art, where she was attending school for painting. 

“A month into the painting program, I stopped painting and I picked up a video camera,” Lasley said. “Growing up, I had a VHS camcorder, and I would make stop motion animations with my Barbie dolls, so motion had always been in my groove.” 

Lasley’s most well known film, “How I Choose to Spend the Remainder of my Birthing Years,” is a solo film she created during the COVID-19 quarantine lockdown, in which she replaces Baby in “Dirty Dancing.”

“I had just moved alone, at the age of 38, to a city where I knew no one, away from everyone, as a single woman,” Lasley said. “I was like, I guess this is it. This is it for me, I’m going to just focus on being alone, and I was feeling down on myself, so I put on Dirty Dancing. I thought, ‘You know what would be so funny?’ To remove the 16 year old who’s romancing the 30 year old, and put like a 40 year old in there.”

Lasley, who has been in the arts for over a decade, knows the struggles of being a student trying to get their foot in the door of the industry. 

“Just never quit… going into an industry like film, you’re going to have so much burnout because there are big pockets of long hours,” Lasley said. “You can burn out fast, but what you can’t do is let go of making your own work and your own side projects.”

Lasley currently has two upcoming screenings for her new film, “Welcome to the Enclave,” a contemporary think-piece on the different reactions received by the Black Lives Matter movement. The showings will be held at the Burb Contemporary in Sacramento, California and The MAC in Dallas, Texas.

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