When Art Was the Scientist’s Eye: 400 Years of Natural History Illustrations
Frog dissection illustration from the book “Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium…(Natural history…
If you want to put faces to the story of America’s changing demographics, you might want to look in an art museum. Long bastions of traditional (read “white”) American identity, a growing number of institutions—from the Whitney Museum and MoMA PS1 in New York City, to the Milwaukee Art Museum to the Oakland Museum of California—are opening their doors to artists of color whose work is both poignant and unabashedly political.
That was the case on August 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C., where the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American and Latino Centers hosted a joint Asian-Latino pop-up exhibition featuring the work of some of today’s most sought-after visual storytellers. (For a full look at last week’s pop-up exhibition, check out the entire collection on Tumblr.) Colorlines.com caught up a few of the featured artists to talk about what their work means in the context of a changing American landscape. Here’s what they had to say:
Fidencio Martinez, based in Iowa City, Iowa. “Being an American to be is not defined by a piece of paper. We share a love for this country, for the people who raised us. It’s an honor for my work to be shown at the Smithsonian because it feels like I’ve finally been accepted.”
Steve Alfaro, based in Washington, D.C. “It’s hard [for me] to define what’s ‘American’ and it should be hard for anyone else to define that, too. When you see a debate through an artist’s lens, you can actually sit with it and draw your own conclusions.”
Favianna Rodriguez, based in Oakland, Calif. “We are bombarded with a narrative that’s consistently dehumanizing us and showing us in an ugly and negative way. I always think about art as fighting back against those narratives and saying that we love ourselves.”
Monica Ramos, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., by way of the Philippines “I don’t think it was my intention to challenge what it means to be an American but that’s what my work brings out within the context of [the Smithsonian] show. Making it was my own personal interest. Food is the easiest way to get into a culture and represent it. It’s my way of always remembering where I’m from.”
Intimacy in Struggle: “Flame Tempered” at the Living Gallery
by Etty Yaniv
All photos courtesy of Phoenix Lindsey-Hall unless otherwise indicated
Flame Tempered by Phoenix Lindsey-Hall, 2013; photograph by Alexis Devaney
It is hard to believe that the imagery in Flame Tempered, Phoenix Lindsey-Hall’s evocative ceramic installation at The Living Gallery derives from hard data. Floating in various heights on fishing lines, the bone-white unglazed ceramic pieces evoke hybrids of skeleton, skin, and twisted baseball bats, which are grouped to form an uncategorized biomorphic system. Reduced and lit from the inside, the ceramic objects consist of short linear shapes that cross, overlap, and run parallel to each other, thus casting dramatic shadows on the floor and the surrounding walls. They convey a rhythmic dance of light and dark, a visually enticing installation that compels the viewer to walk around and then try to decode the narrative from up close.
Phoenix Lindsey-Hall, Flame Tempered at the Living Gallery, 2013
Politically charged and highly focused, the narrative in Flame Tempered is born out of research about queer hate-crimes. Before conceptualizing the look of the project, the Bushwick-based artist studied more than fifty LGBT hate-crime cases from 1970 to 2010. By trolling the internet and microfiche achieves, Lindsey-Hall found a link connecting this cross section of cases: The weapons used were often seemingly banal objects such as a hammer, a bat, or a bottle. “These weapons can rarely be used at a distance, illustrating the intimacy of the act as blood and sweat merge in struggle,” she emphasizes.
Oh my gosh this is amazing!!!! I helped organize Flame Tempered at The Living Gallery and the opening is tonight!!! So excited, so proud of Phoenix, thanks Arts in Bushwick!!!!!!!!