The DSI Gallery presents a groundbreaking exhibition of sculptures, watercolors and embroideries by Leslie Jiménez and Julianny Ariza. The exhibition will be on display from September 13 to November 13, 2013.
This dual exhibition is comprised of 12 works that range from sculptures and paintings to installations and handicrafts such as embroidery. The artists’ multidisciplinary approach is best summarized in the selection of the materials: fabric, thread, ink, graphite, acetate, coloring pencil as well as plaster on canvas wood and plastic.
Daring, stimulating, fragile and imaginative, “Condition: My Place My longing / Condición: Mi Lugar Mi Anhelo” brings together two artists from the Dominican Republic who are engaged in a dialogue of sorts that confronts —without any hint of sentimentality— subject matters rooted in both the historical and personal realms: oppression, sensuality, violence, racial stereotypes, beauty, gender, longing, identity, biculturalism among others. Overall, this is a kaleidoscopic experience that incorporates different techniques and ways of seeing. In the email interview that follows, Leslie Jiménez and Julianny Ariza discuss the creative process and the relationship between language, migration, everyday life and art.
What kind of research did you do for this project?
Leslie Jiménez: Constantly I read stories that bring about notions of psychological aspects of human behavior— for example, the weekend newspaper during the weekdays— and use my own experiences as an immigrant to inform my work.
Julianny Ariza: From the start—and based on our interest to link our work with migration issues that we face and since the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY share these objectives—we were doing brainstorming and expressing situations and experiences of ourselves and of others that we see around. We researched events and everyday news that may affect and get involved in our daily behavior and our emotions. These were news from the United States and the Dominican Republic, and other countries in general too. We ran through this process, comparing similarities and differences between the two countries and how they determined human behavior.
How do you choose the materials?
Ariza: I use materials such as textile, thread and embroidery. I hand sew and glue materials because of the homemade and familiar feelings that they recreate in me and connect me to the family history of many of us. I also use toys and objects from our childhood that we don’t often see these days due to the changes brought about by globalization and technology, but especially because of processes of cultural mixing.
Jiménez: The materials I use come as an extension of my own curiosity and creative process. Usually I have a variety of materials in my studio and suddenly ideas pick them as the medium needed for them to be born. I don’t always work with the same set of materials since each idea may have a different requirement. I love the fact that I can have the freedom to work in with all the materials I can get.
What social, artistic, political, spiritual and personal perspectives inform your work?
Jiménez: My work is informed by the social disparity between the construction of the self-image and issues of ethnic liminality: The contrast between the externally-imposed and the internally-embraced that has to do with race and ethnic identity. I take my experiences lived both in the Dominican Republic and in New York as a critical battlefield, here I question what I have been raised to believe and challenge the truth in it to find a way to understand this complicated subject.
Ariza: I explore the human being in her personal moment when expressing vulnerabilities and the social function of emotion. My work reaffirms that all social problems and all action are associated with an emotional component: in the process, it recreates their idealizations and weaknesses in oneiric contexts. And in this case, pointing out these contexts originating as the consequences that occur when living either physically and / or emotionally in different places.
What is the role of bilingualism in your art?
Jiménez: Bilingualism? Love this word! The intentions of it in my work is to breach the community of Spanish speakers with the English speaking population who often can’t reach the message at the same pace for the exclusion of one or the other language in the same context.
I find that some words lose strength when translated from its original language in the scenario of visual arts. It is almost like I need it in Spanish and there’s no other way to convey the real sense of what I’m willing to say. Through bilingualism I feel as if I’m unifying two separate worlds, a situation I lived on my own flesh when I was not able to speak English.
Ariza: It is a key factor that generates new challenges and reasons why, how and for whom to create
Finally, how does the immigrant experience influence your work?
Everyday I have material to work with, being able to navigate a land where I wasn’t born and find my place in it with struggle is definitely the ground where it all starts when I look at myself and feel the need to make art. It is not an easy task to deal with discrimination, isolation, discouragement, and pay attention to the magical moments that enable you to dream and little by little make things happen in this journey. I feel as if it is my responsibility to communicate to other immigrants who are living similar stories as mine; that work and heart might never be separated for the tears we may drop. The fight should be won by those who work hard; those who believe they are capable and who realize the world needs their contribution no matter how small they may think it is compared to the barriers we face in the process.
Ariza: That experience has a lot of weight in what I do. Since it is present in our daily lives, our behavior and concerns combined consciously and unconsciously in my themes: The themes of family and home as a starting point; the loss of family and cultural traditions, for example: when we inherit our grandparents’ furniture when we get married or on a Sunday afternoons when we wear the dresses that our mothers sewed for us. Behind these practices is an emotional component that determines our daily behavior. When you move from one place to another, others cultures and people, this either generates changes or makes you more aware of your own identity. Among some of the themes that motivate me to create these works are dwelling, longings and absences. So far, the human component is my priority in my work.
Amaury Rodriguez/Guest contributor
ABOUT CUNY DSI GALLERY
The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Gallery (CUNY DSI Gallery), housed in the multipurpose room of the Institute's Archives and Library facility at The City College of New York, is the only exhibit space in New York City devoted exclusively to works of art by and about people of Dominican descent. The Gallery celebrates and showcases artists who have a unique perspective on the Dominican experience.
The hours of operation for the Dominican Archives, Library and Gallery during the Fall 2013 are as follows:
(September 3 - December 23)
9:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 12:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Closed the following dates:
Monday, October 14 (Columbus Day)
Thursday, November 28-Saturday November 30 (Thanksgiving)