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September 2013

“Condition / Condición" My place my longing” at DSI Gallery



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.

JuliannyArizaJulianny Ariza [Photo courtesy of the artist]

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.

Photo 281 (1)Leslie Jiménez [Photo courtesy of the artist]

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.

Thelastdesireofcarmen Thelastdesireofcarmen Thelastdesireofcarmen

Thelastdesireofcarmen Thelastdesireofcarmen Thelastdesireofcarmen

"The Last Desire of Carmencita" by Leslie Jiménez

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?

Jiménez: The experience as an immigrant influences my work hugely!

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.


Unbreakable"Unbreakable" by Julianny Ariza

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



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:

Fall 2013

(September 3 - December 23)

Monday             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.
Sunday             CLOSED

Closed the following dates:

Monday, October 14 (Columbus Day)

Thursday, November 28-Saturday November 30 (Thanksgiving)

Greetings from Japan! Mika Miyoshi donates Dominika Kyouwakoku wo shirutameno 60 syou / the 60 chapters to understand the Dominican Republic

DSC01336Prof. Sarah Aponte would like to thank Dr. Mika Miyoshi, Researcher at the University of Tokyo for donating her recent publication on Dominican Republic which is part of a book series titled Nations in the World.

Dominika Kyouwakoku wo shirutameno 60 syou/the 60 chapters to understand the Dominican Republic. Tokyo, Japan: Akashi Syoten, 2013. Series editor: Iyo Kunimoto. 

This book, under the well-known series Nations in the World, covers the history, society, culture, politics and economics of the Dominican Republic for the first time in Japanese. The book contains material that will help students better understand the Dominican Republic and the Dominican diaspora. It also supplies information and interpretation on the Dominican community in New York City and an insight to the cultural locations and characteristics of the Dominican people.

Dominika Kyouwakoku wo shirutameno 60 syou / the 60 chapters to understand the Dominican Republic is an important resource for researchers, students and readers who are interested in finding general information about Dominican Republic and introduction to Dominican immigration to the United States.

Jhensen Ortiz

Library Research Intern

Silvano Lora: His legacy lives on

Silvano-Lora-artistaPhoto courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Silvano Lora (1931-2003) who left behind an immense and exquisite body of work that is still as relevant as ever before. Ten years later, the legacy of this non-conformist artist and social activist is being celebrated and re-assessed in the media, art venues as well as academic institutions by intellectuals, artists, friends and relatives marked by his unique, interdisciplinary artistic vision and towering personality.


Silvano Lora and Pachito stage a protest in opposition to the official celebrations of the 500th Centenary of the conquest of the Americas[Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

In June, for example, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and the Association of Constitutionalist Combatants [of the 1965 revolution and civil war] held a ceremony to pay tribute to both Silvano Lora and Jacques Viau Renaud, the Dominican-Haitian poet and educator and one of the martyrs of the armed conflict. Another tribute and re-assessment of Silvano’s legacy was his first posthumous individual show (on display from July 25-September 10, 2013) at the Galería Nacional de Bellas Artes [Bellas Artes National Gallery] in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The show won praise not only from art critics but the general public.

Crossing the Ozama River in remembrance of the 500 years of indigenous resistance in the Americas [Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

 Sivano Lora: un arte combatiente [Sivano Lora: A Combatant Art] encapsulated the artist’s approach to art and life by showcasing a series of paintings, collages, assemblages and even texts penned by others who knew him. Among the items on display was a raft canoe built in collaboration with the craft artist Pachito. In 1992, on the eve of the official celebration of the 500th anniversary of the conquest of the Americas—known with the anachronism of “discovery”— both artists sailed the Ozama river to bring attention to the plight of indigenous people not only in Dominican Republic but also throughout Latin America. This retrospective was organized by the Taller Público Silvano Lora [Silvano Lora Public Workshop] in conjunction with the Bellas Artes National Gallery under the direction of art critic Marianne de Tolentino.

The 1992 protest staged by Silvano Lora overshadowed the official celebrations of the 500th Centenary of Columbus arrival [Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

In Santiago, the second largest city, Centro León organized a panel on Silvano Lora which included among other panelists, his daughter, the historian Quisqueya Lora Hugi, Marianne de Tolentino, and the art critic and author Danilo de los Santos.

An aesthetic of rebellion

Trained in the school of Western classical painting, Silvano Lora eschewed academicism, idealism and tradition, embarking in what later became an ongoing artistic search for experimentation that lasted a lifetime. And while his art took cues from the latest trends within the international avant-garde, he was able to develop a true aesthetic of rebellion. In fact, his art was not only grounded in theory but in concrete reality. This was personified in the concrete reality of the barrios in the post-dictatorial era; overcrowded urban spaces that lacked both basic services and political freedoms. The Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) has left the country in shambles as many political exiles like Silvano Lora could attest. (He was exiled in Paris, France for a while. There he took part in the Algerian anti-colonial struggle).

RevolucionariosA scene from the 1965 revolution [From the book Historia gráfica de la Guerra de Abril (1981 edition) by Fidelio Despradel]

In the early 60s, Silvano Lora was instrumental in bridging the gap between art and politics in a time when students, intellectuals and ordinary people pushed forward for more democratic reforms and freedoms. Like his peers, Silvano took part in poetry recitals, self-publishing and collective art-making as well as exhibitions that brought art to the masses: First, as a member of the Arte y Liberación [Art and Liberation] group, and second, as one of the leading members of the short-lived but far-reaching cultural action committee known as Frente Cultural Constitucionalista [Constitutionalist Cultural Front].

[From the book Historia gráfica de la Guerra de Abril (1981 edition) by Fidelio Despradel]

During the 1965 popular uprising that opposed the 1963 coup, the Frente Cultural made posters, organized art exhibits and published a collection of poems entitled Pueblo, sangre y canto [literal translation: People, Blood and Song]in which poets expressed their unconditional support to the revolutionary cause. A statement signed collectively by Frente Cultural in support of the ideals and goals of the revolt first saw the light of the day in the first edition of that book. According to Juan José Ayuso, a poet, historian and former Frente Cultural member, “the book appeared in September of 1965”. In 1985, a second edition published by Autonomous University of Santo Domingo was released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the revolution.

[Click here to read the English translation of the Frente Cultural 1965 statement and here to read the original version in Spanish]


Poster by the Frente Cultural circa 1965 [From the book Historia gráfica de la Guerra de Abril (1981 edition) by Fidelio Despradel]

PosteruasdA mural by Silvano Lora at UASD university

After the revolution, a twelve-year semi-dictatorial regime imposed terror in the streets. Combatants and unionist were murdered. Others like Silvano Lora were forced to go into exile. But he never became disengaged from his place of birth, denouncing the state terror facing Santo Domingo whenever he went. At the same time, Silvano continued to produce art in places like Panama where he gave talks to artists and young people and collaborated with plastic artists to create participatory art spaces such as murals.

Scene from the Bienal Marginal [Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

Upon his return, Silvano continued his social art practice. Some of his long lasting contributions are a film festival, a rural museum in Baoruco province as well as the Bienal Marginal in Santa Bárbaraa working-class neighborhood located in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo which showcased work produced by ordinary people, among others.


La inmensa humanidad de Silvano (2003)  by Alberto Lara available for perusal at the DSI Library

The artist, writer, filmmaker, revolutionary combatant, activist and father remained committed to social change until the end. What was truly admirable was that at no point in his prolific career, his art was driven by the dehumanizing desire to accumulate lucre but instead, it was driven by a collective desire to change the status quo. Ten years later, his work remains vital.  Never a pessimist, Silvano Lora was— in the words of his friend Marianne de Tolentino — “an untamed artistic rebel who never believed in lost causes”.

Amaury Rodriguez/Guest contributor