Space to Connect
curated by Dianne Hebbert
Featured image: detail from Melanie Gonzalez’s Judith Contemplates Holofernes, 2019.
Valores Esteticos/Aesthetic Values is a group exhibition featuring the work of 13 artists from Chashama’s Space to Connect program. All of the artists reside in the Bronx and Washington Heights, NY. These artists represent a vast, diasporic, multi-cultural existence. Coming from different backgrounds and lived experiences, these artists use their practice to explore their environment, textiles, identity, gender, history and empowerment through various forms of art making including photography, video art, sculpture, and more.
Despite being connected by elements of identity, the result of their interest in numerous ideas represents the contemporary understanding of black and brown lives. By creating work, the artists expand the value and define a visual vocabulary while incorporating their narratives into history.
Featuring work by Adalky Capellan, Diane Davis, Sharon De La Cruz, Charles Esperanza, Melanie Gonzalez, Dianne Hebbert, Mengly Hernandez, Xiomara Malpica, Alexis Mendoza, Wyeth Moss, Jessica Spence, Yelaine Rodriguez, and Carlos Wilfredo
About the Artists
Adalky F. Capellán is a New York born and raised artist and 2013 graduate of DePauw University. Many features of her artwork are strongly influenced by her experiences growing up in the neighborhood of Washington Heights and as an Afro-Latina woman. She was the recipient of the 2013 William Meehan Award in recognition of her use of traditional mediums in non-traditional ways. Her signature technique emphasizes the overlapping of contours with shapes and textures, allowing her work to trigger action via visual narratives of mobility that are not limited by medium or form.
Over the past 5 years, Capellán has been involved in grassroots collaborations that use art as a medium of creative expression for marginalized voices. Her work was featured in a pop up gallery for the launch of the participatory magazine titled Interrupt Magazine, which focused on subverting marketable conceptions of beauty and celebrating the diversity of women’s bodies. Most recently, she was a member of the Atelier Artist Residency sponsored by the Northern Manhattan Art Alliance (NoMAA), Broadway Community Housing, and No Longer Empty. Inspired by rapid gentrification taking place in her neighborhood, her work focused on illustrating housing rights with the intention of empowering those who felt helpless when faced with displacement.
Diane Davis is a self-taught multi-media artist currently residing in the Bronx, New York. Davis’s work explores the physics of the urban environment and her love for dance and nature traverses onto her paintings.
Her work has been exhibited in BronxArtSpace, Selena Gallery, Long Island University, The Elizabeth Foundation for The Arts and the Conde Nast Times Square Lobby Gallery. Permanent exhibitions include The Arts and Artifacts Department of the Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture, The Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Collection and Mocada Museum. She has been a recipient of a Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Scholarship, and for several years sat on their Board of Governors. Davis also has had residencies with the Ora Lehrman Foundation.
Davis works with a matrix lying flat on the floor, walking around it in search of her starting point. Each starting point is different, as the size and color have not come into play yet. She develops a background layer and finds her way compositionally as she visualizes rhythmic dance, nature’s algorithms, and layering systems. Davis loves everything about nature, its opposites that harmonize and communicate, textures, compositions, similarities in the structures of many life forms, and finding relationships she never imagined existed. By taking the simplest structure in nature and abstracting it repeatedly, Davis creates different outcomes with each iteration. At this point in her life, she cannot imagine ever running out of ways to express artistically what she sees in nature. Such inspirations breathe life into abstract paintings, collages, and glass sculptures.
Sharon Lee De La Cruz is an artist and activist from New York City. Her thought-provoking pieces address a range of issues related to tech, social justice, sexuality, and race. De La Cruz’s work ranges from comics, graffiti, and public-art murals to more recent explorations in interactive sculptures, animation, and coding. As the assistant director of The StudioLab, a creative tech lab at Princeton University, De La Cruz is an advocate for bridging the accessibility gap in STEM education.
Charles George Esperanza was born the second of six kids. The South Bronx is where he first opened his eyelids. A land shrouded in bright colored decay, the birthplace of graffiti and the hip-hop DJ! He paints fantasy worlds of elephants, and castles too! Accompanying this wonder is some whimsical truth. Charles has a voice that is seldom heard. A fusion of jazz, distorted guitars, and chirping birds. Author and illustrator of Red, Yellow, Blue and a dash of White too! Charles is currently working on his second children’s book, Boogie Boogie Y’all which will celebrate the Bronx and its street art culture.
Melanie Gonzalez is an interdisciplinary Photographer and Video/Film Production Artist. Gonzalez is from The Bronx, New York of Puerto Rican and Dominican background. She acquired a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and Italian language from The City College of New York in 2014. For the past ten years, Gonzalez has been creating and directing photographic narratives, shooting and editing conceptual visuals, live performances, cultural documentation and interviews, and art directing for interactive installations, music events and art exhibitions. She has given talks and original presentations on art photography and video to groups at ICP, NYC Parks, DreamYard Project, The Old Bronx Borough Courthouse, Mott Hall V, Baychester Middle School, and ICP @ The Point. She is an actor on the stage and occasionally on the screen. Gonzalez has shown works at Concourse House, Museo Centro de Leon, Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, Wave Hill SunroomProjectSpace, The American Museum of Natural History, Medianoche New Media Gallery & Digital Film Studio, The Andrew Freedman Home, The Clemente Gallery, The Sampler, Rio III Gallery, Temporary Storage Gallery, DROM, Kinfolk 94, The Werehouse, Mosaic Gallery, and B.C.A.D. Gallery. She was a 2016 recipient of the Arts Fund grant from the Bronx Council on the Arts. She is a 2019 En Foco Photography Fellow. Melanie creates work in NYC and beyond, as a traveler shooting landscapes and architectural portraits on analog film.
Dianne Hebbert is a dynamic curator and artist, working primarily in painting, printmaking and installation art. Raised in Miami, Florida she attended New World School of the Arts. Hebbert earned her BFA in painting from Purchase College in 2010 and MFA in Printmaking from Brooklyn College in 2016.
Exploring representations of presence, power, and identity, Hebbert’s portraits examine these dynamics through size and posture. She paints large figures onto frosted mylar with flashe paint which are then hung from the ceiling or installed. Exploiting the inherent qualities of the translucent material, the paintings hang like objects in space and are viewed as objects in the round. Each image exists as a discrete object and also as an installation. The artwork may be installed singularly or in flexible groupings, allowing a sense of play and recreating a community laden with nostalgia, personal interactions and social issues.
A recipient of the Vermont Studio Center Fellowship and residency, she was also selected as a Smack Mellon Hot Pick Artist in 2017 and an Emerging Leader of New York Arts 2016 – 2017 Fellow. She has independently curated art exhibitions in New York and Virginia with a focus on diversity since 2011. In 2016 she had a solo show at Thomas Hunter Projects, Hunter College, New York. She has exhibited at Blackburn 20/20, Rio II Gallery, Raw Space Gallery, Greenpoint Gallery in New York, and more. Hebbert completed the Open Studio Residency at Trestle Art Space, Brooklyn, NY in June 2018 and is a proud recipient of a fellowship at Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts in Ithaca, NY for the fall of 2018.
Mengly Hernandez is an artist and designer. Her desire to create sculptures originates in an obsession with materiality and its textures. Repetition becomes a meditation through which she explores and mends traumatic memories. Striking in their form and color, each piece evokes both a sense of electricity as well as tranquility.
Utilizing repetition as a foundation of her work, Hernandez produces line drawings and fiber sculptures that require many hours and at times, months to complete. Her fascination with all things woven have prompted her to delve into material study. An all immersive process, where she explores natural fibers from Ixtle to manmade nets and ropes. She is currently researching fibers and textiles for the creation of sculptures and art installations.
At the same time, Hernandez also works with different printmaking methods to create prints for LINEA Germania, her accessories company.
Xiomara Malpica-Martinez “Being born into a specific body often compels a person to quietly accept roles.” Throughout their life, Xiomara Malpica-Martinez has felt the pressure of fitting into the gender confines of Dominican culture. By its nature, Dominican culture eradicates what is considered abnormal, actively implementing its status quo.
Painting and photography allow Martinez to explore their identity beyond themselves; they are able to tangibly manifest their identity with a greater buffer from social and physical repercussion. Through their photographic portraits, they are creating a reality where they and the people around them are free to explore themselves.
Martinez is heavily influenced by Dominican culture, specifically Diablo Cujelo masks and religious iconography. The use of color, design, and the labor-intensive process of Diablo Cujelo masks inspire Martinez to create works that are intricate and time-consuming. The adaptation of religious iconography alludes to how religion is used to ostracize various communities.
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Alexis Mendoza is an artist, a writer and an independent curator who presently lives in the Bronx, New York. Mendoza graduated from the National School of Fine Art in San Alejandro, Havana, Cuba in 1988, and received a Masters in Art History from Havana University in 1994. Most of his work has been focused on painting, sculpture, drawings, installation, and printmaking. His artwork has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. He is the co-founder and co-creator of the Bronx Latin American Art Biennial, and a founding member of BxArts Factory.
Alexis Mendoza is part of a generation of Cuban artists that create art fueled by the belief that artistic creations could present a form of utopia, expressing some type of independence an inversion of the original premise that drove the Cuban avant-garde and serve as a model for a new society. In Mendoza’s paintings, orientation and direction are all placed in abeyance. Placing the basic, familiar attributes of things to one side, Mendoza discovers the essence of color presence. The color is the matrix of memory, and within it, the images surface, with utopias and its denials. By radicalizing the object representation, presence lets us grasp time. Mendoza registers this knowledge by depicting the mutual invasion of color and representation. Black Painting, the style and the term, was established in Cuba in the 1950’s by Guido Llinas, a prominent Cuban abstract painter, printmaker and member of the Eleven Group. Alexis Mendoza’s studies on Black Painting are based on Llinas’ philosophy and creations. Although the predominant color in Mendoza‘s paintings is not black, he has found that the overlapping and the transition of colors metaphorically reflect the use of these colors in Afro-Cuban practices and rituals.
Wyeth Moss is a Dominican-American artist from the Bronx creating intricate works within drawing, ceramics, print-making, wood-carving, metal and fiber. She is currently studying Studio Art with a minor in Psychology at City College, and has received residencies and scholarships at Haverford College, The Newark Printshop, Manhattan Graphics Center, and MASS MoCA.
In her current artistic practice, she is working on transitioning from small scale pen and ink illustrations to large scale drawings and oil paintings using conte, pencil, oil, gouache, and acrylic paint. She also is exploring sculpture within ceramics, metals, fiber, and wood carving. Wyeth Moss’ work focuses on ideas of sexual identity, abuse, mental illness, and healing through ancestral remedies in detailed figurative drawings and sculpture. Her work aims to navigate the connections between healing, psychology, human interaction and nature through an other-worldly lens.
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Jessica Spence is an artist whose paintings often depict topics related to her life, specifically black womanhood, and societal beauty ideals. Her current body of work focuses on the beauty and versatility of Black hair. Spence has a BA in Studio Art and recently completed her MA in Art Education at Lehman College in the Bronx. Her work has been exhibited at different galleries and venues in New York.
Her series of acrylic on canvas paintings examine societal standards of beauty as they relate to black women. She was inspired to create her current body of work on natural hair in response to the negative reactions and chastising that many black women experience in spaces such as the workplace or in schools. The series embodies the importance of self-love, self-care, and embracing one’s hair despite the pressure to adapt to societal beauty ideals. The works also show the beauty and versatility of these Black hairstyles.
For more information visit https://www.jessicaspenceart.com/
Yelaine Rodriguez, Bronx-born, Afro-Dominican-American artist, sources syncretic religions and historical references in the African diasporic communities to conceptualize wearable art and site-specific installations. Her interfaith and intercountry narrative explores representations of identity and race through the lens of being the Other. Drawing connections between Black culture in the Caribbean and the United States the artist creates installations of wearable art, video and photography.
Rodriguez is also one of this generation’s curators making the efforts to bring art of the African Diaspora into the forefront by curating shows like Resistance, Roots and Truth at the Caribbean Cultural Center and (under)REPRESENT(ed) Parsons Alumni Exhibit. Both exhibitions shed light on the foundational contributions of the African Diasporic communities.
Rodriguez graduated from Parsons the New School for Design in 2013. She received a Van Lier Fellowship at Wave Hill in 2018, and became a Fellow at the Caribbean Cultural Center of the African Diaspora in 2017. Her work has been included at Miami Art Basel, Longwood Art Gallery, American Museum of Natural History, Wave Hill, Rush Art Gallery, El Centro Cultural de España and Centro León Biennial in D.R. She Currently teaches at Parsons the New School of Design in NY.
Carlos Wilfredo Encarnación is a visual artist and art educator born and raised in Puerto Rico. Before moving to the US, Encarnación received a BA in Social Sciences/Forensic Psychology from the Universidad de Puerto Rico (2010). Once in New York City, he obtained a BA from CUNY Lehman Herbert College (2013) and a Masters in Fine Arts from CUNY-The City College of New York (2016); from where he was awarded with the Bernard Levinson Award and the Connor Fellowship, respectively. His works have been included in various groups exhibitions at The Clemente Center and Educational Center and ARTviews Gallery; and has collaborated in public and community-based art projects with non-profit organizations. He currently lives and works in New York City.
Painting and the use of mixed media on small works are his vehicle to connect and communicate aspects of his identity and their coexistence with nostalgia and the past. The tropical flora, vivid colors, patterns and line-work, become the aesthetic elements of Encarnación’s artwork. His ideas and creative process start from an inevitable longing of revisiting personal memories in an attempt to understand the effects of relocation. This retrospective exercise works simultaneously with his interest on using art and its processes as a thought mediator and as an emotional healer.