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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the November 14, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
An Artistic Stew from the Carribean
We are a tribal people
Full of contradictions. . . .
Latinos from the Caribbean:
. . . the everything
that makes the ajiaco stew
Caribbean Stew" is one of the poems written by
Alejandro Anreus that he plans to read at the opening reception for
"The Political Is the Personal: Perspectives from the Latin
Diaspora" that takes place Wednesday, November 14, from 6 to 8
p.m. in the art gallery at the College of New Jersey. The exhibition
of works by seven Latino artists, with roots in four Caribbean
will be on view at CNJ through December 12.
The exhibition theme stems from these artists’ experience with the
political climate of the countries from which they or their families
were displaced, voluntarily or involuntarily, says Judy Masterson,
gallery director. Art works range from traditional easel paintings
to installations, and the emotions fueling them also represent a
nostalgic to bittersweet to anger and despair.
Historically, the word "diaspora" refers to the dispersion
of Jews, or Jewish communities, outside of Israel, from the sixth
century BCE until the present. In general, it alludes to a dispersion
of an originally homogeneous people — or an originally homogeneous
entity, like language, or culture. For purposes of this exhibition,
"diaspora" describes one’s willing or unwilling separation
from the ancestral or native land and culture, and the inevitable
mix with a new culture.
Just hearing the names of the islands — Cuba, the Dominican
Haiti, and Puerto Rico — can trigger an association quiz. What
do you think of when you hear Castro, Trujillo, Duvalier? Dictator,
colonization. Many of the artists for whom "the political is
have spent most of their lives in the U.S. Eugenio Espinosa, for
left Cuba with his parents when he was 11.
Memories, true and false, are the stuff of Espinosa’s work. The images
he builds on his 13-inch round wood panel reliefs, or tondos, include
his recollections of Cuba and his family fleeing after Castro’s ascent
to power. With many others, Espinosa’s parents had supported the 1959
revolution, but all too soon they grew disillusioned and reluctantly
decided to leave family and friends for the chance of a fuller life.
The artist refers to the "myth-like power of childhood
for which he says his circular format serves as a kind of window,
or focusing device. He tries in each tondo to recover, reclaim, or
invent events in his early life that he could not explore at the time.
The series, he says, may grow to 100 works. Espinosa builds the
of a work with a water-based medium, adds powder to thicken, then
outlines the figures that will stand out in relief.
"We’ve tried over the years to bring diverse exhibitions to
says Lois Fichner-Rathus, chair of the art department in College of
New Jersey’s school of art, media, and music. "We thought Latino
artists had been underrepresented, and while we wanted to do a show
of their work, we didn’t want a politically-correct parade, a
Drawing on their own contacts and those of Anreus —
until recently a curator at Jersey City Museum and now art history
professor at William Paterson University — co-curators
and Masterson began looking at Latino art, soon noticing an
of political issues that reflected the artists’ ancestry and
"They didn’t want to forget what were for them the triggering
issues, and they wanted to keep the world conscious,"
says. "We flipped the old feminist saying, `The personal is the
political,’ to describe what was going on in these works, as well
as to encompass the element of memory that figures in art."
Marina Gutierrez chose to participate in this show precisely because
it addresses Latino history in a focused manner; it’s "something
more than just Spanish surnames," she says. The daughter of a
Slovakian mother and Puerto Rican father, she is represented by two
installations, "Room for Recollection" and
Gown." Both works share enclosed symbolic objects in structures
that are made largely of chicken wire.
The roofed, six-sided, transparent "Room" structure might
be seen as an industrial version of the traditional thatched-roof
dwelling of the Taino, Puerto Rico’s indigenous people. Cage-like,
it is also airy, and contains messages — aluminum sugar cane
and paper money, for instance — in each of its wire panels.
Gown" addresses gender and the female experience.
In large, layered paintings that incorporate photography and graffiti
among other elements, Juan Sanchez conveys life in the city. He wishes
to engage and affect society, he has said, and his mixed-media work
commemorates Puerto Rico’s 100-plus years of struggle and resistance
Sanchez’s work typically includes religious references. The crucifix,
the Roman arch, and stained glass are common motifs of his, as well
as familiar elements in art history. He often uses the flag of Puerto
Rico as a visual comment on colonization and political independence.
As the third artist in this exhibition to focus on Puerto Rico, Gloria
Rodriguez divides her time between the island of her birth, Brooklyn,
and New Jersey. Her "acrollages" are combinations of collaged
images and acrylic paints that begin with a photograph, interesting
to her for some reason, positioned on a blank canvas. She then
or "wraps" it in abstract forms and complex patterns to such
an extent that the final image can suggest the surreal.
Rodriguez considers her work to be "spiritual," and about
"culture," not "religion." Attempting to update
people think about how Mary or Jesus should be looking," she has
depicted Christ as a young Latino man wearing a crown of thorns.
Art scholar and curator, journalist and poet, Anreus readily relates
to these artists and their work. He too is an exile. Although he left
Cuba at age 10, his memories are strong, as they had better be: he
can’t even visit while Fidel Castro is still alive because his human
rights activism here would be held against him. Besides, he says,
at this point, "it’s no longer home."
Anreus, who says he thinks bilingually, uses Spanish for his
writing, English for his poetry. "Unless you come with a full
language package, you adopt the culture of your new country,"
he says, adding wryly that for his acquisition of English, he must
thank Castro. As for how much longer the dictator may last, Anreus
notes, "He comes from good stock. His father came from the same
town as Franco’s father. He’ll be around for much longer than people
Elia Alba’s three-part installation involves 3,000 pairs of small,
handmade shoes in shades of red — none more than about five inches
long. Alba, with roots in the Dominican Republic, has configured the
shoes she sewed and dyed as "floor shoes," seeming to march
forward in regimented fashion; as a "shoe curtain," with the
shoes suspended on breakable, transparent thread; and in a "shoe
mound," with the connotations of being discarded that a mound
Alba points out that most workers in the garment industry today are
Latinos; her mother has worked there for more than 20 years. This
installation links what she regards as the parallel concepts of
and labor. Both can encompass repetitive, continuous, and at times
unrewarding work. However, in their end products, both parenting and
the garment industry can include magical qualities as well.
Freddy Rodriguez’s paintings look nothing like
Caribbean or Latino art — as he is well aware. He wants it that
way. There was a time when he produced "colorful lush paintings
of flowers and the sea," but his current work is minimalist and
geometric. It provokes such questions as "What makes a Caribbean
artist Caribbean? Is it the history or the symbols or the colors?
Can it be abstract?"
Born in the Dominican Republic and later sent to America by his family
for his own safety, Rodriguez welcomed the language and cultural
Drawing on his childhood and the political realities of his homeland,
his work came to manifest the influence of the New York art scene,
with the resulting art forms as bi-cultural as his life. Earlier,
Rodriguez made collage-based works with text and organic imagery.
He moved from that toward greater abstraction, and the paintings in
this show involve linear forms combined with rhythmic, vibrant colors
on planes of illuminated background color that is hardly
The effect gives rise to the thought: "When Mondrian met the
Fourteen students in Masterson’s and Fichner-Rathus’s "Museum
Studies" course have played major roles in "The Political
Is the Personal" exhibition. Working in teams, they interviewed
the artists and wrote the catalog essays. Giving the white
to works of art as they were delivered, students then worked with
Masterson to mount the exhibition. Still another student designed
the striking show invitation: a stark black ground with cobalt
of the Caribbean islands, including those of the seven artists.
the team theme, the music department will provide music at the
14 opening reception.
In diorama-like constructions, Edouard Duval Carrie, a native of
has suspended symbolic articles in brightly-colored resin that frames
a central iconic image. The artifacts — such as small, doll-like
figures, seashells, and wind-up toys — are metaphors for issues
in Haitian society, politics, and religious practices. Carrie sees
voodoo as "the soul and backbone of Haiti," and aims in his
art to assure it is not forgotten.
Carrie’s family was forced to flee Haiti during the 1960’s regime
of Francoise (Papa Doc) Duvalier, which was followed by the rule of
his son, Jean Claude Duvalier. Cultural, educational, and economic
turmoil marked this period, as did corruption, mounting illiteracy,
and poverty — and these conditions are mirrored in Carrie’s work.
"I had to paint the atrocities of those dictators," he says.
"I am a chronicler of my times."
In his poem "To Dante, on exile," Anreus surely speaks for
himself — but for many others too:
. . . I envy you
your exile, so austere, so grave,
No room in it for dialogue
or double talk
or second thoughts.
No allowance for betrayals
or gestures of good will
towards a tyrant.
— Pat Summers
American Diaspora , College of New Jersey, Art Gallery, Holman
Hall, Ewing, 609-771-2198. Opening reception for the group show
a poetry reading by Alejandro Anreus and music. Exhibition continues
to December 12. Free. Wednesday, November 14, 6 to 8 p.m.
Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday
7 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.
"Still Life Manipulations," Sabatier photographs by Marilyn
Anderson, and "Windows, Water & Wonders," hand-painted and
digital photographs by Rhoda Kassof Isaac. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.
and Sunday, 1 to 5. To November 25.
Road, 609-921-3272. "Celebration in Paint" featuring artists
of the Raritan Valley Arts Association; to December 28. Also, a shared
exhibit of work by Lorraine Williams and Colin Throm, to November
29. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
"Big Skies," a shared show featuring landscape paintings by
David Shevlino and Lisa Grossman. Shevlino’s landscapes are inspirited
by the New England and Delaware Valley, whereas Grossman depicts the
flatlands of the Midwest. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6
p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To November 17.
Branch Station, 908-725-2110. The 27th annual juried members show,
juried by Lynne Allen, director of the Rutgers Center for Innovative
Print and Paper. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m.
to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To December 21
609-252-6275. "Up the River," an exhibition of works by more
than 40 Bucks County Impressionists and Modernists, members of the
New Hope and Bucks County art colony now regarded as national
Catalog by Brian Peterson of the Michener Museum in Doylestown.
hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and weekends and
1 to 5 p.m. To November 25.
Artists represented include Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, Walter
Schofield, Charles Ramsey, Louis Stone, Charles Evans, and Lloyd Ney.
Garden State Watercolor Society, fifth annual associate member juried
exhibition; jurors Gary Snyder and Seow-Chu See. Open Monday to
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To November 29.
Landscape photographs by Sandra C. Davis and landscape paintings of
Brittany by Paul Mordetsky. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m.
to 6 p.m. To December 2.
609-397-5679. "Road Work: Paintings of American Culture,"
an exhibition of new work by Robert Beck. Through November.
James T. Lang, lithographs, colographs, and mixed-media works. Noon
to 9 p.m. daily.
609-397-4978. "Apropos," Malcolm Bray’s seventh annual show
of innovative contemporary painting and sculpture. Artists include
Rachel Bliss, Malcolm Bray, Jacques Fabert, Michael Hale, Diane
Bonnie MacLean, Dolores Poacelli, Barry Snyder, Patricia Traub, and
Annelies van Dommelen. Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to
"Monster Mash," a show of creepy snarling, and bug-eyed
by Dave Burke and Stephen Blickenstaff. Www.tinmanalley.net.
Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To November 26.
to Abutilon Theophrasti et al," a show of ceramics by Connie
a Hopewell artist and teacher. To December 21.
"The Secret Garden," oil paintings and watercolors by
Valeriy Skrypka. Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To
Exhibit of works by Leonid Gervitz, a graduate of the Odessa Art
who spent 24 years working and teaching in the Russian realist
at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. Tuesday to
Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday to 9 p.m.; Sunday
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To December 1.
Paintings by Calvin Cobb Hart. Part of sales benefit the Medical
On view in the dining room daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To November
"Artista Cuba," contemporary Cuban folk art from the
of Jorge Armenteros who has been studying and collecting Cuban art
since 1996. Works from the fine art world as well as rustic art made
of found materials. "At its best, Cuban folk art is vivid,
sensual, and inspiring. In it, you will find a purity of appreciation
for light, color, and life’s simple pleasures," says Armenteros.
"Sights and Sounds of Manhattan and Princeton," a group show
featuring art by Michael Berger, Laury Egan, David Leibowitz, Allan
Tannenbaum, and Rolf Weijburg." Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To November 20.
of Stone: Roman Sculpture in the Art Museum" and "Pliny’s
Cup: Roman Silver in the Age of Augustus;" to January 20.
"Camera Women," a selective survey of the history of
from the perspective of the woman photographer, organized by Carol
Armstrong. Drawn from the museum’s collection, it includes works by
Julia Margaret Cameron, Anna Atkins, Gertrude Kasebier, Tina Modotti,
Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, and others. To January 6.
Also "What Photographs Look Like," the annual teaching show
for Art History 248, to November 11; "Seeing Double: Copies and
Copying in the Arts of China," an exhibition of Chinese art, to
November 4. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to
5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection every Saturday
at 2 p.m.
609-620-6026. Annual faculty exhibit featuring Brian Daniell, Jamie
Greenfield, Amanda Kamen, Ed Robbins, Allen Fitzpatrick, Leonid
William Vandever, and others. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday,
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; except Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.
To November 16.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Unlimited Possibilities: Jacob
Works on Paper, 1950 to 2000." The internationally-known
printmaker, painter, and stained glass designer is professor emeritus
at the Pratt Institute. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 8:30
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. To December 7.
Lawrenceville, 609-895-5589. "Leland Bell: Works from the 1950s
to 1991," an exhibition of works by the New York School artist
who died in 1991. "Bell was a powerful artist who was also an
influential teacher and popular lecturer," says Rider professor
Deborah Rosenthal. "He clearly articulated the role of tradition
in art, particularly contemporary art. Bell strongly affected a
generation of artists, many of whom became his close friends."
Gallery hours at Monday to Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; Friday to Sunday,
2 to 5 p.m. To December 11.
908-735-8415. "Degrees of Figuration," a diverse exploration
of the human figure by five artists: Bill Leech, Tom Nussbaum, Keary
Rosen, Linda Stojak, and Charles Yuen. Also "Frank Sabatino,"
abstract wall sculptures created from rare woods and found objects.
And "Karl Stirner," welded iron abstract sculpture. Museum
hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January 6.
215-340-9800. "Artists of the Commonwealth: Realism in
Painting, 1950 to 2000," an exhibition featuring the work of
recognized realist artists and educators who were born and trained
in Pennsylvania, or who spent their professional careers there.
artists include Diane Burko, Sidney Goodman, Alice Neel, Philip
Nelson Shanks, Andy Warhol, Neil Welliver, and Andrew Wyeth. To
Also: "Taking Liberties: Photographs of David Graham." The
Bucks County photographer, sometimes called a
has worked for 20 years exploring the nation’s heartland with his
view camera, and lovingly recording the creative and offbeat ways
that Americans mark their territory. To January 27.
Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday &
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. $6.
Brunswick, 732-932-7237. Exhibitions include: "From Whistler to
Warhol: A Century of American Printmaking," to November 25.
Motherwell: Abstraction as Emphasis," to December 9. "Boxed
In: Plane, Frame, Surface," to December 2. "Mother Goose’s
Children: Original Illustrations for Children’s Books from the Rutgers
Collection," to December 9. Museum hours are Tuesday through
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission
$3 adults; under 18 free; museum is open free to the public on the
first Sunday of every month. Spotlight tours every Sunday at 2 and
Continuing exhibitions include: "The Uncommon Vision of Sergei
Konenkov (1874-1971)," to November 14. "Japonisme: Highlights
and Themes from the Collection," ongoing.
Hill: Art from the Hill," an exhibition celebrating Mill Hill
residents and their artwork. Works in all media by a group that
Ann and Jim Carlucci, Victoria Cattanea, Peter Crandall, Andre
Lisa Fullemann, Pierre Jaborska, Lisa and Peter Kasabach, and many
others. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. To December 15.
"The Three M’s: Marge, Marguerite, and Molly," featuring works
by Trenton artists Marge Chavooshian, Marguerite Dorenbach, and Molly
Merlino. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To January 6.
609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. Open Tuesday through Sunday,
10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission
is $4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10
Annual memberships start at $45. To February 24.
609-292-6464. "George Washington and the Battle of Trenton: The
Evolution of an American Image," an exhibition that documents
the historic context of the American Revolution, the "Ten Crucial
Days" of the Trenton campaign that was the turning point, and
the subsequent commemoration of George Washington’s heroic image by
American artists. To February 24.
Also "American Indians as Artists: The Beginnings of the State
Museum’s Ethnographic Collection," to December 15. "The
Landscape," to November 11. "Natural Selections: Sculpture
by Elaine Lorenz," to December 30. "Art by African-Americans
in the Collection," to August 18, 2002. Museum hours are Tuesday
through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Website:
On extended view: "New Jersey’s Native Americans: The
Record"; "Delaware Indians of New Jersey"; "The Sisler
Collection of North American Mammals"; "Of Rock and Fire";
"Neptune’s Architects"; "The Modernists"; "New
Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and Iron"; "Washington Crossing
Upcoming Exhibitions: "George Washington and the Battle of
The Evolution of an American Image," November 4 to February 24,
2002. "Images of Americans on the Silver Screen," December
1 to April 14, 2002. "Historic Trenton: Exploring the History
of the Capital City."
609-695-0061. Albert Wilking’s "expressionist primitive"
paintings. His inspiration comes from personal experiences, dreams,
and visual, physical, and spiritual insights. Gallery hours are
to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To December 2.
edition of "Class Act," a resource guide with educational
and outreach programming highlighted. To receive a free copy, call
973-593-0189 or (e-mail: email@example.com).
from now until Thursday, November 15. They may be brought to
offices at 1321 Brunswick Avenue or 151 Mercer Street, Trenton,
through Saturdays. Call 609-396-1506.
and paperback books as well as monetary contributions for the
to Keep" program to give books to disadvantaged children in
County. Donations may be brought to any library in Middlesex Country
through Saturday, December 15. Call 732-390-6789.
arts teacher to work one afternoon a month, in conjunction with the
Home Front program, introducing homeless children to the arts. Call
Jessica at 609-924-8777.
with model railroading to assist with an exhibition that will be held
at the center, 582 Rahway Avenue, Woodbridge, from the end of November
through December. Call 732-634-0413.
support group. "Living with Cancer" invites patients,
and friends to share experiences and concerns. The group will meet
at Momentum Fitness, 377 Wall Street, Princeton. Call Lois Glasser,
800-813-4673, ext. 107.
Corrections or additions?
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