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Caribbean, African American artists take on race, class, culture and identity

Friday, July 13, 2012    

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NEW YORK, USA (CMC) — Five artists here are addressing their Caribbean and African American heritage in a new exhibit — 'Visions/Re-Visions: Caribbean & African American Women Artists Cultural Issues' — at BronxArtSpace, one of number of galleries involved in a major Caribbean art series here this summer.

"I thought this was a very important exhibition because these are very live issues that people are dealing with every day of their lives," said curator Linda Cunningham at the opening ceremony on Wednesday. The exhibit runs through July 28.

The show, which features 50 paintings, installations, drawings, photographs and video, also is part of the "Caribbean Crossroads" exhibition series dealing with the Caribbean Diaspora, organised by El Museo del Barrio in Harlem.

At the Bronx gallery, more than a dozen colourful paintings by noted artist Emma Amos are on display, including a tribute to Muhammad Ali which hangs from the ceiling.

"I think one of the sweetest ones is 'My Mother was the Greatest Dancer'," said Amos, referencing portrait of a dancing figure framed by strips of African fabric. "I just thought it made sense to give that person that name because we all love our mothers."

Rejin Leys said her interest in the food industry and hunger issues inspired her drawings, many of which feature hens, rice and beans.

"So many things are connected in the food system," Leys said. "It's a whole global system that controls a lot of other things like migration, aid and charity. It's also such a personal thing. We really relate to what's on our plate."

Clarissa Sligh's installations refer to the slave trade.

"I've been able to trace my father's side back to slavery. And because of those things that have happened in the history of my family, I am very interested in how history ties into today," Sligh said.

A lot of history is "invisible", she continued, hoping her pieces help to enlighten viewers.

"I just like for people, especially young people, to be conscious of where they are and that a lot of what is happening now is really based on things that have happened in the past," Sligh said.

The exhibition also features works about Haiti by Faith Ringgold, as well as LaToya Ruby Frazier's photographs and video installations commenting on race and class.

El Museo del Barrio in the East Harlem neighbourhood known as El Barrio, Harlem's The Studio Museum, and the Queens Museum of Art are collaborating in staging "Caribbean: Crossroads of the World" — the major art event this summer in New York.

About 500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and multimedia projects by over 350 artists have been included in a survey of the art of the Caribbean and its Diaspora from the dawn of the Haitian Revolution in 1791 to present day.

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