Art that reminds the community to heal
A new mixed-media art show co-curated by artist Noah Grigni and the Aviary Gallery in Jamaica Plain delves into the many faceted experiences of displacement, while raising money for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico where so many people have been physically displaced.
Yet many of the pieces in the show are distinctly positive, and some of the artists say that in creating their work, they saw in the theme of displacement a side of healing, of acceptance, and of love in their community.
On display until Jan 27, the show features work from Noel’le Longhaul, Sami Martasian, Kuresse Bolds, Beyon Wren Moor, Aria Carpenter, Rocky Cotard, Sheri Furneaux, Noah Grigni, Olivia Grim, YoAhn Han, Louis Roe, and Mosheh Tucker.
Grigni said with this show he wanted to create a bridge between different communities, opening up space to artists who aren’t necessarily established or part of the mainstream art world to share their unique experiences of feeling displaced.
“I think art serves many purposes,” he said. “To process traumatic experiences, to uplift one’s community, to remind one’s community to heal, as introspective conversation … I wanted the artists to be able to explore that side of their work in this show.”
Grigni said he chose “displaced” as the theme to be intentionally broad and create mutual liberation. Each artist brings their own personal stories of displacement, in their many varied forms.
His own experiences of displacement are reflected in the three-piece series Womb he created for the show. A delicate overlay of cut paper that he says holds emotional significance, on mylar, which reflects a warped image of the viewer inside the art they are viewing, Womb is a visual representation of how he experiences gender dysphoria.
“The series is about feeling displaced in my own body, being a non-binary trans-masculine person who is male-passing but still has a vagina,” he said. “It’s about learning to embrace that and find strength in that, rather than succumbing to pressure to change it.”
For artist YoAhn Han, creating a piece for the show meant grappling with his South Korean heritage and identity as a gay man, balancing the happiness of being a newlywed with the vulnerability of coming out to his family.
His piece, intricate cut paper that swirls from dark sea to wood casket to the droop of a chrysanthemum over a shifting wash of color, plays with these tensions of heritage, identity, and culture through references to an ancient Korean legend he recollected from his childhood.
Cultural identity also inspired photographer Olivia Grim, who said she strives to show raw moments where others work through their multicultural identities through her photography.
“I’ve recognized that I am saddened by my reality that I have to make an extra effort to connect with my Thai culture more than my Spanish culture because I am not just one or two, I am inherently both,” she wrote in an email to the Dig.
Illustrator Kuresse Bolds created a piece of digital artwork that celebrates his outsiderness as a black man who some perceive as “acting feminine.”
“Masculinity runs very, very heavy in the black community, from my own experience,” he said. “‘Acting feminine’ is not accepted; it’s seen in a negative light, which it shouldn’t be,” he said. “It’s okay to be black and also feminine, you’re being your true self.”
This inspired his piece’s vibrant flowers and is why, he says, the subject’s dance is so high and so tall.
Photographer Sheri Furneaux chose to showcase prints of places in other cities that, while not their place, still make them feel like they belong.
“I feel like when we hear the word displacement, we focus on the negative. … how we can’t find a way out of feeling sad or lost or angry,” they said. “I wanted to show things that really meant something positive. … Giving art back to people who are using it to heal themselves is incredibly important.”
Trans tattoo artist, printmaker, and musician Noel’le Longhaul also brought the idea of healing to the piece she contributed to the show.
“The piece ‘Clearing Bittersweet With My Father’ deals with my responsibility to address the decisions of my ancestors, and the complexity of doing that with my father, who struggles to gender me correctly and does not share my radical politics. It is a drawing about healing that is done in a moment in which I am taking in the immense scope of the work that needs to be done,” she wrote in an email interview. “This has become a potent metaphor for dealing with the trauma I’ve endured as a trans woman.”
Throughout Displaced there is a sense of ebullience and vivacity, of acceptance and love in a community for the many variations of the human experience. Each piece, too, stands alone as a gracious testament to the many ways of feeling displaced in a fractured and fragmented technology-driven 21st century.
On an individual basis, the artists have decided on a percentage of the sales from their artwork from Displaced to donate to Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico.
“When Maria hit, we felt it was really necessary to donate because so many people are currently displaced,” Grigni said, adding that he worked to find an organization located on the island doing reputable work to ensure the funds reach the people who most need it.
He will be donating 50 percent of any proceeds from the show to ConPRmetidos and says many of the other artists have also chosen to donate 50 or 25 percent, or to donate to another relief fund they know of personally.
DISPLACED. 1.1–1.27. CLOSING RECEPTION SAT 1.20. 7-10 PM. AVIARY GALLERY, 48 SOUTH ST., JAMAICA PLAIN. AVIARYGALLERY.COM