Opened February 12, 2016
Unpacking Hispañola re-envisions the processes that construct historical narratives, racial subjectivity, and gender roles through the work of Dominican American visual artists Scherezade Garcia and Firelei Báez. Both artists create images that complicate the traditional distinctions between myths and historical ‘facts’, questioning the very nature of historical narratives. Channeling their own racialized experiences in the United States, the artists explore both Dominican and U.S. African-derived culture and history and challenge constructed racial hierarchies and inequalities in both countries.
Anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot has explained that dominant historical narratives are constructed according to a Western viewpoint, which assigns power through the emphasis of specific moments and subsequently the creation of ‘silences’, or omissions. Emphasizing the importance of the creation of and access to archives, as well as the contemporary interpretation of history, Trouillot shows that historical narratives are manipulated to reflect the political or financial proclivities of those in power. Through the lens of race and gender, in Unpacking Hispañola Garcia and Báez expose the flaws within the construction of the historical narrative in the Dominican Republic and the United States. They subsequently parody these flaws through the elaboration of mythological creatures and folklore, which can be considered ‘silences’ in their iteration of the historical narrative. Garcia and Báez blur the boundaries of accepted historical facts and myths, re-creating a narrative that defies racial stereotypes and traditional gender roles.
Grounded in similar political, social, and historical issues, Garcia and Báez create artworks that are instrumental in representing the diasporic transformations of Dominican immigrants in the United States. When living in the United States, Dominican Americans experience a different hegemonic system of racial and gender classification and often redefine their own identity. The artists blur and exaggerate dominant racial and gendered boundaries to recreate a specifically Dominican American subjectivity in an alternative space that exposes and critiques pervasive and global inequalities.
Unpacking Hispañola is curated by Abigail Lapin Dardashti
- February 26, 12 p.m.: Reconsidering Contemporary Latino Art in the Curatorial Context: Taller Puertorriqueño and Unpacking Hispañola, A Discussion with with the artists and curator at Temple University
- February 26, 7 p.m.: Self Portrait Family, a performance by Shaun Leonardo
- February 27, 9:30 a.m – 5:00 p.m.: Shifting Identities: Expressing Afrolatinidad, 20th Arturo A. Schomburg Symposium, including a roundtable with the artists
About the artists and curator:
Firelei Baez: Through the lens of anthropology, science fiction, and black female subjectivity, Firelei Báez’s art explores the humor and fantasy involved in self-making within diasporic societies, which have an ability to live with cultural ambiguities and use them to build psychological and even metaphysical defenses against cultural invasions. Báez received a B.F.A. from The Cooper Union’s School of Art in 2004, and an M.F.A. from Hunter College in 2010. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Studio Museum in Harlem, El Museo del Barrio, and Pérez Art Museum Miami. Born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Báez is was raised in the Dominican Republic and has ancestral connections to Haiti.
Scherezade Garcia: Born in the Dominican Republic, Scherezade Garcia has lived in New York since 1986. Garcia received her AAS from Altos de Chavón The School of Design, Dominican Republic, her BFA from Parsons The New School for Design, and her MFA from The City College of New York. Her work evokes memories of faraway home and the hopes and dreams that accompany planting roots in a new land. Garcia’s work is included in the permanent collection of The Smithsonian Museum of American Art, El Museo del Barrio in NYC, and El Museo de Arte Moderno in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The curator, Abigail Lapin Dardashti is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research focuses on formations of ethno-religious and racial identity in twentieth century art of the Americas, with a concentration on the Dominican Republic and Brazil. Most recently, she received a fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum to study the work of contemporary Dominican American artists who re-evaluate Dominican blackness from a U.S. post-civil rights perspective. Lapin Dardashti is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at City College, CUNY .
Press release is here.