Photographs customarily document and contextualize art, not the other way around. Until now. Curator Gloria Zapata has reversed the usual connection between photography and art to delightful results in "Memorias En Arte," a Wallworks New York group show that opened last Friday.
"Memorias En Arte" additionally engages by spotlighting the "diaspora of New York City." A person in the diaspora has been "removed from [her] original homeland to build a life in another home," explains Zapata.
A diasporic community and a migrant community may appear to be one and the same: they are not. A diasporic community maintains the essence of its homeland in new environs through language, custom, cuisine, special holidays, and shared memories. Individuals within a larger migrant community donot necessarily strive to continue such connections.
We are pleased to share images from "Memorias En Arte"'s packed opening reception, plus our interview with photographer / artist / curator Gloria Zapata!
Joanna Pan: How did the process of pairing your photographs with their artistic renderings come about?
Gloria Zapata: The artists chose the photographs they wanted to work with after I shared with them a folder of my images from Honduras to select from.
JP: What prompted the theme behind "Memorias En Arte"?
GZ: Last year I was in a group show -- "Through the Feminine Lens," at the Longwood Gallery @ Hostos curated by Juanita Lanzo. There were so many talented women photographers; I showed my portraits of culture and LGBTQ. I told myself that my next show would express another part of me through a different lens and vision, with documentary.
JP: Where in the Honduras did you grow up, and when did you move to the States? Do you often return to the Honduras?
GZ: I was born in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and arrived to the United States at age 5. I returned to visit for the first time at the age of 33 in 2014.
JP: Your photographs depict beautiful scenes from the Honduras: a boat, a playing child, a school bus, etc. But your own artwork from the show, like "Viva Mi Patria" -- with a bloody knife running through a map outline of the Honduras -- and "Beyond The Fence" indicate memories of a country that's been touched by strife. What events in Honduran history do these artworks refer to; what are some of your memories of those more unsettling times?
GZ: "Beyond the Fence" expresses realizing how people in Central and South America are fighting, and taking any risk necessary to come to the United States. People and children are dying, and it's a national crisis and it is getting worse with immigration. When I came to the United States, the decision was made for me -- to have more of an opportunity and better future.
"La Union de los Latinos" represents all our Latin America to unite, fight, and stick together as a union.
"Viva Mi Patria" with the bloody knife is expressing how beautiful Honduras is, but now there's so much bloodshed of the people and children.
Left to right Zapata's paintings "Beyond The Fence," "La Union de los Latinos," "Viva Mi Patria"
JP: The turnout to your show was huge, and people were really engaged with the art! How did you feel just after the night ended?
GZ: I did feel very proud, elated, and accomplished. Honestly, a lot of emotions [from] seeing a crowd of people that inspire me; having so much support and compliments on my show. People express to me how the show is a great concept, and they would like to see more and expanded at another gallery.
This Just In!
Zapata just told Sold Magazine she'd like to create a more elaborate version of "Memorias En Arte" -- one that will feature even more artists at another venue!
"Not only would I like to expand the show, but would [also] like to have an exhibit/Q&A with photographers that inspire me -- for example Martha Cooper, Ricky Flores, Joe Conzo, and Andrea Mohin. [Photographers of] not only mural artists, but also of community and dancers," she says.
Visit "Memorias En Arte" through July 12th at Wallworks NY: Port Morris/Bronx at 39 Bruckner Blvd. Gallery hours: Tues-Thurs 11AM - 5PM; extended hours this Friday 7/12 2pm-8pm; weekends by appointment.