OUT FRONT 24/7
Southeast Queens Artists Alliance is proud to present Outfront 24/7, an outdoor exhibition featuring reflections on the pandemic. Emerging from a time when city dwellers lost the sense of community and opportunities for live art viewing, this exhibition seeks to restore both of those pleasures to the neighborhood.
The project evolved organically from ideas and sketchbooks artists kept during the pandemic and sometimes shared with each other over Zoom calls. The original works, reproduced on weatherproof vinyl banners, encompass a variety of mediums and styles reflecting the diversity of contemporary artistic practice in Southeast Queens. The fourteen works featured here capture the loneliness of the pandemic, daily rituals created to dispel the solitude, and a turn towards nature and transcendence as a source of comfort.
As the city quickly shut down and familiar institutions became inaccessible, city dwellers had few choices for escape or relaxation. Looking into a shuttered community garden, Marvenia Knight’s collaged work distills the longing for community activities that were no longer available during the pandemic. Natali Bravo - Barbee captures the haunting emptiness of New York City’s public tables and benches. In her abstract composition, Shenna Vaughn turns to interior spaces to reflect the claustrophobia of staying indoors for long periods of time. Sherese Francis draws on a number of anti-slavery text sources to create two rigid architectural structures that stand next to each other and “talk”; something that humans lost the ability to do.
Several artists turned to different rituals to give a structure to their day and provide some comfort. Naomi Kuo uses collaged Youtube video stills to confront the desire to go back-to-the-basics and create a self-contained world within the home. Solitary exercise became a daily habit for many people and Chemin Hsiao depicts the many forms that this takes in a subtle watercolor work. Rejin Ley provides a comforting context to interpret anxiety induced dreams during the pandemic. While Margaret Rose Vendryes’s resurrects the indefatigable diva who longs to shine bright in public life again.
Nature and a communion with the cosmos and other life forces provided a transcendent experience for many artists. Lisa Wade’s photograph elevates man’s movement in nature to a joyous, exultant moment. Jacqueline Herranz Brooks captures nature devoid of a human footprint, imagining a time when the land belonged to the Indigenous people. Damali Abrams works with glitter and natural materials to create a nighttime landscape scene. The collaborative, other-worldly work of Shervone Neckles and Josè Miguel Ortiz features a primordial couple looking out at the cosmos. While the brooding figures in Ify Chiejina’s work allude to a potent symbolism or life force. Elizabeth Velazquez’s site specific installation is a poignant memorial to deceased ancestors and those lost during this pandemic.
Out Front 24/7 was generously funded by a grant from the Queens Council on the Arts and a private funder. This project was coordinated by Shilpi Chandra, Rejin Leys and Elizabeth Velazquez.
This piece is about learning to love the shadow self; the parts of the self that we hide from ourselves and don’t want others to see. The parts that essentially feel unlovable. It is part of a self-love spell triptych.
Phone Call is a self-portrait mixed media drawing. The summer of 2020 was a challenging time for Chiejina because she was sick and hospitalized during the Pandemic. While recovering, Chiejina drew sketches daily and that provided her with a healthy outlet to cope. Chiejina created finished artworks that were based on those sketches she made.
All I See is an ongoing, multi-media body of work that includes sound, text, and image with the intention of amplifying our relationship to nature as public space. This project contains photographs I took in Forest Park, Queens during the first months of the COVID pandemic lockdown. With those photographs, I designed postcards captioned with “538 acres once inhabited by the Rockaway, Delaware, and Lenape indigenous people” to remind us of the origins of Forest Park lands and the value of acknowledging the past in general. This banner is one of those postcards.
The collage, Gardens was created during the pandemic using my photographs of figures, landscapes and plants. These images were affixed to canvas using acrylic medium. The collage depicts a gathering at a community garden regarding it’s closing.
During the pandemic I made an updated dream number book, in Kreyol and English, so readers could look up images related to Covid19 from the anxiety dreams so many of us reported having. “Glow/Emerge” is a digital collage incorporating text from that dream book, with imagery meant to serve as a reminder that we were never alone despite the isolation of the lock-down period.
This painting is a representation of a community working together. This was inspired by the vast culturals ,struggle trails and tribulations in the society we live in. This is the breakthrough we see when working together.
Baule Missy– African Diva (Missy Elliott) is a rare horizonal painting in Side B of the African Diva Project where wood African masks are directly affixed to the canvas. Missy Elliott is an unapologetically Afropunk lesbian entertainer with a flair for avant-garde fashion and in-your-face lyrics. In the gold background are the lyrics of “4 My People”, the title of the LP from which the image was taken, hand-scripted by the artist.
Shilpi Chandra is a art historian and curator with a focus on contemporary art of South Asia and its diaspora. Working on public art projects with emerging artists to create exhibitions that bring people into community spaces is an important part of her curatorial practice. After receiving her MA in
Contemporary Art from SUNY Purchase, she worked as an Assistant Curator at the Katonah Museum of Art and more recently at the Pelham Art Center. Shilpi also has an MBA from Columbia Business School and worked in healthcare marketing and on several entrepreneurial ventures. She lectures regularly on Contemporary Asian Art and has written about artists Ranjani Shettar, Reena Saini Kallat and Yayoi Kusama for academic art journals.
The Day No One Showed Up is a life-sized cyanotype (measuring 7.5 ft x 4.5 ft) that was made using sunlight out in my garden located in Bellerose, Queens during quarantine. In my work, I use shadows of physical objects to create photograms. This is my way of making something ephemeral and intangible, such as shadows, more tangible and permanent. This piece was inspired by the shelter-in period during the pandemic. While making this piece, I thought about the emptiness of the parks in NYC and how all the benches and seats would be vacant, seats that otherwise would be filled with people.
Blue(s)Prints is a series of digital text art pieces inspired by the story of Henry "Box" Brown, who mailed himself to freedom from slavery; "The Fantasy in the Hold" essay from Stefano Harney and Fred Moten's The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study; Lewis Latimer’s work as a draftsman; and reflecting on the possibilities of freedom, movement and life even in confined spaces and rigid structures. The banner is the merging of two pieces, “Blue(s)Print 1: Driving A Mantic Box (Kontainer UN/Kontained),” and “ Blue(s)Print 4: The Art of Escape (Breaking Down the Box),” which face each other as if they are speaking to one another. This influenced the title of the banner, Henry Brown’s Speakerboxxxez, which references Big Boi of Outkast’s album.
The method of watercolor painting serves as instant emotion recorders for specific locations, events, people or emotional memories.
This image printed for the SEQAA banner is from the most recent painting series “New Phase.” It’s a daily ritual and humble meditation to communicate the feeling of comfort, sorrow, hope, or calmness during the
2020 coronavirus pandemic. The painting practice helps keep me centered during the crisis, and not stress over how long it will last and all the associated outcomes there might
My YouTube Algorithm Says I Can Be Self-Sufficient is a digital collage of screenshots from YouTube videos that have been my companions through the pandemic. The technologies that determine which videos are suggested on that platform probably sensed a collective need for escape and control, so I ended up watching many videos about tiny houses, gardening, and off-grid living. However, they often painted idealistic, even glamorous, pictures of living alone without showing the need for interdependency in and care of community. Therefore, in the collage composting worms eat away at simplistic solutions and self-preserving fantasy with the hope of transforming them into something more life-giving.
Transcendence: Edge of the End and Beginning is an afrofuturist vision which draws inspiration
from the folklore of Janus, the god of ends and beginnings. By layering symbols and drawings
with the technique of cyanotype we constructed a web of kinship that illustrates the human spirit’s physical and sensorial interconnectedness with earth, sky, plants, animals, and planets and its relationship to creation.
For Those We Have Lost depicts part of an installation created at Wave Hill in the Bronx during a residency right before the mandated shelter-in-place in NYC.
The installation is an offering to ancestors and the spirit realm. Comprised of a series of sculptural pieces made of hypertufa, the piece uses soil and the surrounding landscape to take form. Hypertufa is often used in gardening and is a mixture made of cement, vermiculite and peat moss.
The image, For Those We Have Lost, is a remembrance of those we have lost. “We” meaning humanity and the ones lost are the hundreds of thousands of people lost due to the global pandemic.
“Mercy” is part of a statement made by my Great-grandmother when things were not going right. She would say, “Lord have Mercy”. This photo speaks to the theme of compassion.
The woman in the face of destruction and obstruction resists and pleads for help knowing that it will come. Her hands are not bound but free to create. Just like my Grandmother she knew help was a call away.
This is how the pandemic and it’s recovering cycles have affected me.