Magazine Top Ten 2018: The Inaugural Southeast Queens Biennial

Posted by: yetheart, December 26, 2018 11:40 am
Blog Image: 
Dying to Dream, La Perseverancia, Claridad y Fe by Ify Chiejina

This article by the Director of NLE Lab Rachel Gugelberger and NLE Lab curators Sarah Fritchey, Corrine Gordon, Rebecca Pristoop, Niama Safia Sandy, and Anastasia Tuazon originally appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of Queens Library Magazine.

This year’s first Southeast Queens Biennial features the work of three generations of artists who have strong connections to the area. Inspired by author, feminist, and social activist bell hooks, the Biennial seeks to shift our attention from traditional notions of what is central and focus us on Southeast Queens as a gateway for travel. The area is also known for the movement and connections between its diverse populations.

While the Biennial is titled A Locus of Moving Points, the exhibit at Central Library takes its title Notations in Passing from a 1974 essay by Nathan Lyons (himself a son of Jamaica, Queens). Lyons, a photographer, curator, and educator, was interested in the objects and attributes of everyday life.

The artists on display at Central work across media and disciplines, but are united by their desire to make visible gender and race-based oppression, to explore the impact of environmental crises on humans, and to explore rituals and healing practices.

Notations in Passing includes the work of Salimah Ali, Ify Chiejina, Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess, Renee Harper, Corona Johnson, Rejin Leys, and Lisa Wade, showcasing a range of complex and nuanced perspectives.

Southeast Queens Biennial 01

Ali, Harper, Johnson, and Wade focus on people, family, and neighbors in and around Jamaica. Through a juxtaposition of biomorphic and natural forms, Leys portrays both the 1990s Haitian refugee crisis and current geographic displacement due to climate change. Inspired by her Guyanese heritage and the divine feminine, Abrams’s representations of brown mermaids and mermen take on the trauma of enslavement and healing through the sacred practice of adornment. In the series Dying to Dream, Chiejina symbolically illustrates the black experience through slavery, colonialism, and racial discrimination.

Southeast Queens Biennial 02

Notations in Passing was curated by the 2017 No Longer Empty Curatorial Lab (NLE Lab), as part of the inaugural Southeast Queens Biennial organized in partnership with the York College Fine Arts Gallery.

The 2017 NLE Curatorial Lab was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel of North America. The Queens Library Mobile Museum is funded by an Innovation Grant from the Queens Library Foundation.

Image at top: Art by Ify Chiejina reflects the exhibit’s themes: Dying to Dream, La Perseverancia, Claridad y Fe, 2015.

All photos courtesy of the artists and No Longer Empty.

Read the Other Stories in the Queens Library Magazine Top Ten of 2018.