By Tammy Scileppi
Queens Library has teamed up with Flushing’s Crossing Art Gallery for an exhibition of international artworks to celebrate the uniqueness and continuity of Queens’ communities.
“The View Over Here: Constructing Cultural Identity” exhibit is composed of pieces that range from paintings and videos to installations and photography, on view now at the gallery through Dec. 13.
“From a pool of national and international artists, our jurors selected eight artists whose work not only reflected our belief that art can serve as a cultural unifier, but that art can inspire others to have a deeper understanding of other cultures,” said Rebecca O’Malley, Crossing Art Gallery manager.
The judges — John Hatfield, executive director of Socrates Sculpture Park; Larissa Harris, curator at Queens Museum; and Catherine Lee, Queens Library Foundation board member — selected three artists to display their works at the Queens Library Foundation gala, which will be held at the Queens Museum in the spring.
“From arts institutions to libraries, the exploration and celebration of cultural identity is part of the fabric of Queens,” said Hatfield. “Many of the artists we considered are producing compelling work on the topic, and I was pleased that Kyoung Eun Kang’s ‘Islands’ was selected, whose video art exemplifies the struggle, grace, courage, and balance one may experience navigating multiple identities and cultures in our wonderfully diverse society.”
Along with Brooklyn-based Kang, the two other finalists picked were Rumi Hara, also from Brooklyn, and Antonietta Grassi from Quebec.
Kang, whose work was part of a group exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park in 2011, said she was excited to be part of Crossing Art’s “The View Over Here” exhibition.
“I create, not wishing to manipulate the outcome, but to provide a transformative experience, which is open-ended,” said Kang. “I hope to capture the subtle beauty of human encounters and growth, embracing dynamic actions that resonate in the human experience, such as walking, breathing, eating and gathering.”
Kang explained that most of her video works are filmed in a variety of outdoor environments, including New York City parks, Korean river basins and remote, isolated lighthouses. She will often place objects related to her Korean childhood alongside New York scenes in order to prompt question heritage, culture and family.
Grassi has been exhibiting her creations in Canada and Europe since the 1990s, and now her edgy pieces are on display at Crossing Art Gallery.
“My current work, which borders on abstraction and representation, references skewed architectural structures to reflect a shaky, unstable reality,” she said. “I derive my imagery by combining logic and intuition, embracing dynamic interactions between chaos and order, spillage and containment. Despite the work’s structural references, very little is planned, and much is left to chance.”
Hara said she felt honored to have her work featured in this show that should shed light on cultural identity from different viewpoints.
“Queens is a unique place, with so much energy, and I was inspired and encouraged, not only by meeting the people involved in the exhibition, but also by exploring the neighborhood of Flushing,” she said.
Born in Kyoto, Japan, Hara eventually moved to Atlanta. Through her project titled “Borderland,” the artist said she wanted to “collect and communicate the forgotten or hidden memories in coastal Georgia, and to more deeply understand my experience there as an Asian person.”
She did all the research and image-making while living and studying in Savannah from September 2012 to August 2014.
Integrating watercolor illustrations, hand-inked comics, and photographs, Hara’s project tells a story and documents the present landscapes of the Sea Islands along the Georgia coast. “The story follows the migration of the endangered right whales, revisits the memory of slavery, and incorporates the African-American folklore from the region.”
Since moving and traveling have been an important part of her life since childhood, Hara said she’s particularly interested in “memories that make a place special, all the real and imagined stories that connect people and cultivate a sense of belonging.”
Crossing Art and the Queens Library both believe that art can indeed serve as a cultural unifier and that building upon this common ground can heal wounded or distant relationships, and also promote new affiliations and stronger communities.
A Queens Library representative said, “The exhibition seeks to view aesthetic expression through an international lens, highlighting the interactions of nationalities, and expounding upon the use of art as a way of expressing one’s origins.”
IF YOU GO
“The View Over Here”
When: Through Dec. 13
Where: Crossing Art Gallery, 136-17 39th Ave., Flushing
Contact: (212) 359-4333