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Women artists explore identity through work

By Gina Martinez

A new exhibition at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning explores the way women artists see themselves in society through their work.

“In Situ: Women Artists in Place” features pieces in a variety of mediums created by 10 women from all walks of life.

York College fine arts lecturer Margaret Rose Vendryes assembled In Situ, which is Latin for “in its original place,” not as an attempt to define a women’s place, but rather as a way for these artists to express their thoughts on the subject through their works.

“Broadly interpreted, but integral to identity formation, encountering one’s ‘place’ as a gender-specific physical or psychological location continues to haunt us as a community and a nation,” Vendryes wrote in the exhibition’s catalog. “The artists exhibiting together here reveal that encountering a woman artist in situ is both exhilarating and unpredictable.”

The show presents audiences with no clear-cut understanding of what it means to be a woman.

“We want people to learn about community, culture and the struggle that comes with gender identity,” Akua-Akilah Anokye, JCAL’s senior marketing director, said. “One community where gender identity is a big deal is in the LGBT community. The struggle comes when the body they’re born into isn’t the body they want to be portrayed to the world. Through art, artist attempt to identify their place in the world.”

All 10 artists have been scheduled to appear at the JCAL to discuss their works and how they were inspired to create them.

The next talk is Friday, May 1, at 7 p.m., and includes artists Andre St. Clair, Anh Nguyen, Alexandria Smith, Kimberly Mayhorn and Nicole Awai.

Nina Buxenbaum, co-coordinator of York’s Fine Arts Department, appeared at the first artist talk last week.

“My work deals with issues of identify with race and femininity,” Buxenbaum said. “It’s the concept of feminine vs. masculine and the way we think about our roles as women. Women are forced to put on a mask. When you speak up society rejects you or calls you too masculine. So it’s the complexity of how can I be myself without being perceived the wrong way.”

Buxenbaum is excited to see new and familiar artists at the exhibition.

“I’m looking forward to viewing work I’m not familiar with and also seeing some familiar faces,” she said. “In particular Anh Nguyen, I’ve seen her grow as and artist and I’m excited to see her work.”

If you Go

“In Situ: Women Artists in Place”

When: Through May 28, Monday – Saturday, from 10 am – 6 pm

Where: Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, 161-04 Jamaica Ave., Jamaica

Cost: Free

Contact: (718) 658-7400

Website: www.jcal.org

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