For the second year at Queens Botanical Garden, AnkhLave Arts Alliance Inc., a nonprofit that works to provide inclusive representation of people of diverse ethnicities within the contemporary art conversation, has selected five local artists to create site specific art installations within the grounds of the garden.
The 3rd Annual AnkhLave Garden Project 2021 is currently on display in QBG until Tuesday, Sept. 21, featuring the works of five Queens-based Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) artists who represent and reflect the garden’s diverse audience.
This project is made possible by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council. Additional support was provided by Can’d Aid.
Dario Mohr, CEO and director of AnkhLave Arts Alliance Inc., who has lived in Flushing and spent a lot of time at the garden, said it was his initial inclination to bring their second show — and now their third project — to QBG.
“Similar to last year, we wanted to present the artist’s work to the public mainly at the garden,” Mohr said. “It’s an exciting thing to bring artists to this space. A lot of people may not spend a lot of time engaging with art, but it’s a great opportunity for them to be exposed to it, in a way that’s comfortable for them.”
Last year, AnkhLave Arts Alliance Inc. installed five art installations for their second exhibition at the garden. According to Mohr, while there was troubleshooting and uncertainty due to COVID, he was thankful that QBG had reopened its doors to the public last summer and people were able to see the artwork and engage with it.
“This show is three-and-a-half months — it’s a month longer than last year’s show and a lot of people would be able to see the work,” Mohr said. The work has received a lot of buzz on social media and we are glad to be presenting our five artists who have worked really hard this year.”
The AnkhLave Garden Project 2021 artists include the following:
Christy Bencosme: “Llegó La Luz”
Location: Forest Explorers Triangle
Bencosme is a Dominican-American artist from Jamaica, Queens. She received her BFA in fine arts at The School of Visual Arts in 2017 and is currently an MFA candidate at Queens College with a concentration in social practice art.
“Llegó La Luz” is a reflection of being a child of immigrants and coming from generational poverty. Translating to “the light has arrived,” the title echoes a phrase exclaimed in the Dominican Republic once electricity returns from the commonly experienced power outages. Honoring working-class immigrants, including the artist’s parents, this sculpture can be activated by viewers through touch, sound and sight. Through this activation, children of immigrants are reminded that their plight of resilience embodies the light manifested by their ancestors and the essentiality of immigrant families in Queens and beyond.
Dennis Redmoon Darkeem: “Keepers of the Four Winds” and the “Land Acknowledgement Flag”
Location: Meadow, Green Trailers
Darkeem is inspired to create artwork based on the familiar objects that he views through his daily travels. His artwork has evolved into critiquing social and political issues affecting U.S. and indigenous Native American culture. Much of his art has focused on issues like institutionalized racism and classism, jarring stereotypes and displacement of people of color.
“Keepers of the Four Winds”
These four sculptures are painted in the medicine wheel colors, white, red, black and yellow, to honor the elements of nature and the colors of mankind. The symbolisms in these sculptures are connected to symbols found in indigenous mounds in Native communities along the East Coast and Central America. These symbols tell stories of what was present at that time.
“Land Acknowledgement Flag”
“Cultural decolonization refers to a process where a colonized people reclaim their traditional culture, redefine themselves as a people and reassert their distinct identity.’’ These flags were created to acknowledge the traditional territories of Indigenous tribes of Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The goal of the land acknowledgment flag is to make sure these tribes are not forgotten, land treaties are honored and to inspire Indigenous people to govern their own history and narratives. Displaying this work at Queen Botanical Garden allows visitors to engage and explore new understanding of survival, ownership, home and identity, along with creating awareness around social issues affecting Indigenous and other communities of color. (Note: Only one flag of three is currently installed. Additional flags will be hung the second week of July.)
Graciela Cassel: “Kaleidoscope”
Location: Forest Explorers Triangle
Cassel was born in Argentina and currently lives in New York. She earned an MA in studio art from New York University and received an MFA from School of Visual Arts.
A surprising, multiplied reality will awaken dreams of new possibilities in viewers when they look through “Kaleidoscope.” The viewer will discover different dimensions amongst the trees, in the sky and in their own image within the Queens Botanical Garden landscape.
Moses Ros: “Fruits of the Spirit”
Location: Oak Allée
Ros is a Dominican-American sculptor, painter and printmaker. Highly influenced by his direct contact with Caribbean culture and New York City street culture, his creative sources are usually gathered from urban pop culture, graphic abstract symbolism and my living memories.
“Fruits of the Spirit” is an installation consisting of three art banners along the Garden’s Oak Allée. Inspired by love, joy and peace, they create a graceful and festive atmosphere.
Renluka Maharaj: “Mast/ Heads”
Location: Crabapple Grove
Maharaj works within photography, installation, research and travel. Her work, which is often autobiographical, investigates themes of history, memory, religion and gender and how they inform identity. Maharaj was born in Trinidad and Tobago and works between Colorado, New York City and Trinidad. She attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she earned her BFA in 2015 and her MFA at The Art Institute of Chicago in 2017.