To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA) is presenting the powerful works of ten Miami-based Latina artists.
Diversity is key to this showcase, as the invited Hispanic artists represent different voices from the diaspora: Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Panama to Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Argentina.
Presented in an intimate, conversational fashion, Syzygy appears small at first glance but is large in nature. It's easy to while away an entire afternoon contemplating its weighty story told in paintings, sculptures, videos, etchings, installations, photographs, prints and mixed media.
The overarching themes manifested through this thought provoking exhibit range from identity, sexuality and distress to deconstruction, independence and unity.
Several pieces highlight the symbolic duality, harmony, and correlation between masculine and feminine energy. Others share unobstructed truths about the aligned and opposing views surrounding spirituality and religion. The element of water – a deliberate force of nature – was central to various artworks that interpreted resistance, fluidity, movement and cleansing.
Curated by Tiffany Madera, MOCA’s Public Program Manager, the distinguished exhibit highlights the brilliant creativity of emerging and accomplished artists from a unique Miami, female and Hispanic perspective.
During the opening of the exhibition, Madera spoke about her vision. "I was compelled by each artist's depth and commitment to the female voice in the face of duality, oppression, rupture and disembodiment,” says Madera. “This exhibition offers a new way of traveling the feminine psyche, which allows for a fuller, more holistic understanding of human experience.
Adding to the conversation of the pieces, award-winning author and poet, Mia Leonin offered a poetic response to the artwork. “I asked each artist to share their process, from the space of being both female and Hispanic, how they relate to their unconscious and subconscious, what that pathway and journey is into their conscious mind, and their overall sense of consciousness.” Madera shares.
“Syzygy is about consciousness and engagement with each artist’s sense of politics, sexuality, identity, expression and personal performance.”
The word, syzygy, is the Greek term meaning “union” or “pairing.” Astronomically-speaking, it is the conjunction or opposition of celestial bodies (such as the sun and the moon) or an alignment of three celestial objects (such as sun, moon and earth.)
Further, psychiatrist Carl Jung described syzygy as the “true self” – the unification of anima (feminine image in the male psyche) and animus (male image in the female psyche) – and the collective unconscious. Honored by the North Miami city council as the official Hispanic Heritage Month artist,
Cuban artist Nereida Garcia Ferraz's large-scale piece, “Travesía” is images of fruits, seeds, earth and plant life, which are richly painted in strokes of blue, green, yellow, purple and brown hues.
“When I moved to Miami, I was overwhelmed by the humidity, colors, and gardens. I find the presence of this city so amazing, and wanted to create a painting about the body of water that separates Havana and Miami. It’s about Yemaya, the forces that pull all of us together, the present, and the deconstruction of the image of the virgin. Also, I wanted to talk about seeds, bones, power, unity and forces that are one.”
Charo Oquet (Dominican Republic) discussed her emblematic installation, “Marañas,” a chaotic and dazzling array of brightly colored textiles and textures.
“Marañas is about our connection, how we’re born through the umbilical cord of our mothers and the strings grab everything that’s around. Life isn’t always clean and pretty. It’s full of those things coming together and becoming beautiful through that entanglement. It’s all about the entanglement that we are as humans. Especially here in Miami, it’s made up of all different kinds of people, colors and that’s what makes us wonderful. It might not be perfect, but it’s the sense of coming together and becoming more beautiful every day.”
Oquet’s split-screen video, “Procesión,” shares contrasting views of observances taking place in the Dominican Republic. While one is considered deemed sacred, the other is considered controversial to say the least.
She says, "I’ve been studying Dominican Haitians and a ritual that includes voodoo called rara or gagá in the Dominican Republic. It’s about giving thanks to the gods for the harvest and for spring, but it’s also very sexual and about reproduction. On one side of this video, you have the Catholic ritual of Lent. It happens at night, and the music and pace is very slow. They don’t want things to change, and the migrant community wants to keep the status quo. In the other ritual, the loud music is fast and sensual. The colors are bright in the middle of the day. You are not supposed to be dancing during Easter in Dominican Republic because it’s a Catholic country, but they do it anyway. It’s resistance, and a way for them to become visible.”
Nina Surel’s framed print, “Sailing to Byzantium” is an ethereal image of several identical women in different poses, all dressed in white, traveling in a gold-colored boat. “Four women are traveling on this journey with this idea of a dream, reality and fiction coming together. You are traveling but you don’t know if you’re traveling by yourself or with someone, if that person is real or an image that you are reflecting.”
The Argentine’s installation, “Boat,” accompanies the otherworldly piece. Covered in genuine 23-carat gold leaf paint, she describes it as “…going beyond the journey of aging to becoming something more.”
While describing her photography installation, “In Between: Deconstructing an Identity,” a four-piece compilation of 18 individual images of threads, materials, eyes and lips, Alessandra Santos (Panama) says, “This is my favorite suit that I deconstructed, and it’s the exploration of the deconstruction. At the end, it’s just a piece of cloth. When people look at you, they put an identity on you without knowing you or who you are.”
The Venezuelan artist, Griselle Gaudnik, shared her creative thought process behind the mixed media composition of 13 prints, “Phallic Decomposition.” “I created these intaglio prints and, little by little, started embroidering them and removing paper. It represents the spectrum between something that I’ve declared to be a ‘masculine symbol’ and something that I’ve declared to be a ‘feminine symbol’ – the embroidery and the lacey quality of the prints as they start to get deconstructed.”
Natacha Perdomo (Cuba) presented her inspired series of nine paintings, “Astral Projection Series,” that depicts the mystic and allure of water, both still and crashing at the shore, engulfed in the luminous light of day and night. “I tried to interpret a woman’s vision, with an eternal feeling. And, I tried to project myself as a woman and a survivor in this society. In the contemporary way that we are living today, I am trying to survive and represent my vision and emotions, and the landscape and seascape.”
Madera spoke on behalf of several artists, including Cuban artist Laura Luna’ sculpture, “Oyo.” “As a female warrior, she represents the syzygy of the male and female aspects of life and death. She works with energy, and the metaphors and the archetypes that represent these aspects of humanity.”
Created in a self-reflective expression, Sandra Ramos (Cuba) contributed an etching of a woman suspended above a body of water, and three videos that incorporate water. “I thought this piece spoke perfectly to looking into the deep waters of the self - the underworld, interior world, dark spaces - which we are all trying to excavate and learn from. She is creating this sense of autobiographical portraits both here and in the videos where you see this repetitive image of a schoolgirl, in modern day Cuba, seeking embodiment and freedom,” Madera says.
“Her work represents this idea of how we are always trying to seek and create ourselves and our identity – and never reaching it. There is this duality of freedom and escape, where water becomes this idea of transportation and movement from one space to another.”
Syzygy also includes photography by Beatriz Ricco (Brazil) and photography/mixed media by Bolivian talent Barbara Bollini. Catch the exhibit at MOCA, with additional satellite locations: the North Miami Library and City of North Miami City Hall, second floor.
“We have the syzygy of the three actual, physical locations - like the astronomical definition of syzygy - a conjunction of three celestial bodies. North Miami is as a city on the move, and we have the syzygy movement between MOCA, City Hall and the library. These are all spaces of thought, learning and creativity,” Madera adds. “I asked the artists to perform something in this space, create art and engage the community. I feel that we have really manifested that.”
The Syzygy exhibit is on view 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday through Nov. 6. $5. Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Joan Lehman Building, 770 N.E. 125th St., North Miami, Florida 33161, 305.893.6211. To learn more, visit mocanomi.org.