For anyone who has a chance to look across the Hudson River from the Bronx side, it’s a lot of views of the Palisades. But when people from the New Jersey side look back toward us, what do they see?
That’s a burning question that fueled the latest artistic collaboration between Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture and the Bronx Council on the Arts. A dozen Cuban-born artists who live on the other side of the Hudson have come together for “Shifting Streams: Twelve Artists by the Hudson River,” bringing a mix of watercolor, photography and more to the walls of Hostos’ Longwood Art Gallery.
Well, the virtual walls of Longwood Art Gallery, that is, since this expansive exhibit is not physically there, but instead living in a 3-D virtual environment online.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” said Meyken Barreto, the exhibit’s curator. “Having that direct contact with the artwork is always so interesting. And it is important. But in this case, that doesn’t happen exactly the way we are used to.”
The coronavirus pandemic makes it near impossible to get out and visit an art gallery. Barreto, however, was convinced that if an exhibit was put together in just the right way, not only could a virtual gallery work. It might even be preferred.
In fact, “Shifting Streams” already is so successful, even when social distancing is a remnant of our past, virtual exhibits like this one might still continue.
“I think this is here to stay,” Barreto said.
“There are people who are watching the show from different places in the world, from Cuba and from South America. And you realize that, wow, this is something good in the sense that people can access this show from everywhere in the world, and they are doing just that.”
The idea for “Shifting Streams” comes not from the Bronx, or New Jersey or even Cuba — but instead from Miami, where a similar exhibition brought together some Cuban-born artists.
“They are used to being surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, and now they have this new environment, and this new landscape where the Hudson River is an important element,” Barreto said. “That is why the title of this exhibition is ‘Shifting Streams,’ because they have to go from the warm waters to where they are now, surrounded by this quiet stream of Hudson River.”
Artists participating in the exhibit include Jairo Alfonso, Douglas Arguelles, Kenia Arguiñao, Javier Caso, Napoles Marty, William Perez, Alain Pino, Pedro Valerino, Danay Vigoa and Vanessa Fernández.
Then there’s Geandy Pavon, a photographer who has spent his time documenting the lives of former Cuban political prisoners who have escaped to the United States. It tells the story of how more than 35,000 dissidents were locked up by the Castro regime throughout the 1960s and 1970s. When the government finally freed them, it was only to kick them out of the country, with many of them ending up in the United States.
Pavon’s series is known as Vae Victis Vanitas, a inspired by a genre of still-life painting with symbolism serving as a reminder that life is short and worldly possessions aren’t that important.
And no one should miss the series of work created by Sandra Cordero that is not just a product of her own imagination, but is actually part of a larger whimsical realm known as Planeta Sandra. She has put together a number of pieces over the years detailing everything about her imaginary planet, including this exploration of its plant life.
“There is no specific theme or concept to any of this,” Barreto said. “These artists are from different generations, and they are from different backgrounds. They are working on paintings, drawings, photography, you name it.”
In fact, the exhibit is broken up into two segments — one dedicated to the human figure, the other focused on landscapes or interior spaces.
“I hope that people will find one or more works that actually speaks to them and connects with them in a way that can awaken some sort of collection of topics for them looking at contemporary issues and society,” Barreto said. “It’s a way to really explore the individual and the inner self.”
Visiting the exhibit is easy. Just visit the website of either the Bronx Council on the arts — BronxArts.org — or the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture at Hostos.cuny.edu, and find a link to the exhibit from there. It doesn’t cost anything to see what the artists have put together, and to admire the way they see the world.
“By bringing together all these immigrant artists and showing their creativity, we also get a sense of their resilience,” Barreto said. “It’s also a way of showing people that we should be adapting to these new times, and how important it is that we are open to the new possibilities in the new ways that our lives are taking at the moment.”
The exhibit runs through Dec. 9.