Surreal Histories

Surreal Histories features the fantastical storytelling photography of Sandra Ayala, Jeremy Dennis, and Karisha Hickman.  With history as a precursor, these works feel timeless yet timely, identifying unique narratives that speak of the Native American, African American, and Latinx experiences of “America.” 

On view March 13 – April 12, 2020, at Hell Gate Arts, 755 East 133rd St., Bronx, NY
Opening Reception: Friday, March 13, 2020, 5-8pm at Hell Gate Arts

Public Program: TBA 

Surreal Histories presents artists whose photographs blur the boundaries of time and place. Encapsulated within an ephemeral narrative, these conceptually constructed photographs build upon stories of heritage and history, presenting a surreal perspective of familial legacy within a contemporary gaze. 

In her series of photographs, Karisha Hickman reimagines the story of the Great Migration. Hickman recasts history and the depictions of her ancestors, people of strength and character, who survived the inhumanity of slavery with the perseverance to keep on going in the aftermath. These works represent the African Diaspora within the boundaries of America, the ability to travel to other parts of the country post-slavery for a better life.

Jeremy Dennis’s photography explores indigenous identity, cultural assimilation, and the ancestral traditional practices of my tribe, the Shinnecock Indian Nation. The indigenous mythology that influences the work grants Dennis access to the minds of his ancestors, including the value they placed on our sacred lands. By outfitting and arranging models to depict those myths, the work strives to continue his ancestors’ tradition of storytelling and showcase the sanctity of their land.

Sandra Ayala presents a series of conceptual photographs dedicated to the dreamlike world of her son, known here as “The Boy.” Ayala creates a series of photographs that borrow from the Renaissance paintings’ formal elements of composition, perspective, light and tonal value. Her work signifies imagery where the elements of reality are modified, mediated, and reimagined as inspired by real events, fears, anxieties, losses, and accomplishments. 

Meet the Curators

Melissa Calderon | Co-Curator, En Foco
Self-taught artist and independent curator Melissa Calderón creates bodies of conceptual work around themes exploring social and political landscapes, drawing upon historical and philosophical references of power, fragility, and perception. Her work has been exhibited at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Queens Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, and The Portland Museum of Art, SmackMellon, Pioneer Works, Galeria 20/20 in Puerto Rico among others. Melissa recently completed a monument dedicated to Roberto Clemente for the NYC Percent for Art Commission in the heart of the South Bronx. She is born, bred, and currently resides in the Bronx.

Juanita Lanzo | Co-Curator, En Foco
Juanita Lanzo has worked in the Bronx for over 20 years as a visual artist, arts administrator, curator, archivist, and art adviser.  Her curatorial projects focus on emerging artists of color, the LGBTQ community, women, race, immigration and popular culture in a wide array of media, which she supplements with the addition of by public programs and professional development and advocacy/career sustainable practices for visual artists.  She currently works as an Independent Curator for En Foco, and as a teaching artist in NYC. She graduated from City College of NY (MFA-Painting & Printmaking) and University of Puerto Rico (BFA 1996 Printmaking & Drawing). Ms. Lanzo was born in Puerto Rico, works and teaches in the Bronx, and lives in East Harlem, NYC. 

About Hell Gate Arts
Hell Gate Arts is an art gallery and performance space in the Port Morris section of the Bronx. The gallery shows local, national, and international artists; and presents exhibitions with independent curators to create a thoughtful program of exhibits and performance that is of interest to the local Bronx and greater New York City community.

En Foco 2020 Fellowship Group Exhibition

(Bronx, NY – February 28, 2020) En Foco is proud to announce the ten winners of its 2020 Photography Fellowship Program. Selected from a pool of 134 applicants, each fellow will receive $1,000 award and participate in the 2020 Fellowship Group Exhibition. The exhibition opens Friday, June 5 at BronxArtSpace; 305 E 140th St. Fellows will also be featured in En Foco’s Spring/Summer issue of Nueva Luz –print and online editions.

The Fellowship initiative affirms En Foco’s ongoing commitment to the financial support of artists of color and serves to inform exhibition organizers and curators of an existing pool of quality, under-recognized artists.

En Foco’s 2020 Photography Fellowship winners are Akshay Bhoan, Johnnie Chatman, Odette Chavez-Mayo, Luis Diaz, Roberta Dorsett & Clarissa Aponte (Collaborators), Jon Henry, Antonio Johnson, Rahul Majumdar, Josefina Moran, and Betty Yu. The Fellowship winners selected are based on the excellence and quality of the work submitted. All work is reviewed by panelists who are all distinguished members of the arts community: Anthony Hamboussi, 2016 En Foco Fellow; Alfred Gonzalez, Owner/Founder of Gallery 71; and Susanna Temkin, Curator at El Museo.

Dos Mundos 20/21

Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz (Aug 26-Dec 13, 2020)
SUNY Fredonia (Jan 19-Feb 28, 2021)
SUNY Binghamton (March-May 2021)
SUNY Stony Brook (July-Oct 2021)

Dos Mundos 20/21 will explore the contemporary duality of traditions and culture in immigrant and ethnic communities, revisiting the challenges of systemic exclusion from the mainstream that artists of color faced then and continue to face today. The selected works will share the artists’ personal histories and explore similar issues of struggle, displacement, migration and representation through photography. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

Participating En Foco Fellows: Aaron Turner (2019), Damarys Alverez (2018), Yu-Chen Chiu (2018), Daesha Devon Harris (2017), Cinthya Santos Briones (2017), Erika Murillo (2017), Anthony Hamboussi (2016), Tau Battice (2018), Roger Richardson  (2019), Laylah Amattullah Barrayn (2018), Danny Ramon Peralta (2016), and Antonio Pulgarin (2018).