In Between: The 2018 Fellowship

The En Foco Photography Fellowship awards artists a $1,000 honorarium to support new or existing work. The fellowships culminate in a group exhibition and the subject of a Nueva Luz issue.

En Foco’s 2018 Photography Fellowship winners are Alexis RuisecoAntonio PulgarinGioncarlo ValentineHidemi TakagiJonathan GardenhireLaylah Amatullah BarraynMark Aghatise, Rhynna Santos, Tau Battice, and Yu-Chen Chiu. The exhibition and special volume of Nueva Luz were curated by Eva Mayhabal Davis.

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Alexis Ruiseco-Lombera documents intersections that highlight the beauty and complexities of queerness, Latinx identity, and presence. Ruiseco’s sensitivity for composition and color frame powerful portraits. From a personal and collective narrative, these works are a light on a Cuban queer community that Ruiseco invites us into. The figures in the series of works, Añoranza, oscillate in and out of the landscape they embody. The solitude of the body is majestic as it reflects on how and where in the world queerness exists. Figures vibrate through the greenery, bodies, water, sky, and eyes.

 
 

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Antonio Pulgarin, presents his own history with images, collaged, and repurposed. His work reflects on a mixed upbringing of Colombian heritage affected by identities of machismo and definitions of masculinity. His most current work explores the image of an image thus presenting layers that re-contextualize identity. Original black and white photograph is manipulated and photographed and then collaged, presenting a positive and negative space where one figure is there but its counterpart is a pattern silhouette. In this way,Pulgarin uses the object of the photograph, a nolgastic object, to explore his own relationship to the found photos of his father and uncle. The series, Fragments of Masculinity, reveals crisp edges and aged creases that presents the photo not as an object but as a new image. Pulgarin creates an intimate space for the viewer to look a second time the at the black and white photo, this time noting its fragility and resilience. Pulgarin explores his own place through layers that navigate familial lineage, masculinity and culture.

 
 

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Gioncarlo Valentine, the subjects of these portraits capsule the space of loving the self and the intersections that challenge this experience. Valentine’s portraits are intimate. These portraits capture Black LGBTQ+ experiences of pride, loneliness, love, poverty, doubt, and isolation. There is also monumental presence especially potent in the portrait, MJ from the series Trans Quality of Life. Their gaze confronts the viewer without apology. This confrontation becomes an ongoing story trope that pulls back and forth to examine the power of the gaze. Portraiture creates an in-between of interactions that considers the subject, the photographer and the viewer.

 
 

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In the project Hello, it’s me, by Hidemi Takagi, stories are told with images, objects and interviews. Here, Takagi presents the conversations that created bonds and friendships while photographing at the Saint Teresa of Avila Senior Apartments in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Each image exudes a pop of color with vibrance and hyper-saturation. The portraits have a sense of joy and nostalgia that is as much present as it is past. Along with the portraits, a recording of their family narratives are available to listen to. These interactions activate an oral history about the changing neighborhood and the changing times.

 
 

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In the works by Jonathan Gardenhire, there is a gaze and a figure as well as a third dimensionality with references to historical texts, popular culture, literature, and objects. In Untitled (Requiem for the Price of Culture), an image of other portraits, books, text, a scattered composition that informs the photographer and therefore connects to the viewer. The portraits derive from these studies and feeds back into an ever present gaze. Creating a narrative that layers popular culture, Black history and interwoven Latinidad. These portraits are an accumulation of self-reflections that ultimately claim space.

 
 

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Laylah Amatullah Barryn, photographed Stone Town, Zanzibar, a place where folks gather in a community session and religious mass exorcism. In search of mental health sensibility, these images are emotional landscapes where spiritual essence, belief, and community stand together. These scenes, invite the viewer to tread lightly from the bright colors, folds, and reflections of the women’s garments. Their composition is active, and it reflects on the urgent and strong faith that is practiced in these spaces. Barryn creates a frame in which we see the tenderness and strength of this spiritual practice without aspects of intrusion.

 
 

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In the works by Mark Aghatise, the process presents an intersection of subject and image. In these portraits, the gaze of the subject is soft and the body language is strong. The images have a strategic distortions in rips, crumbles, and Xerox scans. Each one exploring the self, body, and dysmorphia. There is a sense of reflection in what is scanned, who stares back, who is printed, and who is scanned from the self.

 
 

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In the series of portraits by Rhynna M. Santos, A Transcendent Calling: Latina Muslim Portraiture, the viewer meets the gaze of women that identify as Latina Muslims. Captured in quotidian settings, the image brings to light the details that enrich their identity. The kitchen roosters, orange decor complimenting a green hijab, and the subject’s forefront presence grants us a moment to visit her kitchen. Santos creates a portrait of her subjects as they’re surrounded by precious imagery and spiritual idols. This visual melting-pot shows the complex state of Muslim-Americans, and Latinx—an image ever more important in sight of rising Islamophobia and negative stigmas.

 
 

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During a stay in San Basillio de Palenque, Colombia, Tau Battice, photographed the seldom told story about the first settlement of formerly-enslaved, runaway Africans in the Americas. Each portrait captures a Palenquero, with a story to tell and with grit set in un-brittled pride. Visually, each portrait is a landmark in retracing history by looking back into the roots of colonial times that dictate much of today’s social and political landscape.

 
 

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Yu-Chen Chiu, Experiences Western culture as an immigrant, and her work revolves around analyzing pop culture, idealized Americana, and mythologies that Hollywood movies entrance. Chiu documents her personal memory, influenced by cross-country road trips, and emerging herself in American culture, she frames pictures that enter and bind a collective memory. The landscapes portray an unseen and unperceived America. In the portrait, Fort Worth, Texas, an iconic cowboy sits on a horse, with contrast lighting on a US flag as draped lone-star flags pull together an image that strikingly captures a glimpse of rodeo traditions of the Southwest and Texas. At first glance, the landscapes that Chiu captures appear vast, but upon second glance, the viewer begs the questions: who is this? Where in the US? And when? The images, black and white, capture today with contrast both aesthetically and in subject.

 
 

Curatorial Statement