‘Identidad y Libertad’ Carbondale art exhibit shows the depths of one’s identity | PostIndependent.com

‘Identidad y Libertad’ Carbondale art exhibit shows the depths of one’s identity

June’s First Friday celebration brings conversation, discussion about showcased work

Photo of the in-progress mural at Stepping Stones in Carbondale painted by Armando Silva.

Pieces of art have the power to tell stories, and for co-curators Vannessa Porras and Gayle Embrey, their exhibit “Identidad y Libertad” narrates the different arc lines of finding yourself and struggling to belong as a member of the Latino community.

“I was thinking back to how (we) came upon the title for the show, and part of it was … based on the way that you look, you’re perceived a certain way,” Porras said. “Being able to take that identity from Latin America, Mexico, wherever you’re coming from if you’re living in the U.S., like maintaining that identity and still integrating into the American culture, and vice versa.”

The Carbondale First Friday celebration for June includes the opening of the exhibit, and artist talks beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Launchpad. Embrey and Porras will both share, followed by artists Tony Ortega and Armando Silva.

“Identidad y Libertad” in the R2 Gallery will remain open until 8:30 p.m. that evening, as well. Silva will unveil the mural he collaborated on with the students at Stepping Stones on the side of the building at 4 p.m. Friday before sharing at the artist talks.

“I tend to not be like, ‘Hey, I’m like Mexican,’ because even then it’s like, what does that mean? So for me I look more at data sort of stuff, so I was born in Mexico and I’m living in the United States. But I like ninja turtles, and that’s just as much of a part of my identity as what dirt or geography point I was born in,” Silva said.

The other artists featured in “Identidad y Libertad” are Claudia Bernardi, Fanel Reyes and José Lopez. There are also two murals created through the Walls of Hope program, which was started back in 2014 by Bernardi and gives incarcerated immigrant youth a chance to express themselves through art.

In an artist’s statement from Bernardi, she explained how her work inspires the paintings she creates.

Art installation "Gunna" from the "Identidad y Libertad" exhibit by Fanel Reyes. Ceramic sculpture hand-burnished with quartz stone.

“For the last 15 years I have collaborated with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in investigations of violations of human rights. … My artwork is profoundly influenced by these experiences,” Bernardi wrote. “Not only in the narrative aspect of the piece but, most importantly, in the conceptual realm of finding images through the searching of layers of colored dust.”

Ortega, who will be sharing how his understanding of identity plays into his work at Friday’s artist talks, described his art as a way to bend meaning and warp time in place, with the ultimate goal of increasing understanding of cultural diversity.

“As a Chicano artist, my identity, cultural traditions and geographic background are integral in my art,” Ortega wrote in his statement for the exhibit. “For numerous artists and myself, these experiences, our cultural hybridity, becomes a foundation in our artwork. Addressing the distinctions between the worlds we experience or ways that they combine them to form a new outlook of our identity.”

Silva said the community mural at Stepping Stones was created with the intention of making the art accessible, and for the community, not just in the community.

“There’s a quote by Diego Rivera that a painting in a gallery is for a proletariat and then a mural is for the people. … That also has a ton of weight to it, right?” Silva said. “Ultimately how do you take a piece that’s out in the community like this, done as intentionally as you can within the space that it’s gonna be in, but then bring it to an art talk, a conversation, an art gallery in a way that informs and educates, and brings access to that work.”

Embrey, who is not a part of the Latino community, said she identifies with the work from growing up in a Protestant household and being told she wasn’t Irish since her family wasn’t Catholic.

Artwork from the "Identidad y Libertad" exhibit by José Luis Lopez. “Las Tias del Pueblo" Linocut on cotton paper

“I can relate to it from that standpoint. I think it’s different for a lot of reasons … but I do relate to it. That identity thing is interesting. I have a nephew who is gay and what that process looked like for him to identify, or being afraid to identify, or the persecution that comes with it,” Embrey said. “I think the show has application to a lot of people if they will just take it in.”

“Identidad y Libertad” will run through June 25, and beginning this weekend the R2 Gallery will host visitors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, as well. Embrey emphasized that all written information in the gallery will be in both English and Spanish, and that the gallery is making the move in that direction to be more inclusive for its visitors.

“Being able to define who you are and being someone that’s multicultural, I don’t think that the conversation necessarily funnels into a ‘this is what it is’ or ‘this is what your identity looks like;’ it means something different for every single person,” Porras said.

Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

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