How does our relationship to a geographic place feed into the concept of our identity? Grappling with this question, the New York Art Residency & Studios (NARS) Foundation is delighted to present a group exhibitionUnearthing Roots, Foraging Self, curated by Margaret Flanagan and including work by José Arenas, Pia Coronel, Kyoung eun Kang, Viviane Rombaldi Seppey, and Kara J. Schmidt. New York City is distinctive in that it is home to over eight million people, comprised largely of “immigrants,” those who have moved here, who bring with them their own historical groundwork. This personal history is the foundation of their identity, and while they become New Yorkers through location, their roots are embedded in the land from which they have come.
The artists in this exhibition utilize different processes and materials to explore the effect of place on identity.José Arenas spent his childhood split between Northern California and Guadalajara, Mexico, grappling with the history and influences of these two worlds. Arenas contemplates his dual identities by combining cultural symbols, abstract forms, and decorative patterns in paint to create a space that is both narrative and open to viewer response and interpretation. Pia Coronel pushes photography into the third dimension by stripping away layers and returning to nature through the incorporation of found wood. Her return to nature is a search for identity in a world of solitude and separation as we drift further and further from our “original selves.” Kyoung eun Kang studies human encounters and personal relationships in order to comprehend her own identity and the boundaries of familial relationships. Over several months, she forged an intimate relationship with a couple in their seventies through a series of encounters which included sharing a meal, exchanging stories, and taking part the simple acts of daily life. These close encounters are elegantly chronicled in short segments, slowly building a narrative of the lives of two people who have built a life through their shared experience of space.Viviane Rombaldi Seppey’s work is informed by her nomadic lifestyle, exploring the cultures and places from her position as an “outsider.” Maps and phonebooks, both essentially informed by a geographic area, are manipulated reflections on her personal sense of place in these differing societies and to reconcile that sense with her identity. Kara J. Schmidt examines the cartography of physical and virtual spaces related to her personal history. Utilizing Google Maps, Schmidt slowly eradicates and flattens the geographic spaces where she once lived and studied, allowing the viewer to understand this abstract space in a different way. Through myriad methods, each artist has unearthed their own path of remembrance as they traverse the terrain of NYC.