Lesley MFA Semester Work

June 2022 - January 2023

Throughout history, visual iterations of marginalized people have often been met with a colonial gaze. In a white-centric art world, this is amplified. These faces fall unnoticed, being used as props in a historical archive. The use of found footage in my work attempts to reclaim this gaze and change the ongoing narrative.

In Ni Aquí Ni Allá, nostalgia and memory are explored within the context of the Puerto Rican diaspora. The images act as a catalyst to link the spaces where my ancestors resided; the archipelago of Puerto Rico, and the borough of The Bronx. This work exists to facilitate bonds across geographical locations and different generations. The interactions between each image try to solve a longing for home that many people across the diaspora face.

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A lo largo de la historia, las iteraciones visuales de personas marginadas a menudo se han encontrado con una mirada colonial. En un mundo del arte centrado en los blancos, esto se amplifica. Estos rostros pasan desapercibidos, ya que se utilizan como accesorios en un archivo histórico. Mi uso de videos encontrados funciona para reclamar esta mirada y cambiar la narrativa con la que nos hemos encontrado.

En Ni Aquí Ni Allá, la nostalgia y la memoria se exploran en el contexto de la diáspora puertorriqueña. La imaginería actúa como un catalizador para vincular los espacios donde residen mis antepasados; el archipiélago de Puerto Rico y el municipio de El Bronx. Este trabajo existe para facilitar lazos entre ubicaciones geográficas y diferentes generaciones. Las interacciones entre cada imagen intentan resolver un anhelo de hogar que enfrentan muchas personas en la diáspora.









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January 2022 - June 2022

My work explores nostalgia and memory within the lens of the Puerto Rican diaspora. The imagery I use attempts to link the spaces that my ancestors have resided in; both the archipelago of Puerto Rico and the borough of The Bronx. By combining found imagery, my family's personal archive, and my photography, I am facilitating bonds across geographical locations and different generations. The interaction between the images themselves tries to solve a longing for home that many people across the diaspora face:

ni de aquí, ni de allá.

(neither here nor there.)

The repurposing of different imagery is my way of working to change the visual iterations of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the contemporary landscape. I want to break the colonial gaze that marginalized people have been met with throughout history and by controlling the narrative, I can bring these faces to the forefront of a white-centric art world. My work always strives to be prudent, educate the community, and carve out a space for marginalized people to safely exist.

      








pictured below: inspiration for different installatios of the video piece


  


inspiration images:

pictured left: greyscale banner collage, 54x36; imagined to be hung vertically, filling the space like a flag

pictured right: “The Blue of Distance”, Cyanotypes on Silk, ~ 48x108in each, 2018 by Elise Rasmussen





El Sentimento, Las Flores, y Los Manos, Digital Collage, 2022)





playlist of youtube videos soured for the final piece:




Artists Looked At:
Tim Davis
Latoya Ruby Fraizer
Larry Sultan
Eduardo L. Rivera
Carmen Winant
Deena Lawson
Jamel Shabazz
Nikita Gale
Tyler Mitchell
Gordon Parks
Farah Al Qasimi
Lauren Noelle Oliver
Giancarlo Montes Santangelo
Justine Kurland
Lyle Ashton Harris
Dionne Lee
Alanna Fields
Perla de Leon
Hiram Maristany
Genesis Báez
Jessy Li
Kimowan Metechewais
John Lehr
Dannielle Bowman
Tomashi Jackson
Black Archives (Renata Cherlise)
Veteranas and Rucas (Guadalupe Rosales)
Nuyorican Mag (Ali Rosa-Salas and Gabriella Torres)
Nuevayorkinos (Djalii Brown Cepeda)
Archivos del Caribe
Bronx Narratives



Lesley MFA Semester Work
June 2021 - January 2022

My work as an artist centers on nostalgia and memory within the lens of the Puerto Rican diaspora. The archival imagery I use exists to link the culture of those living on the archipelago, with those who migrated to The Bronx, where I was born and raised. By using photography as my primary medium, I can facilitate bonds across different generations and geographical locations. The repurposing of both my family’s archive, as well as found imagery in my work attempts to change the visual iterations of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the contemporary art landscape. I want to break the colonial gaze that marginalized people have been met with throughout history and by controlling the narrative, I can bring these faces into a white-centric art world. My work always strives to educate the community, and carve out a space for marginalized people to safely exist.








options for large collage, currently sized at 24x60





found imagery for inspiration; used NYPL Digital Collection + Centro for Puerto Rican studies digital archive
(photos shown here are not my own)



Lesley MFA Semester Work
Jan 2021 - June 2021

After moving to Puerto Rico in June of 2019, I have found myself battling feelings of homesickness, while trying to adjust to a new environment after being born and raised in The Bronx. The American Psychological Association describes homesickness as “a feeling of intense sadness and losing cause by absence from one’s home or native land. See also nostalgia.” I was constantly thinking back to the little things that were familiar to me, like a local bodega, or a hair salon - places that I’d enter without thinking twice. I began to crave the recognizable nostalgia for a familiar environment. As new memories are created, old ones begin to fade, and I begin to enter a liminal space, where NYC is no longer my home, but Puerto Rico doesn’t fully feel like my new one. Instead, I find myself partially stuck in the past, re-living memories and moments that I would have considered trivial otherwise.

With these thoughts weighing on my spirit, I recognize I am a child of the diaspora. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents left Puerto Rico for New York City to start a new life. But how did they feel when they left? Were they lonely? Were they struck with sadness when they didn’t recognize the world around them? Maybe they too felt the same nostalgia and homesickness that I feel. In Spanish, homesickness can be translated as la morriña, which can also be likened to feelings of melancholia. However, I feel more of a connection to the Spanish translation of the word, as that’s what my own family would have described it as, in their native tongue.

This semester, both in my studio and academic work, I have been focusing on the idea of the archive, more specifically building my own. I have been using photography to create an archive from scratch, as I’m documenting the world around me in Puerto Rico. I have made an effort not to include people in the photographs as I’ve done in the past when photographing in New York City. I am still drawn to empty spaces, conjuring up the feelings of both alienation and intimacy. As with my previous work, it’s also important to me that I document my new environment with care. Although this is my homeland per se, I was not born and raised here and didn’t experience the same hardships many Puerto Ricans faced growing up on the island. With that in mind, I am not trying to claim an existence that isn’t mine, but rather work through reconnecting with my ancestors and finding peace in that experience.

I have also started working with a pre-existing archive, my paternal grandmothers’ photographs, which has consisted of collecting and scanning over 400 images. Many of these images have writings or notes on the back which I believe is important to preserve. Being that these are my grandmothers’ photos, I am grappling with the fact that although they are my relatives, not every person is familiar to me. Is it important to the work that I know each family member personally? Or rather that they exist in my memory merely from these images and with that, I assign them a new identity.

By combining both of these archives, I am sifting through my feelings of loneliness and nostalgia. I’m finding myself longing for the past after delving into the archive, and through creating images, am trying to recreate snippets of what they might have seen in their own lives. For example, a shadow, a decaying tree, even a sidewalk - all of these things might sound mundane but in reality, they are key, as in some of the everyday things that one might