A new exhibit at the Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos trains its lens on motherhood, sexuality, immigration and race through the eyes of seven Bronx women of color.
Through a Feminine Lens opened at the gallery on June 27, featuring photographs and photo-based artworks. Juanita Lanzo, the exhibit’s co-curator and director at the gallery since 2008, arranged the exhibit to help the public understand how women see those themes intersecting.
“Being a woman, being a woman working as a photographer, being a woman of color working as a photographer and touching upon religion, spirituality and immigration which is all relatable to today’s politics,” Lanzo said. “It’s also the identity of being an American, being the child of an immigrant, second or third generation and exploring how you define that, especially when you’re a woman of color.”
The artists participating in the exhibit are Gloria Zapata, Adeline Lulo, Melanie Gonzalez, Lisa DuBois, Christa David, Maria Estevez and Ijeoma D. Iheancho.
Zapata’s work addresses themes of self-acceptance and empowerment, with images of Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights and female athletics. Through a Feminine Lens marks the first time Zapata’s work has been displayed in an exhibit.
“I had someone just tell me that ‘your pictures say a lot to me and it makes me proud of who I am and where I come from’,” she said. “That’s what I like to hear and to remind people don’t forget who you are and who you are is important.”
One of Zapata’s images shows the back of a shirtless woman, a white ribbon surrounded by smaller colored ribbons, painted on her back. The image is in black and white but the ribbons are saturated with color.
Another of the artists, Lulo, says she has been an avid photographer her whole life. She uses her work to show daily life in the Dominican Republican, her ancestral home, photographing life on the island to help her reconnect with a place she has visited frequently, and to which she maintains an attachment.
“Growing up, I realized there were a lot of differences between my life in New York and my life in DR. I did many different things over there, I would play made-up games and the light would go out and we would make songs about it,” Lulo said. “When I would come to New York I just realized how different things were, like the way we lived or how the homes looked or how we had a lot more over here than we did over there.”
In one of Lulo’s photos, a young black boy in a yellow-collared shirt stands holding red flowers on a sidewalk while staring directly at the camera on a cloudy day, while people behind him board a bus.
Although the pieces on display explore a wide variety of issues, the binding theme is the need for more representation of women’s work in the visual arts. One of the artists, Ijeoma D. Iheancho said that that problem is being gradually addressed, and the exhibit at Longwood Gallery is part of that trend.
“It feels amazing to see how diverse the exhibition is and I feel so proud to be standing side-by-side with these women on a wall,” Iheancho said. “We don’t get enough of this, so I’m always happy to join, come and see.”
The Longwood Gallery of the Arts is located on the Hostos Community College campus at 450 Grand Concourse. Through a Feminine Lens will run through August 8. Admission to the gallery is free. The gallery is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m., and Wednesdays from 1-8 p.m.
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