The Quinlan Visual Arts Center opened its newest exhibit Thursday night, which features 25 artists from 12 different Latin American countries. The “Something To Declare” exhibit was inspired by a conversation between Carlos Solis, the exhibit’s curator and one of its artists, and Quinlan Visual Arts Center executive director Nairika Cornett.
“I did a kind of quick preliminary look,” Cornett said. “‘Are we representing our community in the art that we have displayed here?’ And the answer, unfortunately, was no. We didn't have very many artists with diversity. So I started looking at Latin American groups.”
The “Something To Declare” exhibit ties together the experiences that immigrants face when arriving in a new country. It has 85 pieces in a wide array of styles and mediums, ranging from oil paintings to needlework.
“When you come to a foreign land, you do have to prove yourself, you do have to work to fit in,” Cornett said. “And those are wonderful things, those are not necessarily awful things [but they] are difficult.”
The exhibit was sponsored by Camille Viera Services, who helped promote the event. Cornett said the company is Latin-inspired, and Camille Viera helped promote the reception and bridge the language gap. The reception had food and beverages, along with a live Flamenco guitarist and an Aztec Americana dance group.
Several artists came to the reception to discuss their work. Cornett said the artists’ stories are one of the most compelling aspects of an exhibit reception.
“People get moved, especially because the artists are here,” Cornett said. “So it's truly wonderful to talk to them. You get time with them one-on-one, they're wonderful people.”
Some of the artists have had their artwork featured in Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, which Cornett said is an honor for the Quinlan Center.
“It's a big deal,” Cornett said. “Simply because the artists, through our work, have researched us and obviously think enough of us to send us what the High would have. That's not at all to belittle the Quinlan or the community. Really this is a testament to how wonderful Gainesville is and how it is now being really recognized for the arts.”
Solis’ art is also featured in the exhibit. The Venezualen artist has a surrealist style, which Cornett said is popular with young adults.
“That part of surrealism is the vision of a dream,” Cornett said. “And then [the artist] leaves you to make your story with what's on the canvas. And it's fascinating. Kids and young adults tend to love surrealism because it’s not bound by anything real. It doesn't have to make sense. And it just kind of allows you to kind of delve really deep into your thoughts and make something of the piece in front of you.”
Cornett has also been drawn to Morgan Lugo’s work, who is a sculptor with roots from Puerto Rico and Sicily. As Cornett prepared the exhibit and passed by Lugo’s sculptures, she said she noticed something different every time.
“I know people say this about sculptures because the 3D pieces never look the same from any angle, but in her case you really don't know what to expect,” Cornett said. “If you're coming upon the piece the first time, you think you see something. Then you come closer, and you can go to the right or to the left, and it completely morphs and changes.”
Preparing an art exhibit can be an intense process. Cornett said that although the Quinlan Visual Arts Center receives information prior to the event, she and other employees need the physical pieces to determine the exhibit’s layout.
Then they must disassemble the old exhibit, spackle and re-paint the walls and set the new show. Cornett said the process is like a jigsaw puzzle, and she and other employees work long hours in the three days leading up to the exhibit. However, she said it is a fulfilling process.
“It is so rewarding, because it's a complete transformation of the facility,” Cornett said.
With “Something to Declare,” Cornett and the artists hope to inspire Gainesville’s Latin American and Hispanic community – particularly children.
Cornett said a young girl came to the Quinlan Visual Arts Center’s “Contrapunto” exhibit in December, and the girl was surprised to see a painting of a Hispanic girl with curly hair. She asked Cornett if the artist used a live model, and was thrilled with the answer.
“She said, ‘Wow, [the artist] would pick somebody like this to sit for her,’” Cornett said. “And I said, ‘Of course she would.’ And immediately, she took a photo with it. We don't realize it until you see that happen in front of you. So it's never intentional. But it just brings, even to me, an awareness that we probably need to do more to represent all the communities. Even with the size of our town, we really are a diverse area.”
The Quinlan Visual Arts Center will display “Something To Declare” until Aug. 6. A full list of the participating artists can be found below. Click the above photo gallery to work by several of the artists.
- Jorge Arcos (Mexico)
- Luis Ardila (Colombia)
- Gaby Silva Bavio (Argentina)
- Angela Bortone (Dominican Republic)
- Yehimi Cambron (Mexico)
- Pablo Caviedes (Ecuador)
- Merisa Cerbán (Uruguay)
- Franck de las Mercedes (Nicaragua)
- Franklin Delgado (Honduras)
- Alex “Fdez” Fernandez (USA/Dominican Republic)
- Pedro Fuertes (Peru)
- Catalina Gómez-Beuth (Columbia)
- Maria Lairet (Venezuela)
- Dóra Lopez (Peru)
- Morgan Lugo (Sicily/Puerto Rico)
- Alexis Mendoza (Cuba)
- Lisette Morel (Dominican Republic)
- Jesús Nodarse (Cuba)
- Rigo Peralta (Dominican Republic)
- Paula Reynaldi (Argentina)
- Carolina Rojas (Venezuela)
- Maria Lucia Sarmiento (Colombia)
- Carlos Solis (Venezuela)
- Melvin Toledo (Nicaragua)
- Alexi Torres (Cuba)