Young artist and activist Yelaine Rodriguez, 24, is presenting the second in a series of exhibits that connect artists from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In the wake of new tensions on their shared island, Ms. Rodriguez launches this work on the strength of the ability of our common experiences as human beings to overcome perceived differences. La Lucha II brings together 28 established and emerging artists in what promises to be a provocative exhibition.
La Lucha II Dom & HTI: Visions of Tomorrow, One Island is on view at Andrew Freedman Home, 1125 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York from October 9th through November 6th, 2015. The opening reception is on October 9th, from 6pm to 9pm.
Here are 10 Questions for Yelaine Rodriguez:
Laura James | How did the idea for the La Lucha exhibition series originate?
Yelaine Rodriguez | I came up with the idea for these exhibits as a result of being born in NY from Dominican parents and feeling that I was missing part of a story that made my existence. I wanted to get the education I didn’t receive about both sides of the island, because you cannot tell one story without the other. As an artist myself, I thought what better way than through art to understand the story? And through this journey I found exceptionally amazing artist that were willing to tell me their stories and share their spaces with me.
©Pepe Coronado 2015, U.S./D.R. In Relationship Laser cut, mechanical arm, 30″ x 84″ x 2″
LJ | How did you assemble this list of artists?
YR | I wanted artists that were working on the idea of travels and immigration. I felt that all of these artists held the vision of a better tomorrow; they were creating their work in the space they wanted to be. Most of the artists were recommended by other artists that I already knew.
©Rejin Leys, 2015, Departures Mixed media drawing, 30″ x 22″
LJ | What was it like working with such a large group of artists?
YR | It was a challenge; I would find myself in Dobbs Ferry and then all the way down in Brooklyn in one day doing studio visits! However, it was a pleasure, because not everyone is willing to open the doors of their homes to people. The conversations and the stories shared will never leave me.
LJ | Can you talk briefly about a few pieces in the show that stand out to you?
YR | Leslie Jimenez’s piece Let’s talk hair/ Our Hair Speaks Volumes. Her mother was a hairstylist and so is my mother, and I can completely understand that culture of “Good Hair”, and trying to aspire to have “white looking hair.” Her carved/painted doors commenting on this issue is very strong.
©Leslie Jimenez, Let’s talk hair/ Our Hair Speaks Volumes | Sketch for a Performance in Haiti Acrylic paint on hand carved wooden windows, 13.25″ x 41.75″
In Hearts Adrift Ezequiel Taveras created a Yola that is tipped over with all these ceramic hearts falling out. I often wonder about those people that never made it through.
©Ezequiel Taverasm, 2013, Hearts Adrift Ceramic, various sizes (6′ x 15′)
Sasha Huber’s video, Haïti Chérie, is very visually stunning, set in this mass space covered in snow, with just her figure creating these snow angels for the lost children in Haiti. I was very moved by the piece, and that is essentially what I look for in a piece or artwork. There are of course many others that stand out.
©Sasha Huber 2010-2011, Haïti Chérie Video 6:10 min, music by Oliver Blank
LJ | What was the response to La Lucha Part I?
YR | The last exhibit received a lot of support from the community and it also brought many heated discussions. There were people protesting the first night simply because they couldn’t accept that Dominican and Haitian artists were in the same space; however the majority was very positive.
LJ | Where you surprised by the response?
YR | I was, I wasn’t expecting protesters but I was also not expecting over 400 people to appear in support during the opening night! It showed how much the space was needed to share stories.
©Scherezade Garcia, 2015, In the garden of the dictators/en el jardin de los caudillos A work in progress, mixed media collage/drawing, 22″ x 30″
LJ | Is there any significance to you in presenting this exhibition in the Bronx?
YR | It is very important personally for me to show this exhibit in the Bronx, because I am a Bronx native, and I always strive to bring what I’ve learned to the community as a form of giving back.
LJ | What would you like people to take away from the exhibition?
YR | I hope they can see how beautiful our culture is and how strong we are together; how talented each individual is and the talent that can come out.
LJ | What are some of the other programs planned for the duration of the exhibition?
YR | There will be an artist’s talk, and I am planning to bring a play and musical performance.
©Francks Francois Deceus 2015, Gathering #4 Acrylic on canvas, 24″x30″
LJ | Tell us a little about your background, and how would you describe yourself?
YR | I was born in the Bronx from Dominican immigrants. I am the baby of four children who happen to be all artists too! As a high school student I won a scholarship that allowed me to take classes at Parsons, the New School for Design, in the Parsons Scholar program. They really prepared me for the future and I am honored to teach there now and give back to students that are in the position I was in before. I went on to Parsons as a college student and majored in Fashion Design. During my stay there I studied abroad at Parsons Paris, and Central St. Martins College in London. After graduation I went to Chavon in the DR to get to know the school, and I loved it! I started connecting with artists there and planned ways to bring the project La Lucha here to NY.
I would describe myself as an optimist – most of the time I do not have the resources I need to create these projects, but I always manage to get things done.