The Painted Bride Art Center, along with Acción Colombia, is co-presenting the exhibition “Papeles” through October 21. The show deals with documents and signatures in terms of immigration, citizenship, national identity and our shared humanity.
Acción Colombia’s mission is to promote leadership and empower the Latino community in and around the tri-state area:Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Promotion of the arts and culture is their primary vehicle for achieving these goals in Philadelphia as well as abroad in Colombia. The volunteers at Acción Colombia are dedicated to participating civic and leadership opportunities for Latinos all year round, and this show is one such example.
Jonas dos Santos leads visitors into the gallery space with a long, black carpet lined with white fingerprints. The rug runner leads up to an alcove in the back wall where a painting of similar images takes the spotlight, only black on white. Santos believes that these symbols are, in many ways, a perfect analogy for our shared humanity and a global consciousness. Fingerprints are unique to every person on the planet, regardless of background, race or gender. This serves to highlight our many differences but also our shared relationships, experiences and ultimately our freedom and individuality.
Similarly, artist Paula Meninato examines the means by which all of us create: our hands. The double image hints at the fact that human hands can be used for great good, but also great evil. Hands are a symbol of work and of creation since our opposable thumbs and grasping abilities have allowed humans to write, start fires and build great structures. They are the first line of greeting new and old friends in many cultures through handshakes or gestures, and they represent our shared evolutionary past as well as the records of our historical future. The large charcoal drawing is detailed but also very primal, running the gamut of representation.
A mixed media installation by Lina Cedeño and Pedro Ospina, hangs over the entire show. It is part kite and part razor wire, placing it solidly between the realms of liberation and imprisonment. The title “Displaced” gives some idea as to where the artists’ minds were when they constructed the work. A dark silhouette of a person floats ominously on the central kite. Although the figure seems to float, it also seems weighty, and the kite seems hindered or caught in the wire. This is clearly a portrait of an immigrant or refugee who in some ways straddles the line between freedom and captivity in his or her flight. With the supposed “illegal” status of many Latino Americans called into question through contemporary politics, discussing the plight of these individuals is more relevant than ever.
Overall, “Papeles” is a show that stretches the borders of national identity and urges viewers to examine the complicated issues of race, immigration and identity. From the ubiquitous form of the human hand to the displacement of native populations and beyond, Painted Bride and Acción Colombia team up for a thought-provoking and powerful collaboration.
The Painted Bride Art Center is located at 230 Vine St., Philadelphia; firstname.lastname@example.org; paintedbride.org.