Artist statement: As a woman of color navigating predominantly white spaces throughout my life, I have struggled to reconcile myself with the narrow and often Eurocentric beauty standards perpetuated by mainstream media, art, and social interactions. This weight of unattainable beauty ideals is felt acutely by women of color, who are too often left out of the conversation altogether.
As an artist, I find solace and inspiration in the beauty of the impressionist paintings in the Clark, yet there is a conspicuous absence of diversity in the portraits on display. In response, I have endeavored to redefine the notion of “objective beauty” by creating a series of paintings including myself and four close friends who are also women of color.
I am aware that the experiences of women of color in predominantly white institutions are varied and complex, and I am not seeking to speak on behalf of anyone else. Rather, I aim to celebrate the unique beauty and individuality of my friends and how our connections have deepened these past four years as we have learned to navigate this space. Through my art, I hope to broaden the scope of representation, and show my appreciation towards those who have shown me that beauty must also exist beyond the physical.
Objective Beauty, 2023
Oil on Canvas
Artist statement: A star burns out but can be observed for many more years because of the time light travels to get to us. What does it mean for an image to live, die, and still be reflected in a new pair of eyes, transformed by its reception? Lucy, one of the first skeletons related to a human to be found was given a name and marveled at, but all she did was live and die. Most people do at least that. Still, most people also struggle to imbue such intense meaning and value to people attempting to survive within the present with that same marvel. We all wish to be an artifact of time and leave a legacy, but there is powerlessness within this pursuit. What should we hope for and how do we learn when to accept defeat?
Well-Loved (Feel Free to Take a Seat), 2023
Recycled wood, mostly recycled metal, woodburning, and acrylic paint
Artist statement: Rachel Cruz’s studio work traverses her intersectional lived experience to explore how identity can be a subject of confusion and, for Cruz, a fixation. In a world that celebrates categories, Cruz has trouble viewing her positionality as a cohesive and stable whole, since her sense of heritage, sexuality, and belonging finds root in distant and fluid memories. Her work absorbs and distills her experience of cyclical introspection, where layered mesh evokes nostalgia and internal sites of contradiction and reconciliation.
Don’t sink!, 2023
Wire, safety pins, insect netting, stainless steel screen
Close your eyes and look back. What do you see? What is lost? Search, but don’t sink!
The Closer I Am, 2023
Insect netting, stainless steel screen, reflective paper, hot-melt adhesive
Frame by frame and between mesh planes, a dot orbits an X. The gradated sequence evokes anticipation and documents a dissolving sense of closeness.
Artist statement: This installation is a collection of works centered on places that have provided me an environment to think and be curious without obstruction. These are places where I can unload and simply appreciate the many natural structures in my surroundings. The forms that these pieces take vary and hold different associations to me and to their very materials. For example, the small quilts incorporate fabric from my Nonna (Silvana Bertolozzi), and their flexibility and durability echoes the landscapes they depict. The brown, grainy paintings are made with Green River sediment—as would be the case if it was still flowing downstream, the sediment was difficult to control. With time and practice, I learned to appreciate this characteristic. The suspended woven landscape, neatly finished on the front, flows out of the back in an explosion of colors: an embrace of a mess.
Some of the pieces on this wall are final products of long experimental processes. Others, as you can find, are those little bits of progress along the way. Sketches and quilt maps led to paintings and textile works. Showing my creative process for what it is—essentially visual journaling—has allowed me to share my experience as an artist in a way that feels representative of who I am: someone who is learning to embrace so-called imperfection and appreciate the joy of physical work and the time spent in reflection, wonder, and creation.
Charcoal, colored pencil, fabric, glass beads, gouache, Green River sediment, matte medium, paper, pencil, tape, thread, & yarn
Cell , 2023
Multimedia on Wood
Two Lines, Intersecting, 2023
Multimedia on Canvas
Artist statement:Based heavily in concepts of maternal legacy and the weight of heritage, this work serves as an attempt to understand and reconcile the clash between tradition and modernity, as well as their respective influences on the stifling expectations of Ethiopian women throughout the diaspora.
Influenced by traditional Ethiopian visual aesthetics, as well as contemporary art such as Ethiopian jazz, CANARY CRY is a call to the outside which implores its viewer to not simply be voyeuristic towards the figures in front of them, but asks them to also see each character for the unique individuals they are. Through the exaggeration and warping of bodies, the interactions between the 14 women depicted create a sense of claustrophobia and connection which illuminates that, although they may seem wholly confined, they are able to redefine their identities within tight boundaries and among their relationships with each other.
Like the canary that warns of danger while still trapped in its cage, these women are the warning bells which signal the coming of an inevitable societal breaking point created by the erasure of the significance of their stories and experiences. CANARY CRY embraces the passage of time and conflict through vibrant colors and expressive characters, firmly recognizing the importance of Ethiopian maternal legacy in face of the chaos of life.
Canary Cry, 2023
Acrylic on canvas
Burnt Faces, 2023
Acrylic on canvas
Oil on canvas
Oil on paper
Oil on paper
Artist statement: As dementia has degraded the memory of my grandmother, I worry that the image of her overcome by disease will become the primary way I see her, supplanting my childhood memories of her. My senior collection, Gone Now, explores the means in which people can hold onto images, remembered and recorded, and what, in turn, those images can hold. Video and digital photography offer a means to record reality; however, the recorded reality that digital media offers is often an illusion, a construction of perception.
The camera records not only what’s in front of its lens but also what the person behind the lens wants to see. To counteract this, Gone Now begins with the visible and moves through abstraction to what cannot be seen but nevertheless affects how we see. Like memory, videos are speculative: both tend towards fictionalizing events, or one’s identification with a documented event. Video encourages a warped perception of the real, precisely because it purports to record what actually was there, captured by an impartial lens. My work attempts to overcome the speculative qualities of digital media by moving away from real images into realms of abstraction that might, paradoxically, offer more authentic perceptions of what’s recorded.
Images of my grandmother will be the only thing that remains when her body succumbs to disease and eventually turns into ash. Gone Now searches for a way to give those images a body, a presence beyond the speculative. Through this search, Gone Now tries to understand the loss of a person who raised me in the digital age authentically and sincerely.
For Sale: Child’s Kimono, Never Worn, 2023
Shibori-dyed, Hand-sewn Kimono
Video and Photogrammetry Model
Video and Photogrammetry Models
智恵子のため、みねこのため (For Chieko, For Mineko), 2023
Video; translation by Riku Nakano
That’s Our Lamp Karaoke Video, 2023
Charcoal on paper
Artist statement: Cootie catchers, or fortune tellers, (a common homemade children’s toy) open and close and then unfold. Putting your fingers in the pockets, their centers form a point which allows the two halves to move back and forth in tension. I’ve been feeling and thinking about literal distance from a loved one. And what it means for one thing to be two, or two things one.
Working in iterations from the cootie catcher shape, these sculptures give form to absurdity, desire, connection, and distance. They hold space and displace space, and each is an object and a process to consider. Additionally, with time, qualities of gender, the home, labor, and having an inside have surfaced.
1, 2, 3 or Freckles, or Window, or Do You Have Any Cavities?, 2023
Paper, ink, tape
Canvas, acrylic paint, hugged paper, plywood
The Kiss, 2023
Canvas, acrylic paint
Canvas, acrylic paint
Canvas, acrylic paint
Artist statement: This work is the third and final iteration of investigating how dollhouses can act as structures that hold both the personal and impersonal, with regard to memory and material experience. This piece asks how/if materials and photographs can convey narrative and layered experiences, while it also displays how domestic spaces are sites of conflicting truths.
I’m interested in how the dollhouse, stripped away of all color and texture, can force the viewer to look deeply into the narratives that each collage offers. By combining found photographs, egg yolk, glue and ink, my hope is to weave together an experience that combines the unsettled with the generative in ways that make for complicated readings of the images. As we add our own intrusiveness to the original photographer’s voyeurism, I want to push us to examine our responses. We can’t help but try to find a plotline, figure out a story. What do we learn about ourselves when we peek into someone else’s mess, and what stories do we walk away with?
A Stranger Case, 2023
India ink, egg yolk, eggshells, collected photographs, collected materials, newsprint, cardboard, plywood, wood glue, acrylic medium, white semi-gloss paint, LED light bulbs
Artist statement: The genesis of this work was a desire to create a textile plane with an overwhelming sense of horizontal extension as a means of celebrating the seam, the inconspicuous bond that unites two fragments into one material body. The entirety of this work is sewn by hand, totalling to 350 feet of hand-sewn seams, or approximately the length of an American football field. The front of this tapestry is made entirely of linen that is woven on 19th century looms in an artisan textile house in Mallorca, an island where I have spent a quarter of each year of my life for the past decade; the backing is made from locally sourced cotton that I hand dyed with food waste from establishments in Williamstown. As I grappled to bridge the gap between two villages tucked into mountain ranges on opposite sides of the ocean, I became interested in the in-between, the liminal, the illusory nature of a boundary or a destination.
In envisioning this work, I wanted to know how we understand the relationship between change and constancy. Is there a true difference between the two? I attempted to expose the cross section of a transformational state through the repetition of the stitch, a gesture that achieves material metamorphosis through uniform repetition. The adolescent psyche is cradled in a celebration of uncertainty that moves in a frantic yet glorious dance towards the chimerical revelation of self. Embedded in this choreography of chaos there is a light that orchestrates the tides of loss and rebirth in perfect rhythm; there is a faint glow that christens the spirit with sublimity of the now.
Ambidextrous Present, 2023
Hand-dyed linen, thread, wooden dowel
Artist statement: I am acutely aware with each day that passes of my impending departure from Williams. While I look forward to the next stages of my life, I dread the day that I will have to leave the place and people I have made my home for the last four years. These books are a testament to my love for this place and these people, the images pulled from a visual diary I have kept as the days dwindled. To give the words room to breathe I expanded them to small books, bound in a skin of embroidery. Embroidery is one of the most time consuming art forms, eating away hours for mere inches of progress. The precious time I invested to hold these images reveals my commitment to them. This care manifests in these two books, memorializing the ways in which I care for this place and community.
Love Letters, 2023
Gouache paintings bound in embroidered linen
Artist statement: This series of paintings features self portraits of the artist in the present day accompanied by herself at younger ages. The settings transcend time, incorporating places and items from both her youth and the current moment. These portraits are meant to be humorous and somewhat absurd in subject matter, while also nostalgic. When looking forward to what is to come in a time of transition, the artist found solace in simultaneously looking back at moments from the past. Using a wash-like technique with hints of color, the images invoke the missing information in memory. In considering the future, the artist is striving to stay in touch with the freedom and play of childhood.
A Memory for Today, 2023
Oil on canvas