Catherine Abrams

I came to Astoria, Queens from Greece some years ago. The community was very welcoming and supportive and it was easier for me to assimilate and adjust to my new home. Astoria has kept a distinct Greek culture with Greek stops, Greek restaurants, a Greek School, a Greek church even a Greek newspaper and a radio station. I had the opportunity to become friendly with other immigrants from Middle East and eventually realize we all had the "migrant' experience embedded in our psyche. My "Refugee Series" is an effort to revisit and express visually harrowing migration events in ten 36x24 canvases (Bombardment, Exodus, At the Tent, Embarkment, Shipwreck, Saved, At Lesvos, At the Tracks, In The Storm, New Home). The cultural make-up of Queens allows me to move forward with a new life but also be able to look back and re-examine my roots.

 

Symin Adive

Inspired by high-horizon, miniature style paintings cultivated in Southeast Asia between 15th-18th centuries, this exhibition of illustrations and writing entitled "Bari: Know Your Place" explores the hierarchies of family, class, race, gender, belief, sexuality and power through grounded contemporary scenes in the life of a young immigrant as they grow to understand their place. Bari,” which means home in Bangla, examines one’s role when untethered to the standard ties of family and community. It's ultimately about the difficulty in creating connections out in the world without ever having made those connections at home. In this project, I use the story telling devices employed in these extravagant illustrations patronized by the most powerful people in South Asian history to share significantly less grandiose stories of modern life, specifically my life. For many immigrant artists, their work is a tribute extolling their cultural and familial roots. Those stories are both important and overdue. But for this project I wanted to draw on my personal experience and not gloss over the realities of my upbringing and the cultural attitudes that broke the ties between my roots and I. While this is a more complicated collection with intentions to explicitly touch on the very things that's normally kept hidden in the South Asian community, this is still overall a celebratory piece that tracks my own empowerment. Seven years ago, I decided to move to Jackson Heights, a neighborhood where I can walk 5 blocks and buy the "Potato Crackers" chips that I devoured as a kid in Bangladesh. Every year since I've moved here has been better than the last. The neighborhood has brought me a lot of peace and I've been able to connect with South Asians in NYC in a way that I've never been able to with my own family and others I'd met elsewhere. I've been able to reach a state of contentment by working through my past that has allowed me to wholeheartedly embrace my culture in the present.

 

Monique Allain

I am an interdisciplinary artist, a foreigner everywhere, born in São Paulo from French & Mexican parents, with a brother living in Switzerland, a sister in Portugal, and two children in Australia and US. I moved to NY in March 2018. Roots and ties are spread in all these places. I live and create in search of my place and peers, wishing to inhabit, to establish bonds. Artworks are experimental and procedural. Through them, I investigate identity and its dynamic relation with space, time and otherness. Videos, photos and paintings are used to create installations, interventions and performances. I explore mixtures of medias to expand undefined zones of transition and obtain situations of encounter and exchange, in which a present continuous time can be experienced. Intolerance and violence are results of fear of the unknown. We tend to fight against difference. What would be a monochrome world? If everything just had similar flavors and sounds? Diversity is richness. When I moved to NY and discovered Queens, I felt a belonging sensation. This borough is an oasis that embraces people from everywhere, a fascinating multicultural place where the explosion of smells, sounds and colors fills our senses and the flow of life pulses intensely. GROUNDS videos correspond to alive photo IDs of specific space & time situations. Each location has its own chromatic and sound vibration. Stills are also indexes of them, but they flatten the passage of time to reveal it instantly. The camera is an extension of the body active. Images are traces of the event. Zoom-in lens amplifies visually the sensation of displacement, revealing an aspect of reality just possible through it. The images reveal actions of the body, not through an external look, but from the perspective of the body itself in motion. These "inverted records" of performances, are attempts to inhabit the space & time of moments experienced. The public is invited to enter into the situations lived by the artist.

 

Eirene Archolekas

As an artist of Hellenic descent, I have lived in the Astoria/Long Island City community since the late 70s (on and off). Astoria has long been known as a Greek enclave in Queens as the third wave of Greek immigration in the 1960s and 70s saw 1 in every 3 immigrants settling in Astoria. My family falls into this statistic. Dotted with tavernas, Greek bakalika or grocery stores wafting with aromas of oregano, feta cheese, and olives, Astoria/LIC has been my home away from home. As an artist and a writer my themes stem directly from my bicultural identity. I created the first site dedicated to exploring issues of biculturalism from a female perspective at www.greekamericangirl.com. My art is punctured by the nostalgia and the buried archetypes from my ancient cultural past. I find myself returning to the Greek myths and reinterpret them in my work.My photographs are flooded with images of my ancestral islands of blue and white, the Cyclades. I work in encaustics, a rediscovered ancient Greek technique that uses melted beeswax and pigment. Encaustic uses layers to create value, a method that allows for me to unearth layers of buried memory and identity. When I discovered encaustics, it felt as if I had uncovered something deep within me. For all these things, my art is inspired by my heritage. My sensibility is so much enriched by the rich cultural diversity in my borough of Queens. The commonality of the immigrant experience as a rite of passage has allowed me to connect with other immigrant groups. My home block is a vibrant example of this diversity: to the right old Sicilians that make tomato sauce in their bathtub; next a Tibetan family whose windows are illuminated by pink lotuses; to the left, a Muslim Bangladeshi whose doors bear plaques with Islamic script; next a widow from Scotland, and so on. I am blessed to live with the world on one block.