Fenwick Gallery: Diaspora Diction

Fenwick Gallery at George Mason University presents Diaspora Diction, an exhibition of photography from artist Adriana Monsalve. The exhibition will run from May 28 through July 26, 2019, with an opening artist’s talk and reception on May 28 at 2:00pm in Fenwick Library. This exhibition is presented as part of the Mason Libraries Artist-in-Residence pilot program.

The first artist to participate in this pilot residency, Adriana Monsalve is a Maryland-based artist and collaborative publisher working in the photobook medium. Along with Caterina Ragg, Monsalve is co-founder of Homie House Press, a radical cooperative platform that challenges the ever-changing forms of storytelling with image and text.

Diaspora Diction collects Monsalve’s photographs, photobooks, and ongoing research into identity—and illusions of identity—in the African and Latinx diaspora. The exhibition features images from Monsalve’s first photobook, Clear as Black, a deeply personal and investigative documentary of the community and stories of individuals with a rare type of albinism found in Puerto Rico. Home to a vast hybridity of people, Puerto Rico is also the capital of the world for albinism. “There are layers upon layers that make up how albinism manifests physically, inside and out,” said Monsalve. “Albinism is not just white on this island, it’s black too. There are people who have the condition of albinism, but do not display the physical characteristics commonly known of a person with albinism. They are black, white and everything in between, and they are all people with albinism.”

Diaspora Diction also includes a second, separate body of work in progress, tentatively titled Novena. Photographed during a subsequent visit to Puerto Rico, Novena follows the family of Ricardito, one of subjects of Clear as Black, in the days immediately following the death of his grandfather, the family patriarch.

During the residency at Mason, Monsalve continued her research into these questions of identity, expanding her scope to the Melungeon communities in Appalachia. “This is investigative research in the greater world of the African diaspora. There are communities world-wide, past and present whose blackness was hidden to assimilate, prosper, and ultimately to survive. There are more that simply have no idea they are connected to something other than what mainstream world refers to as ‘white-passing.’ Folks that happen to be white aren’t taught to question that whiteness when speaking about identity, so the fact that these things fall under the scope of investigation is a wild assumption. They are never questioned, and don’t inquire about the self. The continuing research of Clear As Black, moving forward, is about this buried blackness in the North American region of Appalachia.”

The Mason Libraries Artist-in-Residence program, currently in its pilot year, invites an artist to expand or develop a project through research in the libraries’ collections and dialogue with Mason students, faculty, and library staff. More information on the Mason Libraries Artist-in-Residence program is available on the Fenwick Gallery website, http://fenwickgallery.gmu.edu/residency.

Diaspora Diction will be on display in Fenwick Gallery, located in Fenwick Library on Mason’s Fairfax campus, from May 28 to July 26, 2019. The gallery is open during Library business hours; see the Library’s website at http://library.gmu.edu for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

For more information on this exhibition at Fenwick Gallery, contact Stephanie Grimm, Art and Art History Librarian, at sgrimm4@gmu.edu. For general inquiries about the University Libraries or George Mason University, contact Jessica Clark, Development and Communications Officer, at jclarkw@gmu.edu.

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