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Queens Chronicle

Boro-Wide Project Draws Local Artists Together

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Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2007 12:00 am

This fall, a new project is bringing Queens artists together in exhibitions taking place at galleries throughout the borough.

Project Diversity Queens, sponsored by Queens Council on the Arts, has placed the works of 87 artists at 13 different locations from Long Island City to Rockaway Beach. Gallery openings have been staggered throughout the months of September and October. Some of the exhibitions run into November.

The idea for the project originated in a neighborhing borough. Danny Simmons of the Rush Foundation began Project Diversity Brooklyn in 2005. It brought together over 200 artists, and their work was exhibited at 16 galleries throughout Brooklyn.

Now, QCA is hoping to bring that success to Queens. Arts Services Director Elise Raz said the project will hopefully “ignite some kind of movement and dynamics within the borough.” Although Queens is host to a number of art galleries, it is rare for so many to collaborate on such a large-scale project.

Raz said a seven-member curatorial committee whittled the work of over 400 applicants — who together submitted about 1,000 pieces of artwork — down to 200 works by 87 artists. Their work was then divided thematically among 13 participating Queens galleries.

The work runs the gamut of artistic expression, with submissions in a variety of media addressing an even wider range of topics.

Some of the participating galleries have clearly defined themes, while others have grouped artwork together based on more loosely defined similarities.

At the World Culture Opencenter at Koreavillage in Flushing, the theme is “Melting Pot.” According to promotional literature from the gallery, the work of the exhibition’s 10 participating artists “relates to the multiculturalism and pluralism of the various ethnic and cultural enclaves of the borough of Queens and New York City at large.”

Hector Canonge’s “Idolatries” addresses representations in the Hispanic community in particular. His piece is comprised of various Hispanic food products arranged on pedestals underneath a television screen. Each of the products features a different stereotypical woman, from nurturing mother to seductress.

The viewer is invited to participate directly by using a scanner to scan the products’ barcodes. Each scan triggers an accompanying film clip, which plays on the television screen above.

Canonge personally selected each film clip, all from the Golden Age of Hispanic cinema, to correspond with the specific image on the food product.

“Idolatries” is meant to call into question traditional characterizations of female archetypes, particularly those found on mass-marketed items. Canonge said scanning the products and triggering the accompanying film clips opens up a process of decoding the representations found on the labels of common food products.

The Astoria artist said PDQ “is already bringing the attention that the borough needs in terms of art venues.” He also likes the idea of having exhibitions with interrelating themes at different galleries.

The ‘Melting Pot’ exhibition will be open until Oct. 7.

While some exhibitions are just about closing, others have just recently opened. Anita Ragusa is exhibiting five of her paintings, all featuring “ladies in lavish environments,” at Art About Us in Jamaica. The five paintings comprise one body of work.

The gallery’s full PDQ exhibition, featuring six artists all together, is called “People Like Us.” Art About Us celebrated the exhibition’s opening on Sept. 28.

Ragusa, who is from Astoria but works at a gallery in Manhattan, said the Queens project has been very exciting.

“There are things that happen (separately) in Queens,” she said, “but nothing like this.” She hopes the project will bring more exposure to artists in the borough.

Deborah Straussman, Ragusa’s friend and fellow Astoria artist, is exhibiting her work at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. The “Picturing You” exhibition opened on Oct. 1. Straussman’s work includes three photographs from different series featuring friends and family and pictures taken at aquariums.

Straussman works at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. Of PDQ, she said “it seemed like a really good way to tap into the arts scene in Queens, meet some people in the borough.”

The exhibition, she added, has kept her trekking to other neighborhoods throughout the borough. She said it would be great if the project helped to foster the community and different arts venues.

This is the first year of PDQ. The borough’s 13 participating galleries (and their exhibition dates) are listed on the Queens Council on the Arts Web site at www.queenscouncilarts.org.

Welcome to the discussion.