“OURS” gallery opening celebrates Femme artists of color

Kenna Ruis

Gallery-goers shook off umbrellas as they arrived for “OURS,” an art show highlighting women and femme artists of color. The exhibit features many Occidental students’ work including pieces by Irene Lam (senior)*, AB Choi (senior), Elizabeth Wu (senior), Rosie Yasukochi (junior), and Olivia Davis (senior)**. Local artists, Kiara Walls and Krystel Beltran (TELA) were also featured. The rain did not deter visitors from coming to the start of the of the two-week exhibit at The Situation Room on Norwalk Ave, Los Angeles. A small building tucked behind a house just a few blocks from Occidental’s campus, the space looked as if it may have been a detached garage in a past life. From 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, Occidental students and community members rushed in from the downpour to greet the artists and view their paintings, drawings and collages.

Occidental sophomore, Janeth Aparicio, curated “OURS” in addition to featuring two of pieces in the exhibit. Aparicio spearheaded organizing the exhibit because she wanted to see a show that specifically focused on women and femme artists of color. She conveyed her frustration, discussing how white critics oftentimes dominate spaces intended for people of color, in the process silencing their voices and devaluing their artistic potential.

“I just really wanted to create a space to celebrate femmes of color, have fun and give us an opportunity that we normally wouldn’t have in traditional art spaces, which are majority white spaces,” Aparicio said.

The art of “OURS” varies in both style and medium. Brightly-hued paintings, drawings, collages, digital and graphic prints cover on the walls. An intricate, purple garden scene hung between two surrealist paintings of dark-skinned figures against pink-cloud filled skies and a pen-and-ink sketch of a young couple kissing. A vibrant portrait of a young woman in a hot pink hoodie with flowers in her hair, a whimsical image of another young woman with dark, flowing hair surrounded by butterflies and a double sided-collage covered the opposite side of the room. A red box painted with flowers and a piece of decoupaged and painted found wood shared another wall.

The artists bring together their unique perspectives and expressive approaches to create a single, diverse exhibit.

“OURS” displays how each artist’s work is inspired by their cultural background and individual identity. This is the first exhibit in a series of shows Aparico plans to curate, as part of a project titled “Que Lastima.”

In her artist statement for the exhibit’s brochure, Yasukochi explained how her art is influenced by her identity as a yonsei (fourth generation) Japanese American muitracial woman of color.

“Much of what [I] create is in response to [my] own experiences with the generational division of cultural practice and knowledge,” Yasukochi in her artist profile.

A few days before the opening, several of the featured artists gathered to transform the unassuming gallery into their exhibit. The artists swapped framing tips as they worked to hang their pieces. Some suggested checking thrift stores for cool, less expensive frames, as they helped one another perfect the placement of each painting. The installation process took a couple of hours during which drills buzzed, hammers thudded, levels were repeatedly consulted as the artists displayed their work. When it was done the artists looked around at the results of their efforts. They had claimed The Situation Room as “OURS”.

Lam, one of the featured artists, appreciated the student initiative that was put into creating this exhibit.

“I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be part of something so DIY and non-institutionalized,” Lam said.

“OURS” will be on display Feb.10 – 24 at The Situation Room, 2313 Norwalk Ave. The gallery is open to the public 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday – Sunday, and by appointment.

*Irene Lam is an illustrator for the Occidental Weekly.

** Olivia Davis as opinions writer for the Occidental Weekly

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