Our experiences shape who we are as individuals, and artists often draw upon their life experiences. Art transcends these different experiences to connect us. Chautauqua Visual Arts School of Art residents are using personal experiences to shape their art.
Artists-in-residence are showcasing their work in an exhibition titled “Connections I: CVA School of Art Residents Exhibition,” which opened with a reception Friday, July 1. The first showcase in the two-part exhibition is on display on the second floor of the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center now through July 18.
The Chautauqua School of Art Residency Program includes a total of 41 artists, who all have unique art styles and motivations. The exhibition features work from 21 of the 41 resident artists, and showcases links between their individual works and addresses an array of topics.
“The exhibition reveals the connections that entangle these … residents from the Chautauqua School of Art,” said Rebecca Marsh, curator of the exhibition. “Formally and symbolically, these artists examine a wide range of subjects, such as: culture, history, nature, sexuality, spirituality and visibility.”
Each artist’s work is unique to their personal backgrounds, experiences and identities, which they rely on for creative inspiration. Similarities between the pieces show that although each artist comes from a different background, they are all human.
“Artworks appear disparate, but upon further inspection, they expose individual interpretations that join us,” Marsh said. “Responding to their own time and place, these artists come together to show an incomplete glimpse of our world. ‘Connections I’ considers how each of us are enmeshed in the reciprocity of self-expression.”
The artists hail from locations all across the United States.
Markeith Woods, from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, creates paintings to illustrate how African Americans are perceived in the United States. Kym Cooper, from Greensboro, North Carolina, gives viewers a glimpse into the daily life of African American families by depicting the practice of braiding. Mariana Prado, from Reynaso, Mexico, a town situated on the border, speaks to feelings of nostalgia and desire with her work.
Prado is currently living in southern Texas. She graduated in 2021 with a BFA from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. This is her first residency and a step into the professional world of art.
“After graduating, I was in a state of limbo, wondering what my next step is and where I want to take my career as an artist,” Prado said. “A lot of artists go into academia and teaching. However, I wanted to keep creating art. I didn’t want to leave my studio practice behind.”
The residency will allow her to continue creating studio art, and for this reason, Prado is grateful to be one of the selected resident artists.
“Getting accepted here at Chautauqua was perfect timing,” Prado said. “I would definitely describe it as a gift of timing and opportunity.”
Prado’s background influences and inspires her art featured in “Connections I.” Her sculpture, “I Spy,” in the exhibition is composed of a palette of brightly colored childhood relics, like miniature toys and crafting pom-poms. It reflects Prado’s personal memories and incorporates items from her own childhood.
“A lot of my work is surrounded by this nostalgia or this childlike aspect,” Prado said. “It’s all very playful and colorful. It takes me back to my childhood and my hometown.”
Prado grew up in Mexico and moved to Texas when she was 12 years old.
“A lot of my work deals with my sense of identity and trying to figure out who I really am,” she said. “Growing up in south Texas, near the border, it always felt like I’m not Mexican enough, and I am also not American enough. I’m not from either; it’s this weird in between.”
Prado balances multiple identities, which is reflected by the different colored layers and items on her sculpture.
“In addition to nostalgia, my piece speaks to emptiness (of) filling my life with materialistic items, like a bottomless pit, like a spoiled child,” she said. “By portraying these worries, I am communicating pieces of me, pushing through a fraudulent feeling of who I really am.”
The creative community at Chautauqua has emboldened Prado’s art.
“Being surrounded by other artists, it really inspires you to keep creating,” she said. “Not everyone is open to having conversations about your roots, where you come from, and how you express that in your art.”