Finding My Folk, curated by independent curator Krista Scenna at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn, features work by seven contemporary immigrant artists whose practices embrace the folkloric in their own traditions, rituals, and customs by blending elements of their past, memories of “home,” their present, and future. The notion of Folklore underscores the show, how it is often so seamlessly embedded in daily lives that people may tend to overlook it—myths, dances, rhymes, toasts, jokes, holidays, and festivals are all essential characteristics of a community—ranging from the family unit, to a nation, to the global population. The show is on view through April 9, 2023 with a closing event on Monday, April 10th from 6:30pm – 8:00pm.
What is the genesis of the show?
I had actually curated this exhibition for an organization that was looking to support immigrant artists on the tail end of the pandemic. I had just started reconnecting with my artist network little by little—getting back into studio visits, following projects and exhibitions again on social media—and identified the recurring presence of folklore (revised rituals, ancestral customs, etc.) in my conversations with several immigrant artists I was speaking to at the time. I never heard back about that opportunity, but I was so thrilled when, months later, the Old Stone House invited me to curate an exhibition for their 2023 season. I ran the idea past them, and they also deemed the concept an excellent fit for their historic space with its own storied past (and a present deeply enmeshed in the everyday rituals of their vibrant community). In my mind, Finding My Folk was meant to be shown here.
Please guide us through the show.
Once you enter the Great Room which is the main exhibition space you can see Blanka Amezkua’s papel picado installation hanging from an overhead beam just as it would appear (above one’s head) on the streets of Mexico or as celebratory decor for a festive holiday or family event. You can also see Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow’s chiffon curtain of a dreamy, adolescent girl on a swing in front of the windows overlooking the Old Stone House park and playground.
Here we have (from left to right) Ai Campbell’s Seamless Moments tondo referencing the Zen Buddhist philosophy of past, present and future existing as one continual moment: now; one of artist Carl Hazlewood’s mixed-media marvels invoking the Caribbean lore of the wily Anansi spider as a proxy for the artist himself and Angelica Bergamini’s Manahatta sculptural collages: an homage to her long-time home and its native stewards, the Lenape (who originally called the land of the Old Stone House home).
I really adore this textured, textile-informed pairing of Jody MacDonald’s The Bearded Lady: a zany yet meticulous storefront-meets-classical monument showcasing this undersung female archetype throughout history and Damali Abrams’ triumphant interior landscape created with fabric, leather and glitter and paper during the lockdown in 2020.
I thought I’d end with another wide-frame installation shot showcasing how several of the works converse with each other in the space. I paired Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow’s drawing of a Jamaican Junkanoo reveler wandering through a leafy patch of Governor’s Island with Carl Hazlewood’s Green Amazonia. Jodie’s spirited and evocative drawings depict popular figures from the Jamaican tradition of Junkanoo (a costume parade initiated by enslaved Jamaicans that continues today during the Christmas holiday). I have her other three drawings parade through the hallway alongside another papel picado installation by Blanka Amezkua.
All photos by: Etienne Frossard.
Ai Campbell (Japan),
Angelica Bergamini (Italy)
Blanka Amezkua (Mexico)
Carl Hazlewood (Guyana)
Damali Abrams (Guyana)
Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow (Jamaica)
Jody MacDonald (Canada)
About The Curator: Krista Scenna is a Jamaican born independent curator and gallery owner based in Brooklyn, NY. She connects emerging and midcareer artists to new art buyers and audiences through exhibitions and commissions. She earned her BA in Art History and Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania and her MA in Interdisciplinary Contemporary Art from the XE: Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement program at New York University.
About the Gallery: The Old Stone House & Washington Park is dedicated to preserving and teaching local and national history as it has impacted our historically significant Brooklyn neighborhood. The organization also serves as the conservancy organization for JJ Byrne Playground and Washington Park. The Old Stone House building is a reconstruction of the 1699 Vechte-Cortelyou House on land taken from the Lenape as early as 1639.
This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.