2021 Envision Award Recipient: Nayda Collazo-Llorens

Our warmest congratulations to Michi­gan-based Puerto Rican artist Nayda Collazo-Llorens for this important recognition. [I am a big fan of her work!]

As a Michi­gan-based artist whose many projects and exhi­bi­tions were either post­poned or can­celled dur­ing COVID, Nayda Col­lazo-Llorens was thrilled to find out in August 2020 that she was one of five final­ists who would be part of a Stamps Gallery exhi­bi­tion, Envi­sion: The Michi­gan Artist Ini­tia­tive.

The exhi­bi­tion, sup­ported by the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, is designed to cre­ate a plat­form for emerg­ing and mid-career con­tem­po­rary artists who live and work in the state. Col­lazo-Llorens has spent the past 11 years in Kala­ma­zoo, Michi­gan and has been named the recip­i­ent of the inau­gural Envi­sion Artist Ini­tia­tive award, a $5,000 cash prize.

Sri­moyee Mitra, direc­tor of the Stamps Gallery, explains that the goal of Envi­sion is to ​“rec­og­nize the power and cal­iber of artists liv­ing and work­ing in Michi­gan.” The five final­ists were cho­sen from 259 entries. Each of them had the oppor­tu­nity to cre­ate a new work with $2,000 in seed fund­ing and get vir­tual feed­back along the way from Mitra and her col­leagues: Joseph Rohrer (Exhi­bi­tion Coor­di­na­tor and Prepara­tor) and Jen­nifer Junker­meier-Khan (Out­reach and Pub­lic Engage­ment Coordinator).

The Envi­sion exhi­bi­tion is on view at Stamps Gallery (201 S. Divi­sion St., Ann Arbor) through Jan­u­ary 22, 2022. The hope, Mitra said, is that the expe­ri­ence will help to bol­ster the artists’ work by allow­ing them a wider audi­ence and greater vis­i­bil­ity. It’s chal­leng­ing to be an artist under any cir­cum­stances but the past sev­eral months where artist exhi­bi­tions have been closed due to COVID have been ​“excep­tional.” She explains that another intent of the exhibit is to ​“inspire the next gen­er­a­tion of artists” to con­tinue cre­at­ing work while remain­ing in Michigan. 

Col­lazo-Llorens said she was drawn to the com­pe­ti­tion not only because of the fund­ing, but because of the chance to work with Stamps staff and have new work exhib­ited in a group exhi­bi­tion. Artists often are siloed in their own stu­dios, so it helped to receive feed­back from the gallery staff through­out the cre­ative process.

“Even though it was all vir­tual, it was still a way to con­nect,” she said. They also pro­vided infor­ma­tion about the phys­i­cal space of the gallery ​“which was really impor­tant in order to design the instal­la­tion for that site.” The project pro­vided an invalu­able way for her to chan­nel her cre­ative expres­sion dur­ing COVID. Learn­ing she was a final­ist dur­ing the shut­down gave her a push ​“and pro­vided focus.”

Her win­ning work, enti­tled Rup­tur­ing, though not directly related to COVID, touches on the failed sys­tems that impact our lives. It’s a three-chan­nel ani­mated video instal­la­tion that came from draw­ings that she had been work­ing on through­out COVID. These draw­ings and the work that fol­lowed ​“became my way of cop­ing with the sit­u­a­tion,” she said. She uses mate­ri­als like text, images and maps to explore how infor­ma­tion is per­ceived and processed.

In order to explore what the process of rup­tur­ing looked like, Col­lazo-Llorens said she needed move­ment, and that led to ani­ma­tion. Three 10.5 feet wide screens float from the ceil­ing and the work is pro­jected onto them. One of the draw­ings is rup­tur­ing and col­laps­ing ​“and all of these pieces of the draw­ing start flow­ing around the room,” she said. Her work refers to the frac­tured sys­tems that are rup­tur­ing: eco­nomic, social, polit­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal, among others.

She explains that you can’t see the entire work at once. She wants those view­ing the exhibit to have to move around and ​“make sense of all the visual noise” that sur­rounds them. She added that though rup­tur­ing tends to have a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion, it can be part of a pos­i­tive trans­for­ma­tion – some­thing that’s nec­es­sary ​“in order to get to a bet­ter place.”

Mitra said the clar­ity of Col­lazo-Llorens’ idea ​“and her metic­u­lous exe­cu­tion of her vision really made her work stand out.” She said the work tran­scended the bound­aries of one medium, start­ing from draw­ings and mov­ing to ani­ma­tion, while incor­po­rat­ing audio and sound com­po­si­tion – offer­ing an immer­sive expe­ri­ence ​“where peo­ple can stand in the mid­dle or walk around each of the screens, mak­ing them feel like they are part of the installation.”

The jurors said that her work offers ​“fresh per­spec­tives of con­tem­po­rary art in the age of hyper­con­nec­tiv­ity and iso­la­tion,” pro­vid­ing a ​“mes­mer­iz­ing three-chan­nel” video that ​“explores urgent themes of col­lapse, dis­rup­tion as well as art’s trans­for­ma­tional potential.” [. . .]

Col­lazo-Llorens’ inter­est in map­ping, which is a focus of her work, relates to hav­ing to nav­i­gate spaces in her per­sonal life, being part of the Puerto Rican dias­pora in between spaces – between Span­ish and Eng­lish and the Island and the Main­land. There’s a frag­men­ta­tion that comes with try­ing to be grounded in mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent spaces, she explained. ​“All of that is def­i­nitely present in my work.”

Col­lazo-Llorens feels for­tu­nate to be the recip­i­ent of an award that she believes will go far towards sup­port­ing Michi­gan artists. Fund­ing the pro­duc­tion of a work as well as pro­vid­ing an exhi­bi­tion space and sup­port from the Stamps gallery team, ​“is a great oppor­tu­nity,” she said. 

The next Envi­sion exhi­bi­tion will take place in 2023, with a call for sub­mis­sions to acti­vate the ini­tia­tive in spring 2022. As the inau­gural win­ner, Col­lazo-Llorens is eager to see ​“how the ini­tia­tive con­tin­ues to develop in the future.”

For full article, see https://stamps.umich.edu/news/2021-envision-award-recipient-nayda-collazo-llorens

[Photo above courtesy of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan.]

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