“No Ocean Between Us” (Middlebury College)

“No Ocean Between Us: Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & the Caribbean, 1945–Present” is on view at until December 11, 2022, at the Middlebury College Museum of Art (MCMA), Mahaney Center for the Arts (72 Porter Field Road, Middlebury, Vermont).

MCMA describes: “Inspired by the permanent collection of the AMA (Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States), No Ocean Between Us features approximately 70 important works by Latin American and Caribbean artists of Asian heritage. The exhibition demonstrates how this work emerged from cross-directional global dialogues between the artists, their Asian cultural heritages, their Latin American or Caribbean identities, and their interaction with major artistic movements.”

Asa Stone reviews the exhibition in “’No Ocean Between Us’ explores artistic dialogues between Asia and Latin America.” See full review in The Middlebury Campus.

[. . .] The exhibit tells the stories of Asian migrants scattering in Latin America and the Caribbean through the works of Latin American artists of Asian heritage. It touches on the various struggles and triumphs associated with belonging to two different places, cultures and ethnicities with approximately 70 pieces of paintings, sculptures, installations and mixed-media works. 

The collection greets audiences with a detailed history and map of the migration of peoples from Asian countries like China and Japan to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean such as Peru, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The exhibition is organized into sections, each dedicated to a country in the Caribbean or Latin America. Within these sections, one or more artists are featured, each with a complex story to tell. Although the media of art ranges from paintings to woodwork to collages and even videos, there is one common theme that weaves together the entire collection: contrast. 

The work of Japanese-Peruvian painter Arturo Kubotta uses contrasting colors and textures to emphasize the complexity of his two identities that came from having a Peruvian mother and a Japanese father. The contrast of colors and textures in his work tells that story.

Artist Kereina Chang Fatt captures her perspective with a piece of clothing. At first glance, it seems to be a simple white dress with red flowers. However, after closer examination, it can be seen that the bottom is frayed, almost seeming to fade away. Some of the flowers are even falling off, only hanging on by a single thread. The delicacy of the dress mirrors the delicacy of identity. This incredibly simplistic piece naturally draws the observer’s eye.

Other works in the space address the difficulties migrants in the past faced during their journeys to the Caribbean head on. Because the trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished in the Caribbean in the 1830s, plantation owners worked to draw Asian migrants to the region. They were placed into a state of indentured servitude, subjecting them to harsh working and living conditions.

One of the most vibrant pieces in the exhibit is a canvas painting by Bernadette Persaud Guyan called “Wales Sugar Estate—Latitudes of Grief” (2016–17). The bright greens, blues and purples juxtapose the dark story that the painting tells and contribute to the collection’s theme of contrast. On one side are the fields of a sugar plantation, and on the other are the faces of indentured servants fading to skeletons. The painting details the struggles of inhumane labor conditions and the generational trauma that stems from them.

[. . .] Joanne Doucette, one of the security monitors at the Museum, directed me toward her favorite pieces in the exhibit, which included the striking piece of clothing art by Chang Fatt and a piece titled “Maps 1,2,3,4.” The name of this piece remained a mystery, as the sewn fabric displayed did not depict anything resembling a map. Doucette said this is what fascinates her the most about this artwork.

[. . .] This exhibit encourages people to see through a new lens and understand not only how art influences culture, but how culture influences art.  [. . .]

For original review, see https://www.middleburycampus.com/article/2022/09/no-ocean-between-us-explores-artistic-dialogues-between-asia-and-latin-america

For more information, see https://museum.middlebury.edu/exhibitions/upcoming/node/4082

Also see previous post https://repeatingislands.com/2021/02/17/no-ocean-between-us-opens-at-san-antonio-museum-of-art

[Shown above: Wifredo Lam, “Retrato,” 1982, lithograph. © OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas. Courtesy of the IDB Art Collection.]

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