BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Like its centerpiece sculpture, a bent wire ladder, the Jackson Heights art exhibit “Bone Razed” took its form from tension.
Curated by Kevin Marin of the artists’ collective neoCreos and displaying work from seven native New Yorker artists, “Bone Razed” offered gentrification and displacement as its primary themes. By balancing the icons, aesthetics and emotions of those themes against one another, the artists explored the myriad, sometimes contradictory experiences of growing up in a shifting socioeconomic space such as Jackson Heights.
hhCoatl’s 2012 piece “OJ” exemplified this exploration. The sculpture features two jars, one labeled Goya, representing a staple for many New York Hispanic communities’ cuisines, and the other transformed to read Yoga, representing a typical feature of gentrified neighborhoods and incoming businesses.
“I think that’s what all the pieces share, this want to elaborate and highlight certain features of urban life that stand out within the context of displacement,” Marin said. “[The main idea is] how artists who were raised here, sort of the irony of being priced out of your own hometown.”
He added that the title “Bone Razed” itself points to this irony by juxtaposing the word “raised” against its homophone and opposite, “razed.”
Artist Melissa Misla said she grew up in Elmhurst, and until the recent sprouting of development in the area, felt that Queens was a “safe zone” she could afford to stay in.
“It’s just hard as a New Yorker, sometimes I feel like I’m getting kicked out a little bit,” Misla said. “I think it’s important as artists to be aware of that.”
She pointed to one of her works, a series of thumbnail photographs depicting seemingly banal household objects that are in fact charged with meaning for the Puerto Rican community that she comes from.
“This pot means a lot to a lot of people,” Misla said. “These things are sort of insignificant, but yet they have so much power.”
“I hope that anyone who comes in or is taking any sort of consideration on changes in this neighborhood, recognizes its importance, and what we have, and doesn’t exploit that,” she continued.
For the artists in “Bone Razed,” the act of holding an exhibit – drawing a crowd, generating buzz – creates another element of tension for the show. Marin said he worried about being complicit in the process of gentrification, which he negotiated in part by putting on the show inside one of Jackson Heights’ established local businesses – the A&M Project Space on Roosevelt Avenue.
“I wanted to deal with a responsible way to invest in the neighborhood, without displacing,” Marin said. “I think the show reflects the area and the area reflects the show.”
To learn more about “Bone Razed” and the artists who participated, visit the neoCreos website at www.neocreos.com.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.