As the name may suggest, the “Arrivals” exhibition centers on immigrant’s arrival and settlement in the United States of America. The exhibition, displayed at the Katonah Museum in Katonah, New York, started on October 3rd of 2021 and will be available for viewing through January 23rd.
The works of the artists span over five centuries, from the arrival of Columbus to today’s immigration scene. Each contributes to the notion of heritage and cultural identity through their own unique, aesthetic lenses. Colonization, slavery, alienation and hope can all be found in this overwhelmingly honest exhibition; expect no sugarcoated fairytale, but rather an emotional glimpse at what myriads of immigrants have gone through in order to enter and assimilate in the so-called “New World.”
Among the many artworks at “Arrivals,” you can expect to find photography, oil paintings, sculpture, collages and other art media. The “2 ships passing in the night, or i take my soul with me everywhere i go, thank you” (2014) piece by Vanessa German features two Black girls standing on a red skateboard, sporting ships on their heads, garbage, seashells and other miscellaneous objects on their clothes. An homage to Black heritage, and Black womanhood in particular, German emphasizes the inescapable history that Black girls carry with them wherever they may go with her sculpted, multimedia assemblage artwork.
Another noteworthy yet completely different art piece is Norman Akers’ “Alien Conquest” (2014). An interesting collage and painting mélange in a seemingly absurdist and pop style makes this a very difficult piece for viewers to avert their eyes away from. This lithograph piece presents a yellow stylized map of America ornate with sporadic graffiti serving as the background, with a red illustration of a native American in the center, and coins and US presidents hovering about in spacecrafts in the foreground. Bizarre as it may first appear, this art piece is an explicit commentary on colonization, ironically alienating the country’s infamous founders as opposed to the “alien” immigrants we speak of today.
Although all the art works at the “Arrivals” exhibit warrant praise and recognition, this last piece stands out for its abstract expressionist style. Painted on canvas, Osvaldo Louis Gugliemi’s 1939 “Refugees” painting shifts the focus from colonialism to more recent immigration of the past generations from the 1900s in search of the American dream. Portraying displacement, loneliness and poverty on the faces of three foreign characters standing by themselves on New York’s Canal Street, the artist conveys the grim reality which many of today’s Americans’ grandparents faced upon their arrival in the country.
Don’t miss out on this intimate exhibit featuring over fifty different artists. Differing in style, history and heritage, each artist shares their story at “Arrivals” and invites viewers to enrich their connection with this country’s roots by learning about others’ pasts and sharing their own journeys of national identity. Additionally, the exhibit provides an illustrated catalog with essays by Dr. Erika Lee, Regents Professor of History and Asian American Studies and Director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Christina Knight, Assistant Professor of Visual Studies and Director of the Visual Studies Program at Haverford College, and “Arrivals” curator Heather Ewing. Finally, in order to translate such complex themes for the younger audience, the Museum’s Learning Center exhibition Picture Our Journey, features original children’s picture book art sharing universal stories of immigration from around the world.