Painting Brooklyn Stories of Immigration & Survival
The exhibition Painting Brooklyn Stories of
Immigration and Survival tells the stories of diverse individuals who
have immigrated to Brooklyn. The people featured in the exhibition
share their personal narratives that highlight the process of creating a
new home in a new land and how they’ve incorporated their cultural
traditions into their New York lives. Their stories speak of hope and
despair, embrace and discrimination. The exhibition will be open at
the Brooklyn Historical Society from Sept. 17, 2010 –extended to Aug. 14, 2011.
Curated by Nina Talbot, painter, in collaboration with Rachel
Bernstein, public historian at New York University, the exhibit
presents striking stories of Brooklyn residents through paintings, oral
histories, poetry and personal effects. These different modes of
expression offer multiple perspectives on this complex issue.
Visitors to the exhibit meet a range of people, including an Iranian
Jew with a jewelry shop in Newkirk Plaza; a Tuskegee Airman originally from the Caribbean whose mother worked as a servant for a family on Rugby Road; a phlebotomist from
Dhaka, Bangladesh who lives in Midwood; a writer from Haiti with violent memories of the tonton macoute, now
living peacefully in East Flatbush; a musician from Park Slope whose 96 year old mother remembers arriving in
New York from Hangzhou, China in 1938; a Pakistani Muslim woman living in West Midwood; and a woman who
survived the Mauthausen concentration camp now living in Borough Park.
Artist Nina Talbot painted portraits of the storytellers for the exhibition. The paintings portray life in vivid colors, and trace the international routes of some of the people who now live in Brooklyn. Talbot depicts the Brooklynites
as they are today, with the backgrounds and borders of the portraits containing images from the subject’s past experiences.
Talbot has come to know many people in her own neighborhood in the process of creating these portraits: “Each morning I exchange a glance with the grocer, or share a smile with the barber. Their visages hint at their past and their present. These paintings provide a map to what is beyond everyday faces, and tells the stories of what these faces have seen.”
The exhibition features audio from oral history interviews with individuals in the paintings. Poet Esther Cohen has written poems based on the individual narratives that inspired the paintings. These elements, combined with photos, student interpretations, and objects add depth to the lessons these individual lives can teach about struggle, survival, success and heroism.
In conjunction with the exhibition Professor Bernstein and Nina Talbot will run a family workshop Sunday, November 14th in which participants will conduct focused interviews to elicit stories from each other and create mixed media artwork based on the stories.
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 16. 5:30 - 7:30 pm.
Exhibit dates: Sept. 17, 2010 – extended to Aug. 14, 2011
About the exhibition series: Public Perspectives provides a creative forum for Brooklynites to have an active
voice at the Brooklyn Historical Society by presenting community-curated exhibits selected from our open call for
exhibition proposals. The awardees collaborate with BHS staff to develop and mount their exhibitions. Public Perspectives is made possible through the generous support of the Lily Auchincloss Foundation and FHL Bank,
with additional support provided by the Kress Foundation and HBO.
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