AnkhLave Arts Alliance in the Gallery

On the Inside Looking Out by the 2020 AnkhLave Garden Project Fellows

On view in the Visitor & Administration Building

January 22 through April 4

The annual AnkhLave Garden Project is a fellowship where six Queens-based Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) artists create installations in a natural community space as an alternative studio and exhibition space. For the 2nd annual Fellowship, six female artists of color with immigration journeys to the US had the unique challenge of creating and displaying their work in a natural environment. This resulted in a public art show that ran through summer 2020. Now, months later, they come together again, displaying relics from the initial exhibit along with new and continued explorations that are in conversation with the original public works.

To learn about the initial outdoor exhibit click here.

This exhibit is made possible by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council.

Artist Statement

Today, many artists and spectators are used to viewing artwork in a white-walled space with limited sensory, environmental input. Although, seeing art in a white vacuum is a useful method for experiencing art, many nations have creators who traditionally and currently present their work in ways that are woven into everyday life and culture. This can be seen in the male initiation ritual masks created and worn for centuries in masquerade performances in Papua New Guinea, as well as in the figurehead sculptures crowning the front of boats for annual races that still take place today in Nigeria.  For the 2nd Annual AnkhLave Garden Project Fellowship, six Queens based, female artists of color with immigration journeys to the US had the unique challenge of creating and displaying their work in a natural environment.  This resulted in a public art show that ran through summer 2020. Now, months later, they come together again, displaying relics from the initial exhibit along with new and continued explorations that are in conversation with the original public works.

Though human made objects can serve many purposes in the contemporary art realm, there is a sense of wonder that an audience member can experience, exploring a natural space and discovering a work of art, with the senses activated. Summer 2020 was the time of lockdown, but as the city began to open up and people developed the courage to venture outdoors again, they found themselves embracing what they had been missing. Spectators had the opportunity to smell the flowers near Agarie-Gomez’s “Rosie” piece adjacent to the rose garden.  They could feel the texture of tree bark from the crabapple tree cradling Tonini-Vilas Boas’s painting “Marielle Franco Presente!”.  Others may have felt the sensation of warm sunlight on their skin, lying underneath Andre’s “Rainbow Squared.”  This exhibit was a rare opportunity to witness the ephemerality of Bravo-Barbee’s “Femicide Florals”, which weathered and visually transformed throughout the summer months within the green backdrop of its surroundings. Audience members could hear the sound of water flowing every so often from the water system that Shido oriented her “Dry Garden” piece next to.  There was also the opportunity to feel a sense of childlike wonder, exploring the stomping grounds of the children’s summer camp area and discovering Sloan Stoddard’s “Rabbit’s Storytelling Throne.”  Now, after having returning to their personal studios, they’ve had time to reflect on the experience and present work, embodying the evolution their work has taken on since their public art was erected.

The AnkhLave Garden Project isn’t only concerned with showing art by contemporary BIPOC, but also to expand the contemporary art conversation to include alternative methods and spaces for artists to create and present work in.  The Queens Botanical Garden is an ideal location for the AnkhLave Garden Project, as it is situated in a neighborhood predominantly populated by BIPOC.  Because BIPOC in the U.S. are on average less likely to visit a museum than their European counterparts, we hope to inspire a more inclusive landscape that will continue to bring diverse voices into the conversation by bringing contemporary art to their neighborhoods and communities, as well as encouraging them to see BIPOC in museums and gallery spaces.

The annual AnkhLave Garden Project is a fellowship where six Queens-based Black, Indigenous and People of Color (Artists) create installations in a natural community space as an alternative studio and exhibition space.  Despite Covid-19 restrictions, our 2020 AnkhLave Garden Project was our most successful show yet, being featured in NYC GO, Timeout, Art in New York City, The Daily Sun, AM NY, Queens Daily Eagle, among others with a review from New York Latin Culture Magazine, and a shout out from the MoMA PS1.  This show became one of the only exhibitions available to the public through quarantine. In order to bring it to an even wider audience, we produced the documentary titled “Artists Unmasked,” featuring candid interviews about the six AnkhLave Garden Project Fellows’ quarantine experiences, installation footage, and artist talks following its completion.  This AnkhLave Arts Alliance, Inc. Produced documentary ended up making it into the Quarantine Films category in this year’s Astoria Film Festival.

Meet the Artists

Asano Agarie Gomez

Asano Agarie Gomez creates a rose garden which mimics nature while using artificial materials and bright colors in order to investigate the concept of “otherness” in relation to the garden environment. The juxtaposition between her use of the artificial and the garden environment highlights both the differences and commonality between the natural environment and the human creative experience.

Asano Agarie Gomez is a Japanese born artist based in Queens. She creates large mixed media sculptural paintings using fabric, pigment, sewing, painting and drawing. She has exhibited her work in galleries including Chelsea, Lower East Side, Long Island City, Brooklyn, Long Island and Tokyo, Japan. She is a recipient of Therese Ralston McCabe Connor Awards NY, 2016, LIC-A residency program, NY, 2018. Agarie Gomez holds a BA from Lehman College, and MFA from City College of New York.

WATCH to learn more about Asano and her work.

Follow her on Instagram: @asano.a.g 

Cecilia André
“Blossom” and “Rainbow Squared”

In Cecilia André’s work, incidental sun light traverses color transparencies projecting shadows on to the ground. Patches of color intensify or fade depending on the sun’s intensity. Participants can bathe in colored light and transform themselves under it. André is inspired by the transcendence of stained glass and the versatility of assemblage. Hand stitching brings these traditions together and evokes the realm of feminine expressions of the past.

Cecilia André is a Brazilian artist residing in NYC for 28 years, coming from a family of Lebanese immigrants to Brazil. She has a BFA and a BAE from FAAP in São Paulo. In the US, she has studied at the New York Studio School, Pratt Institute, and School of Visual Arts. She has had solo exhibitions at Gallery OneTwentyEight in the Lower East Side, Plaxall Gallery in Long Island City, and Bellas Artes Gallery in St. Louis, MO. She has participated in four editions of the NYC Figment Arts Festival on Governors Island with outdoor installations and made numerous outdoor pieces for two residency programs in Brazil: Instituto Baia dos Vermelhos and Artfarmproject.

WATCH to learn more about André and her work.

Follow her on Instagram: @cicaandre

Natali Bravo-Barbee
“Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)”

Natali Bravo-Barbee’s project “Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)” examines gender-based violence against women in Argentina.

In 2019, the rate of women murdered based on their gender was
one murder every 27 hours. “Flores de Femicidio” investigates and documents the rising numbers of femicides occurring in Argentina during the entire year of 2019. Each cyanotype flower represents a specific victim of femicide, who is memorialized with a label that honors each woman by her name. At QBG, Bravo-Barbee creates a large cyanotype paper flower surrounded by smaller cyanotype ferns, and tags with information honoring the many women that have met violent endings at the hands of a loved one.

Natali Sabina Bravo-Barbee was born in Córdoba, Argentina and creates works at the boundary of photography and sculpture. She has been photographing her world since the age of fifteen, incorporating alternative processes such as cyanotype into her practice. The artist’s practice uncovers lived memories of her family’s flight from Argentina while simultaneously investigating post-colonial and feminist topics. Natali holds an MFA from City College, CUNY and a BA, Studio Art from Hunter College, CUNY. She lives and works in Queens, New York and is on the committee of the Southeast Queens Artist Alliance (SEQAA).


WATCH to learn more about Natali and her work.
Follow her on Instagram: @barbee_bravo

Kayo Shido
“Dry Garden”

Inspired by a Japanese Dry Garden, the space is installed with sculptural rocks made of abstract paintings on Mylar and a large painting along the skylight railing creating a backdrop for the Green Roof plantings. Mylar, a drafting film, is durable enough to shape into three dimensional form to be exhibited outdoors.

Kayo Shigo was born in Hyogo, Japan. Upon graduating from Saga Art College in Kyoto, she came to New York to study painting at Art Student League, New York Studio School and School of Visual Arts. She is actively creating abstract paintings, murals, installations, The Iceland Project – drawing and collage with landscape photographs of Iceland, and exhibiting her work in New York. Her work has been exhibited at Govenor’s Island, Walter Wickiser Gallery, One Art Space, Site:Brooklyn, 440 Gallery, Plaxall Gallery, Tenri Gallery, Denise Bibro Gallery, WAH Center and St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York and Dab Art in LA.

WATCH to learn more about Kayo and her work.

Follow her on Instagram: @kayoshidoart

Christine Sloan Stoddard
“Rabbit’s Storytelling Throne”

“Rabbit’s Storytelling Throne” is a fanciful installation that celebrates storytelling and the place rabbits hold in folk traditions around the world. Made largely from recycled and salvaged materials, the piece pays homage to QBG’s landfill history.

Christine Sloan Stoddard is a Salvadoran-American author, artist, and film/theatre-maker. She is the founder of Quail Bell Press
& Productions, which most recently published Her Plumage, an anthology of women’s writings, and is currently working on an anthology of contemporary Black writing. Above all, Christine loves telling stories, through imaginings often merged across media. Most of her work is fictional, parafictional, dramatic, and poetic. Her single author books include Heaven is a Photograph, Naomi & The Reckoning, Desert Fox by the Sea, Belladonna Magic, Water for the Cactus Woman, and other titles. She is a Visible Poetry Project filmmaker, Table Work Press award-winning playwright, and Puffin Foundation emerging artist. She was the first-ever artist- in-residence at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House in Manhattan and Brooklyn Public Library-Eastern Parkway Branch.

WATCH to learn more about Christine and her work.

Follow her on Instagram: @artistchristinestoddard

Mariana T. Vilas Boas
“Marielle Franco Presente!”

This portrait of Marielle Franco is an homage to her life and work. Marielle was murdered on March 14th, 2018 while returning from a speech. She was a politician, a feminist, and human rights activist fighting against police brutality in Brazil. Her murderers were never found. Mixing her portrait with that of the crabapple trees it is a way to say “Marielle presente!”

Mariana Tonini Vilas Boas is a digital and traditional artist from Curitiba, Brazil working and residing in Queens. She has a BA in Graphic Design by the University of Paraná in Brazil and currently is part of the Art Education masters program at City College of New York. Mariana is an anthropologist by heart, she is fascinated by human nature and she seeks to understand and look for extraordinary human beings. She focuses her work on producing portraits of people of interest.

WATCH to learn more about Mariana and her work.

Follow her on Instagram: @mari.artovibo

Video Credits 🎥:
AnkhLave Arts Alliance, Inc. Production, a Dario Mohr, LLC film @dario_mohr with post production by Matthew Ecclesiastre

To learn more about Queens Botanical Garden’s Art in the Garden, click here.