Art Gallery Displays New “Voices: Immigration” Exhibition


Curtis Salonick

“Crossing El Rio Grande,” a piece done by Sandra Fernandez, symbolizes dreamers coming over the Rio Grande River from Mexico to Texas. One of many pieces you can see displayed currently in the art gallery.

Kaila Dunn, Reporter

“Voices: Immigration” has been on display at the Pauly Friedman Art Gallery in Insalaco Hall open since Aug. 23 and will be available until Oct. 10.

The exhibit is a component of “The Voices Project,” a research initiative by Dr. Alicia Nordstrom, a Psychology professor at Misericordia University.

Dr. Lalaine Little, director of the art gallery, put together “Voices: Immigration” in less than a year which is uncommon. Generally, Little plans shows two to three years in advance, but with COVID-19, she was unsure of what the fall semester would bring.

The exhibition features six artists from all over the United States, all immigrants. Little found these artists through various ways, including cold calls, mutual contacts and conferences.

Sandra Fernàndez is originally from Ecuador, but now lives in Parlin, New Jersey. She uses a variety of techniques, such as digital print and serigraphy, silkscreen printing. One of her three works in the gallery is “Crossing El Río Grande” which speaks about the journey immigrants face coming across the border from Mexico into Texas. This specific piece is made of dry tree branches and rosaries, which are supposed to represent the flow of the river, red beads and string.

Matt Manalo is originally from the Philippines, but currently lives in Houston, Texas. His art, which tends to have an Asian influence to it, helps to discuss his experiences navigating the physical and social structures in the United States. Manalo uses various medians like zip ties, rubber bands, wool, paper, wax and transparency paper, which is supposed to resemble capiz shells. His piece “No Partaking” is an embroidery piece with “not your brown brother” sewn into it because the Philippines has been seen as a “little brother” to the United States. This piece signifies that people frim the Philippines no longer want to be seen as a little brother and want to have power.

Brian Whelan, an Irish immigrant currently living in Wilton, Connecticut, is proud of his Catholic heritage which shows in his artwork. He uses acrylic paint and acrylic varnish and foil, specifically candy wrapper, which gives his paintings a historical church feel. His painting “St. Cecelia Fine Girl You Are!” not only has an Irish look to it, but also German and Mexican ones, as well. Whelan will offer a lecture on Oct. 14 at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre.

Chantala Kommanivanh is originally from Laos where he and his family were refugees of the Secret War is Laos. He now lives in Chicago, Illinois and tends to use street art styles, like spray paint, ink, acrylic and oil paint. Kommanivanh has three of his works in the gallery, one which is titled “River Park Boy.”

Stass Shpapin is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union currently located in Philadelphia. He works to make his paintings look as though they are from a folk tale in order to better get his point across. Although his work “Birth of the Lord” contains typical folk colors like red and blue, Shpapin mixes his own paints to have a special palette to allow his paintings to look as though they are digital.

Michelle Drummond currently resides in Miami, Florida, but is originally from Jamaica. She uses acrylic paint and yarn in order to give her work a 3D look. The paintings featured in the gallery come from her “Les Derrieres,” which symbolizes culture, power and beauty. They also depict how difficult it is for women when they immigrate to figure out what it is culturally acceptable to wear.

“I love showing a group show like this, that brings people from all over the country and shows off different techniques, styles, materials and different approaches to art,” said Little.

After this exhibition closes, there will be one more for the fall term, “Art for the People,” from the Springfield Museum of Art in Ohio. This exhibition is inspired by a group of American artists put together in the 1940s by a gallery owner who thought it was important for everyday Americans to own art. Along with this on Nov. 6, the gallery will hold an art-making project during family weekend to allow participants to try painting.

“The Kelly Collection of African Art,” which will feature various pieces from African American artists such as Elizabeth Catlett and Jacob Lawrence, will be in the gallery during the spring 2022 semester.

“I think this will help people on our campus become more aware of African American art,” Little said.