Monday, September 14, 2020

Kiara Cristina Ventura (CAS '18), Curator of the CYBER HEALING Exhibition

This interview was originally published at The Latinx Project at NYU.

Kiara Cristina Ventura (born. 1996) is a Dominican-American Afro-Latina curator, writer, art advisor, and owner of ARTSYWINDOW. Bronx native, Ventura curates spaces highlighting and documenting the works of young artists of color. Ventura’s love for art history began when she interned at The Metropolitan Museum of Art during high school. She then double majored in Art History & Journalism at NYU and graduated in May 2018. Noticing the lack of representation of artists of color in her art history classes and within the larger art world, she responded via writing, curating, and teaching mobile art history classes. She initiated herself as a curator with the exhibition, FOR US. Since early 2019, she has been working alongside curator Larry Ossei Mensah as a mentee, curatorial assistant, and co-curator.

With a love for contemporary art, art history, and spirituality, Ventura is continuing in breaking barriers by independently curating, writing, organizing public programs, and creating digital content. She has curated at The Museum of the African Diaspora San Francisco, The Bronx Art Space, Vis Arts Maryland, Penn State University, The Longwood Gallery at Hostos, The Andrew Freedman Home, and Reparations Club LA. Kiara serves on the advisory board for Bronx Art Space. From August 2019 to May 2020, she started and wrote for Teen Vogue’s first art column, Art School, highlighting the work of visual artists of color through intimate profiles about their experiences, career, and muses. Her writing has also appeared in Art Forum, Performa Mag, Cultured Mag, and more. Ventura’s work has been covered by Art Forum and Art Net.

Kiara Cristina Ventura: Q & A

Q. Kiara, we are thrilled to have you join us as the guest curator for our first exhibition of the season. CYBER HEALING touches on the post-Covid needs of our community, and the ways in which those needs have become increasingly physical & spiritual. Can you speak about the role of social media in this exhibition, and more generally in emotional mutual aid?

A.  I choose to engage with the subject of social media because it’s something that is super accessible to the general public. At the same time, social media platforms like Facebook (who owns Instagram) utilizes discrimination tactics attacking the visibility of marginalized communities such as black and brown people, sex workers, the LGBTQ+ community, and more. Similar to the physical world, we have to find and create safe spaces online as well. The digital space allows us to be able to see ourselves in pixelated form. We have the agency to follow or subscribe to the posts of whoever we want therefore being the curators of our feeds. We are able to have constructive (or sometimes destructive conversations) in the comment sections and DMs while being in the safety of our homes. We have the freedom of hopping in and out of the digital world as we please as long as our phone or laptop is charged. At the end of the day when we log off, our spirit is somehow affected by the information and images we consumed. The artists in CYBER HEALING represent a snippet of the energies I interact with on my Instagram feed— energies that I feel transcend the divine feminine. With CYBER HEALING, I’m looking at Latinx, Afro-Latinx womxn, and non-binary artists who are seeking to heal and apologetically reclaim how the feminine body is portrayed in the digital realm via painting, movement, sculpture, and video.

Q. Can you share a bit about the participating artists and the urgency to share their work at an institution today? 

A. I am thrilled to be working with Fannie Sosa, Florencia Escudero, Moréna Espiritual, Chloe Piñero, Gina Goico, and Catherine Feliz who are all challenging societal norms and engaging with digital space as a medium to share stories of visibility, feminism, queerness, reclamation of the body, decolonization, spirituality. I think it’s important to note Latinx artists, especially Afro-Latinx, womxn, and non-binary artists, lack visibility on a national and international level. The only Latina artists I learned about while studying art history at NYU was Frida Kahlo and Ana Mendieta. I love Frida Kahlo but we have so many other narratives to offer and uplift in art history. I hope this exhibition speaks to the urgency of institutional space that needs to be given and taken up in order to properly support marginalized communities within and outside of the art world. What I love about the artists in CYBER HEALING is that they are taking up space in very radical, dynamic, and experimental ways that align with them and their unique practice. 

Q. Having double majored at NYU in Art History & Journalism (2018), what is this return like for you? 

A. Yes, I graduated over a little more than two years ago and this moment is bringing me back to the last two months before graduation - a time where I was hustling to support myself, I was curating my first official gallery exhibition, and a time where I wrote a letter and initiated discussions with the NYU Art History department about decolonizing their western curriculum. I’ve come to terms with that fact that diversifying the art world is a lifetime commitment and I hope to see the fruits of all of our labor in this lifetime. And by fruit I don’t just mean more visibility but also more pay, documentation, agency, and ownership. I know it takes a large community of artists, curators, directors, writers, organizers, (etc.) to move systems that haven’t been updated in decades. Creating an exhibition on the NYU campus feels very empowering at the moment. Thanks for inviting me back!

Experience the CYBER HEALING virtual exhibition from 9/4/20 - 12/1/20: 


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