VCUarts Professor Mixes Protests and Mystical Stories for Art Exhibit

Zero Loss Peak exhibition by Larissa Garcia at the Anderson. Photo courtesy of Natalie Barr.

Nathalie Barr, Contributing author

VCU’s Contemporary Art Gallery welcomed a new installment to guests through the use of natural materials, worn textures and faded colors.

The Anderson presents the new exhibition Zero Loss Peak by Larissa Garcia after was chosen as the 2022 recipient of the Excellence in Auxiliary Research Award.

The request included an exhibition proposal, a description of the work, an overall budget and first sketches of the collection, if the pieces were not yet made. The final grant winner was selected by various VCUarts deans, Garcia said.

The Zero Loss Peak exhibit features the Dominican Republic’s June 14 movement from 1959 to 1960, known as J14. The move signifies opposition to Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, which led to his assassination in 1961, according to the Global Nonviolent Action Database.

Garcia said of Trujillo regime was bloody and oppressive which left people in the Dominican Republic unable to navigate their lives. Research into movement and “intuition” led to the creation of the exhibit pieces about six months ago, according to Garcia.

“My grandparents and my parents grew up during this [Trujillo] diet,” Garcia said. “It still affects the country [Dominican Republic] nowadays.”

The protests and stories during the movement were coded with spiritual and mystical messages, which further inspired the exhibit, Garcia said.

“A lot of it is found materials, because a lot of the work I do has to do with mutated tools and techniques used for survival,” Garcia said. “The mutation comes from not having access to the materials that I would have if I were still living in the Dominican Republic.”

Garcia said they wanted the collection to encompass the overall meaning of the J14 movement. The materials used in the sculptures show signs of passing time, such as rust, but also used wood, agricultural equipment or animal remains.

Some pieces in the exhibit have a sense of “absence” to show how unknown the movement is to people and how events and parts of the movement fade over the years, according to Garcia.

“I want people to get the fun out of my work, but also how things can go away,” Garcia said.

Miami, Florida was a budding art scene in the late 90s to early 2000s when they were growing up, Garcia said. Public and private school children in South Florida have been exposed to international art, they said.

“All of this led me to start teaching. I never had any teaching experience before coming here [VCU]then I started to have teaching experience, I stayed in college,” Garcia said.

Monica Kinsey, Administrative Coordinator of The Anderson, has worked at the gallery for three years and said there is always a wide range of subjects and materials on display at the gallery.

Kinsey said The Anderson is providing financial support of up to $1,000 to the recipient of the Auxiliary Research Excellence Award to be used for exhibit production costs and exhibit installation.

“It was great to work with Larissa again. We worked with Larissa on their senior thesis exhibit, which wasn’t that long,” Kinsey said.

Chase Westfall, curator of exhibitions and student programs at the Anderson Gallery, said the faculty advisory committee for the Excellence in Auxiliary Research Award is made up of faculty members from different studio, training and research disciplines. expertise within VCUarts.

“All bring their knowledge of contemporary art and think about the question, ‘how can we bring our students up to speed and help them be informed as creators of contemporary art?’” Westfall said.

Westfall said working with Garcia was easy because many of the pieces in the show were made off set, brought to the gallery, and installed in the gallery space by Garcia.

Westfall said he enjoys the curatorial process when able to showcase a variety of artists and exhibits and hopes The Anderson will be a gallery where students can feel welcome, have access to artists and participate in conversations about contemporary art.

“If you’re going to an exhibition at a larger institution, there are often many degrees of separation between you and that artist,” Westfall said. “The exhibits shown here are exhibits made by other students or their graduate students in the same program.”

Sara Omer, a student at the Freshman Arts Foundation, said she and a few friends decided to go to The Anderson to see the student artwork after seeing an Instagram post for Zero Loss Peak. Omer said she liked how the artist used soft colors rather than bright colors.

“Bright colors are nice to see in art, but like muted colors, shape and skill matter more and grab more attention,” Omer said.

Omer said she liked the way the artist used the space he had for the exhibition.

“I love the juxtaposition of yarn and small, delicate things holding up really big things,” Omer said. “It’s a feeling that words cannot describe.”

Zero Loss Peak can be seen at The Anderson from now until September 24th. The Anderson is located at 907½ W. Franklin St., open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m..


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