Melissa Calderon

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Artist Statement

I create bodies of conceptual work around themes exploring social and political landscapes, drawing upon historical and philosophical references of power, fragility and perception. Combining ritual and symbolic significance with materiality and process, the multi-disciplinary approach I take creates a dialogue between works in a series, each piece playing a part in a larger symphony of concept relating history, memory, and personal experience.

I recieved my art education from my own school of practical art experience that I call the Mott Haven Art School; a playful reference to my 14 years living and working in the South Bronx artist community. With no formal art training, I researched like a historian, questioned and critiqued like wry sociologist, and weaved historical and personal rememory through the critical lens of an artist high on pop culture. The works range from delicate embroideries inspired by my grandmother’s teachings and relating to the hardships of unemployment to a 10ft tall Burger King crown made of Corten Steel satirizing the corporate oligarchy and hyper consumerism. Like instruments of an orchestra, each work in a series builds upon the next, creating a dialogue relating to larger conceptual themes. Materiality is my medium, be it tissues, lead, Instagram, or Silly Putty. The pleasure of experimentation drives me and allows my practice to become increasingly layered in process as well as meaning.

The Nacirema series, inspired by Horace Miner’s satirical anthropological study of American society, considers a complacent state of ideology and how Americans engage within various cultural dynamics. The works embrace the “tongue-in-cheek-ness” of Miner’s study while also addressing the serious imbalances embedded within our current social and political system. Humorous, social media powered works that critique the lackadaisical protest model of “hashtag activism” like AmericanThe#FREE and The #Tropicaleo Revolution are presented along side more solemn installations and performances like Penance Benevolence Association [For Those who Protect and Serve] and Sky Burial | Surveilled that delve into the institutionalized racism and power dynamics that affect communities of color. Work like The Semper Augustus Washington relates the 17thC. Dutch Tulipmania to today’s “Wall Street Economy” by reimagining the world’s most expensive tulip, the cause of the first ever financial bubble and market crash. It was only later determined that the source of its beauty was caused by a virus. The Nacirema series is meant to turn a mirror onto society and its behavior, prompting the viewer to consider what it means to be a citizen of America today through various vantage points – privilege, historical rememory, freedom and consequence.

Currently, I am working on a new untitled series of embroidered wood. By carving, drilling and sewing into ordinary plywood, the work explores the depth of wounds sustained by human interference on the environment and the extent of the damage done. The Horsemen were the first works made, each subscribed to a particular river in the world where war, famine, plague and death are currently being witnessed and, sadly, aided with the use of these waterways. More recently, I created site specific works The Bronx River, The South Bronx Gold Rush of 2015, and 42nd Injustice which addresses the good, the bad, and the ugly of “Revitalization” in my home borough. The works were embedded in the cracked marble wounds and frames in the old Bronx County Courthouse, each one giving voice to the concerns of a community fighting for equality and affordability while staving off gentrification fears.

Recently, I have begun pre-production a performance film to be shot at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx this fall. The mansion will become a backdrop for a surrealist series of performances played by the Andrew Freedman staff and resident artists. Paying homage to Bronx-born Stanley Kubrick in its scope and feel, each floor of the building represents the different levels of human subjectivity all centered around an inherent, unseen evil using historical rememory as its tool. The film explores the current and future state of this once decadent mansion, which once housed wealthy people who lost their fortunes in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and how various subconscious narratives play out within its lexicon.

As an artist, I strive to create work that tickles The Familiar in the viewer, thoughtfully evaluating our collective history of the human experience through a historical and philosophical lens.

 

CV

EDUCATION
1994–1996 CUNY Lehman College, Bronx, NY Major: Art History/Anthropology

SOLO & TWO PERSON EXHIBITIONS
2014 Suspicious Activity / Andrew Freedman Home, Bronx, NY
2010 Osmosis / Taller Boricua Gallery, New York, NY SOMEDAY|everyday / Buzzer 30, Astoria, NY
2009 Linger / Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
2008 Recuerdos @ BBBP / Bronx Blue Bedroom Project, Bronx, NY

EXHIBITIONS

2015
Bronx Invasion / Starlite Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
When You Cut Into the Present, the Future Leaks Out / No Longer Empty @Bx Borough Courthouse/ Bronx, NY
RESPOND / Smack Mellon / Brooklyn, NY AFH | AIR II exhibition / Barcid Gallery/ Bronx, NY

2014
Artist Chain Reaction Competition /Andrew Freedman Home, Bronx, New York
TROPICALEO: Una Provocación caribeña / 20/20 Gallery, Santurce, Puerto Rico
Bronx Latin American Art Biennial IV Open for Discussion / Edgar Allen Poe House, Bronx, NY
Sparkboom! / Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site, Long Island, NY
Commission: El Museo del Barrio Summer 2014
Commission: City of New Rochelle, Fleur de Lis “Mighty Woody”, Summer 2014
I Found Myself in God – a dedication to the works of Ntozake Shange / Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY
AmericanThe#FREE @ Otto’s Shrunken Head, part of FREE Art in Odd Places: 2014 , Along 14th Street, NYC

2013
Performance: Blanc|Blanco, Seminar with Clifford Owens / Pioneer Works , Red Hook, NY
We are STILL Here / Andrew Freedman Home, Bronx, NY
Ghost Birch installation / Mary Colby Gallery, Bronx, NY

2012
Collective Energy / Cephas Center for the Arts, Bronx, NY
Bronx Latin American Art Biennial III Dynamic Convention/ Gordon A. Parks Galler, Bronx, NY
Emerging Artist Fellowship, EAF 2012 /Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY
Bronx Masquerade / Bronx Center Public Library, Bronx, NY
TWO: The Work Office @ BRAC / Bronx River Art Center, Bronx, NY
Art of the 5 / The InterChurch Center Gallery, New York, NY

2011
Observed, Imagined, and Recreated / Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
Project # 3 Regional SeriesUrban Anthropology / Museo del Arsenal de la Puntilla, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Transporting Culture: The Turtle Life / BronxArtSpace, Bronx, NY
SORTArican / Taller Boricua Gallery, New York, NY
Art in the Medium: 35 years of Photography in Puerto Rico / Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Disillusions: Gendered Visions of the Caribbean and its Diasporas, / Middlesex County College, NJ/ Rutgers University, NJ / Wald and Kim Gallery, NYC
LABOR / Hunter College, New York, NY
Toys with a Twist / Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
MONUMENT|MOVEMENT / Center for Photography and the Moving Image, New York, NY
CurateNYC 2011 / Rush Arts Gallery New York, NY

2010
CurateNYC / Rush Arts Gallery and around NYC, New York
PERFORMANCE: Nevermine / Pepatian presents AL QUI MIA, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Bronx, NY
La Conexion / Gaga Art Center, Gardnerville, NY
Hair Tactics / Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NY
AriZONA / Grady Alexis Gallery, New York, NY
Portraits of Bronx Renaissance Artists: Part 1 / BronxArtSpace, Bronx, NY
Rompe Puesto one night performance/ Bronx River Art Center, Bronx, NY

2009
PS: Parsing Spirituality / Affirmation Arts, New York, NY
2009 Portland Museum of Art Biennial / Portland, ME
Stranger than Fiction / Synthetic Zero, Bronx, NY
AIM 29 / Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, NY

2008
Espada de Dos Filos ( Double Edged Sword ) Latina Voices: California – New York/ Arte Americas, Fresno, CA

2007
Art Agora, Instituto Cervantes / El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY
The (S) Files 007 El Museo’s Bienal / El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY

2005
CONVERSIONs Heartbreak / Haven Art Space, Bronx Post Platano/Ante Formalism: Abstraction / Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
Big Fat Painting Show CONVERSIONs / Haven Art Space, Bronx, NY

AWARDS

2012 NYFA Hurricane Sandy Emergency Relief Fund
2009/2010 NALAC Fund for the Arts Individual Artist Award
2009/2010 UAI/ Urban Artist Initiative fellowship grant
2009 Change, Inc. grant RESIDENCIES AND FELLOWSHIPS
2012 current, Artist In Residence, Andrew Freedman Home, Bronx, NY
2013 Byrdcliffe/NYFA/ Pollock Krasner residency, Woodstock, NY
2012 Emerging Artist Fellowship, Socrates Sculpture Park
2011 ArtistinResidence, Residency Unlimited @ Casita Maria, Bronx, NY
2008/2009 AIM 29 : Artist in the Marketplace

PUBLICATIONS

Book: Strange Material, Leanne Prain, Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2014
Book: Frescos: 50 Puerto Rican Artists under 35, Celina Nogueras Cuevas, Muaa Productions ,2010

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Seeking a Role for the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse, New York Times, July 2015
In the Bronx, a Popup Art Show Is a Lightning Rod for Fear of Gentrification, HyperAllergic, July, 2015
Massive Bronx Art Exhibit Reignites Borough’s Gentrification Debate , DNAInfo, June 2015
An Exhibition for Colored Girls, HyperAllergic, Dec 2014
Intercourse Magazine, Seminar residency with Clifford Owens, Spring 2014
LUXE IMMO Magazine, Featured Artist, Interview by Theresa Barbaro, April 2012 issue.
Daily News New York “The Art Of a New Era” by Tanyanika Samuels, April 2012
ARC Magazine, Disillusions, Dec 2011 ArtNexus Vol. 10 2011
Review: Disillusions, Dec 2011
Gotham Gazette: A Tightly Knit and Diverse Art Scene Grows in the Bronx, May 2011
The “S” Word, Bronx Art Guide – Review: Osmosis – March, 2010
TimeOutNY: Not boring Museums: Bronx Museum of the Arts, July 2009
Sewing as a Performance – Review – Linger, 2009
The Forecaster review—2009 Portland Museum of Art Biennial, May 2009
Big Red Shiny review – 2009 Portland Museum of Art Biennial, April 2009
Sun Journal review – 2009 PMA Biennial, April 2009
Iddie – Literary Journal for Creative Thinkers – Spring 2009
10 best! – Recuerdos show, Sept 2008
The New Bridge and Tunnel Crowd – NYTimes, March 2005