Shellyne Rodriguez

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Artist Statement

Hope is a crack high. I mean that in the way that Beckett might have proposed it. Of course this implies that the reader will know what a “crack high” is. I will argue that one could know or at least have an idea. Lets strip it down to the core. A crack high is said to be so ecstatic, Saint Teresa De Avila’s thighs would quiver. But before you can seat yourself into its luscious euphoria, it is gone. The old adage, “ there is no high like the first high” rings true. And so the crack user becomes embroiled in a frenzied chase, trying to be consumed in that petit mort. Everything else is a purgatory. And what is purgatory? A quick Google search describes it as “a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are atoning for their sins before going to heaven.” What is purgatory if not the banal moments of drudgery, between happy hour, Netflix, or the escapism of one’s choice? Despair is the alternative. This ebb and flow from nothingness, to climax, to the bowels of despair might be accompanied by a gesture. How these sensations of waiting, hoping, and transcending each moment might translate into a mark, or a form, or an object is what I’m truly after: The last drag of a cigarette, the futile value of a penny, the discarded lotto ticket charged with frantic scratches, these are among the marks and gestures found in my work.

Because I am also a storyteller, this state of flux plays itself out in the ever-evolving narratives I create. This does two things. It allows me to tell a story that tells many stories. But it also provides moments where I am able to extract precise elements from a story’s firmament and present them directly as meaningful in and of themselves.

The Narrative is set in an imagined space called The Intervale. It is at once a Genesis garden and a burning tenement block, both creation and destruction. Its landscape,

a mass of seared cotton. elbows of split wood lean into rubble and
spirals of unruly metal curls spring forward like a Medusa wallowing in ruins.
a lush army of deep green, oozing thick sagging moss, and heaving earth.
a wetness amongst what was once consumed by fire. Soot and soil thrust
into each other violently, producing bright oranges that grow in unison with the
twisted copper and iron covered in velvet layers of rust, rumbling into hills and
cascading into dark crevices.  

Because The Intervale is a purgatory, its time hovers in a period. The work implies the late 1970s, early 80s. This period contains important socio-historical markers I wish to engage with by way of my own personal history. Moving through this imagined space and time are the characters that represent the archetypes who embody despair, hope, and what lives in between. These characters are sourced from family photos or figures from my mother’s old album covers. Some of the characters that inhabit The Intervale possess characteristics of archetypal mythical figures such as wisdom or strength. Much like the syncretic religion Santeria, all of the figures in my work appear as one thing, but are also always something else as well. The aesthetics of Disco, Latin Boogaloo and later, early Hip Hop set the stage in which all of this hope and despair collide. Elements from these time periods act as signifiers in this existential tug of war. Old Cadillacs, poppy flowers, or switchblades step in to represent certain happenings within the narrative. In a sense there is a language developing through the creation of this imagined space, one that is recognizable but does not disclose itself entirely, it is there to be discovered, or re-discovered.

Another important aspect to this imagined narrative is the entity that personifies despair, Belphegor. Belphegor is a figure I’ve adopted from medieval demonology. According to Peter Binsfeld’s Classification of Demons (1589) Belphegor is the demon of Sloth. It imposes on its prey spiritual or emotional apathy, and tempts them with “get rich quick” schemes. It’s worth noting that Thomas Aquinas in his work The Summa Theologica, states that sloth is not a sin, because it’s rooted in sorrow. In my work, Belphegor is a malevolent scavenger-like creature who much like its source taunts its prey with false promises of hope. You can find this creature wallowing in piss-stained corners or perched on the roofs of pawnshops and check cashing places.

My entire approach to making I consider aligned with the traditions of Hip-Hop culture, itself a thing born in the South Bronx, as am I, from an abandoned group of people in the worst despair. A phoenix rising from tenement ashes. My work is rooted in Hip Hop in the way that I am pulling, sampling and remixing periods, schools of thought and various mediums to make something else emerge. A chandelier as eye, with shimmering mouse traps, lottery tickets rolled into blunt cigarettes as tallies, or a charred broom with ceramic teeth as deity. Sometimes standing alone, sometimes as installations that call forth The Intervale. But more importantly, and hopefully, speaks to one’s own despair or, their crack high.




MFA Hunter College, 2014, Studio Art

BFA School of Visual Arts, 2011, Visual & Critical Studies

Exhibition Record


¡PRESENTE! The Young Lords in New York, El Museo Del Barrio, NY, NY

Sublime of the Mundane, FiveMyles, Brooklyn, NY

Clorox/Envy, Stillhouse Group, Brooklyn, NY

When You Cut Into The Present, The Future Leaks Out, No Longer Empty, Bronx, NY

New Work New York MFA Biennial, Curator: Kat Griefen, Brooklyn, NY

Immediate Female, Judith Charles Gallery, NY NY

Respond, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY


Artists For Ferguson, Temporary Agency, Chashama, Queens, NY

MFA Thesis show, Hunter College, NY, NY

The Last Brucennial, Bruce High Quality Foundation group show, NY, NY


Individual Mythologies, Youme Haus Artist Space, Brooklyn, NY


Electrick, Michael Mutt gallery, NY, NY


BFA Thesis Exhibition, School of Visual Arts, NY, NY

Open & Social Realms, Student juried exhibition, SVA, Curator: Richard brooks, NY, NY

Publications/ Selected Bibliography/ Lecture:


¡PRESENTE! The Young Lords in New York, Artist talk, El Museo Del Barrio, July 22, 2015

Young Lords Exhibit a Timely Salute to Puerto Rican Activism by Azure Gilman, Al Jazeera America, July 22, 2015

Lay on hands: Interactive art show features trashy altars By Danielle Furfaro, The Brooklyn Paper, July 20, 2015

No Longer Empty: The Art Is Fine, But What About the Real Estate? By Corinna Kirsch, ArtFCity, July 17, 2015

In the Bronx, a Pop-up Art Show Is a Lightning Rod for Fear of Gentrification by Jillian Steinhauer, Hyperallergic, July 13, 2015

No Longer Empty- From Courthouse to Art Gallery & Beyond by Sandra Bertrand, Highbrow Magazine, July 3,2015

MoMA Blog: Moving Through the Migration Series: An Interview w/ Kerry Downey & Shellyne Rodriguez by Calder Zwicky, June 18,2015


MoMA Blog: Shadows and Selves: MoMA Collaborates with UPNEXT program by Shellyne Rodriguez, Feb. 20, 2014


Cake Vol. 1 Artist books, available at Printed Matter

Cake Vol. 2 Artist books, available at Printed Matter

Disonare Magazine: 01 Seven Deadly Sins by Shellyne Rodriguez

Seven Deadly Sins: Disonare Magazine Launch , Michael Mutt gallery, Lecture on Seven Deadly Sins series, Aug. 10, 2013


2015 Artist-in-Residence, Sculpture Dept. Hunter College, NY NY

2014 Shandaken Project Residency, Catskills, NY