In a Field of Ancient Stars
In a Field of Ancient Stars
Baxter St, in partnership with YoungArts, is thrilled to present In a Field of Ancient Stars, an immersive installation of archaeologically-informed new works by Priscilla Aleman (2009 YoungArts Winner in Visual Arts & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), the 2023 YoungArts Baxter St Residency recipient. Spanning printed photography, sculpture, and mixed media assemblage of found-and-altered materials like National Geographic magazines, the show centers on images born from the artists’ field studies in the Global South. Aleman’s research and artwork invites viewers to examine archeological and lens-based materials to consider the waves and ways we are interconnected; it resuscitates both real and imagined memories by creating portals to new and old worlds. In this body of work brought forth during her residency, Aleman looks at the meaning and resonance of sports and how sports leave archeological traces that ignite an energetic field and hold cosmologies. In a Field of Ancient Stars will be on view March 29 – April 26, 2023 at Baxter St’s storefront gallery at 126 Baxter St.
The material relics and origins of sports have always been of interest to Aleman. The YoungArts Baxter St residency gave her the opportunity to dive deeper into its connection to the cosmos through the lens of photography. “Sports are relevant and popular across the world today and have threads dating back to over 3,000 years ago, starting with the Olmecs,” said Priscilla Aleman. “In a very real way, sports were birthed from a tree. The latex, the blood of the tree is what forms the ball. Its ability to bounce was seen as full of life, animate, and a relic for recreating a cosmic understanding of our origins.”
With sports as a specific entry point into new and ancient stories of creation Aleman explores parallel and intersecting universes. She collects agricultural artifacts, leaves, seeds, rocks, and shells, gathering objects as personal relics for recreation. She sometimes incorporates National Geographic imagery that acts as specific lenses into the worlds and ideas the photographs represent, which embodies the double nature of these images and texts. At times, Aleman adds packaging materials to the work, including boxes and crates, to allude to careful transportation of an object as a greater metaphor for how we share images and ideas, a notion that stems from her experience with archaeology.
“In archeology, I ask what it means to disinter a sacred space and relocate objects, relics, and belongings that are carefully enshrouded for that body, but that I and others find so much insight from,” said Aleman. “Much like a star dying and its material matter being siphoned off to recollect in a new field of planets and stars. I go into a meditative state where I am imagining that it’s my own family members, friends, or even myself. I handle these artifacts with care and allow them to move and become new matter. The materials we use, now and historically, to transport the objects or bodies hold intentions and energies that inform portals to this understanding of recreation and recollecting. A feeling, idea, or even a person in a state of transformation.” In her own life, packages Aleman receives from her mother often come with other domestic items bundled together, paper towels, blankets, food, and belongings akin to Peruvian mummy bundles with dried husks of corn, cotton, seashells and whatever else might be useful for the afterlife. These items and packaging materials become charged with energy representative of care, home, and an eternal sense of states of being.
These materials are joined by others, including ceramic soccer balls and body castings of loved ones. Using plaster, foam, alginate and silicone mold, she cast figures in accessible materials to better understand the body’s presence and ways of being, elevating it as an artifact to study various recreational fields. Aleman’s “mother molds” (a sculptural term that she enjoys in a primordial sense) reminds her of her body’s own generative power to (re)create; to evolve. Casting—an intimate experience between herself and her subjects: friends and family members—becomes a central component to many of Aleman’s works. Aleman’s arrangement of these materials in her new installation puts her in the position of a collector, creator, analyst, believer, and practitioner. With this method, she brings to life her own parallel and intersecting universes in process and form. Through the reconfigurations of images, materials, and works in the show, Aleman gives the viewer an opportunity to reconsider the portals we engage with every day through embodied memories.
“Priscilla Aleman’s transformative, immersive installation and the lens-based works that ground the show are a testament to the vibrant range of new voices that the YoungArts Baxter St Residency Program in partnership with 7|G Foundation aims to amplify and support,” says Baxter St’s Executive Director, Jil Weinstock. “We are thrilled to share how Aleman’s residency has expanded her investigation of the threads that connect us and the power of images and objects to tell our shared stories.”
Priscilla Aleman is a visual artist based both in New York and Miami. A YoungArts Winner in Visual Arts and U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts in 2009, Aleman completed her BFA at Cooper Union and later completed an MFA in Sculpture at Columbia University. Upon graduating she continued her art practice in Miami, working with archaeologists, conducting an intimate investigation of South Florida’s relationship to the tropics and her roots in the Latin American landscape. With this understanding of past traditions and the environmental history of the Americas, Aleman crafts her own sanctified installations: deified sculptural monuments and memorials. Aleman has recently exhibited works with the Wave Hill Project Space, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, YoungArts, and Upstate Art Weekend, among others. She was recently commissioned for a public artwork by the New York Botanical Garden, was an Artist in Residence at Fountainhead and Governors Island through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). Aleman has received numerous awards, including the Bronx Museum’s AIM Fellowship and the Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation Fellowship, and has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and Miami Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs.
YoungArts and Baxter St have joined in a multi-year partnership. Together, the organizations developed the YoungArts Baxter St Residency, building on shared values and expanding Baxter St’s efforts to support emerging artists at critical points in their educational and professional careers. At the core of this partnership is a joint fellowship to support, mentor the next generation of lens-based artists. Created in 2019 and funded by the 7|G Foundation, this residency invites emerging, lens-based, YoungArts alumni living in New York City to apply for two months of workspace access at Baxter St, an artist stipend of $3,000 plus production costs, and mentoring sessions with Baxter St’s Art Advisory Committee members. As a resident, artists will gain hands-on experience presenting their work, professional development, counsel, and support from experts in their field of study. The residency will culminate in a solo show at Baxter St.