Art exhibit portrays struggles, emphasizes hope


The exhibit brings awareness of many different struggles, especially those caused by the pandemic and racial discrimination. Photo from @newrochelleny on Twitter.

Margaret Dougherty, Managing Editor

The art exhibit “Struggle: An Exhibition for Our Times” opened on Feb. 15 at the Rotunda Gallery in the New Rochelle City Hall. Due to COVID-19, the exhibit is also available virtually. “Struggle” is presented by The Lincoln Park Conservancy, Inc., the New Rochelle Council on the Arts and the Iona College Council on the Arts. The exhibit is part of a larger series of events known as “Quest for Justice – A 60-Year Commemoration of the Lincoln School Decision. Decided in 1961, the Lincoln School Desegregation Case was the first application of the Brown v. Board of Education decision to win in a northern city. 

Hailing from Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Connecticut and New York City, a total of 24 artists participated in the exhibit. “Struggle” focuses on the countless difficulties faced today both personally and by society as a whole. The artists each used their unique medium – such as paintings, collages, sculptures and photography – to illuminate some of these issues and attempt to reach an understanding of one another’s struggles. Many of the recurring themes in the art centered around the pandemicincluding struggles with mental health, economic uncertainty and food insecurity. However, the most dominant theme of the exhibit is the discrimination and marginalization faced by people of color. 

Many of the artists were inspired by the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement this past year. Janet Smith Castronuovo created a mixed media collage entitled “Humanity Arises and Takes to the Street” to represent the many people who marched for Black lives in 2020. In the collage, a masked protestor raises their hands while a red circle around their head creates a target mark. Behind the protestor is a collection of newspaper clippings and powerful phrases that were commonly heard in 2020, such as “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “I can’t breathe” and “Stop the spread.” Although last year was filled with tragedy, Castronuovo found solace in using art as a creative outlet to reveal the positive side of things.  

“After reading newspaper headlines and seeing news reports every day of crisis after crisis, I am surprisingly more hopeful than ever that we can start to mend, reestablishing a deeper understanding of the progress needed to fix the ills we have suffered as a people for centuries,” Castronuovo said. 

Another artist, Shahaan O. Azeem, drew on his own experiences as a Muslim immigrant and hopes to challenge people’s assumptions.  

“My work explores issues of identity, equality and representation by taking a critical view of the perception and representation of people of color and marginalized groups in American society,” Azeem said.  

One of Azeem’s striking pieces is an untitled oil painting with gold leaf on canvas that shows a man whose face is covered with an American flag. He appears to be struggling to remove the suffocating flag and the words in the background – “back to Africa,” “criminal,” “inferior”  stress the pain and abuse endured by Black people in this country. 

Although the themes addressed in the “Struggle” exhibition are leaden with heartache, the sense of hope outshines the troubles. The artists express their commitment to bring about change and create a better world despite the current turbulence, and they hope their art inspires others to do the same.  

“I am an art evangelist sharing my message of hope,” artist Christina Thomas Greene said. 

If you are interested in viewing the virtual exhibit, visit the Lincoln Park Conservancy, Inc. YouTube channel or the Br. Kenneth Chapman Gallery page on the Iona website. “Struggle: An Exhibition for Our Times” runs through April 16.