By Meghan Pierce, Undergraduate Research Assistant
On February 13th, the Organization of American States and the Embassies of Haiti and the Dominican Republic held an opening reception for “On Common Ground,” an exhibition featuring emerging artists of Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The pieces are held at the Art Museum of the Americas, the OAS gallery located at 201 18th Street, NW.
In order to foster AMA’s mission of “promoting the Inter-American agenda through artistic expression by encouraging social change, consensus building, diversity and tolerance,” the exhibit encourages visitors to examine the shared identities and perceptions of Hispaniola’s people.
One’s eyes are immediately drawn to simple black and white signs hung at each room’s entrance, on which questions are posed to the featured artists. For example, when asked “why do you feel your country is misunderstood?” Dominican artist Engel Leonardo replied “lack of responsibility,” while Haitian artist Pascale Monnin answered “the omnipresence of negative stories in the media.” Powerful and thought-provoking, the responses resonate with visitors as they move throughout the rooms.
In addition to Leonardo and Monnin, the gallery also displays the work of Dominican artists Natalia Ortega Gámez, Hulda Guzmán, Gustavo Peña and Julio Valdez, and Haitian artists Killy Patrick Ganthier, Marc Lee Steed, Manuel Mathieu, and Pascale Monnin. Guzmán’s “Fiesta en el Batey” and Peña’s “Swimming Outside the Boundaries” are especially noteworthy, depicting festive scenes with bold colors and brush lines.
The exhibit as a whole has a hopeful, albeit challenging feel. A visitor is at both times reminded of the richness of Hispaniola culture, but cognizant of its history of inter-island violence and political strife. Indeed, the exhibit authenticates the notion of productive dialogue through thoughtful creativity.
A short way off the National Mall, the exhibit will be on display until May 26th.
For more information, visit the AMA website.