JCAL hosts 1999 artist-in-residence exhibition

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Artist Soraya Marcano can remember her first trip to the sea as a girl growing up in Cidra, Puerto Rico.

"I was about 4 and the trip took about four minutes by car," recalls the artist. "But, you know that changed me. The changing landscape. In Puerto Rico, the landscape changes so rapidly. There's blue, there's green, then it becomes dry... arid. Then, it changes again."

"That changing landscape has become part of my landscape inside me," she says thoughtfully. "I think it's what makes me move on. This need to see changes, new landscapes."

And this, in part, explains our fortune at seeing Marcano's newest exhibition on display through the Workspace Program of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Inc., starting Dec. 7 and continuing through the end of the year.

Through the JCAL Workspace Program, artists compete for the chance to spend a year working on-site in a studio provided by the JCAL, with the program culminating in a one-man or one-woman show at year's end. It's an opportunity Marcano has relished.

"This is a wonderful program, a great opportunity. There are not enough like this one," she says, gesturing around the JCAL's third-floor workspace studio, November's late afternoon light casting a bold shadow behind her. "I've never had a studio this size. It's been great working here."

"And the exhibition space here is so large," she says with a sheepish grin, adding as a near-afterthought, "It's a little intimidating."

And so is Marcano's resume. Hers is an impressive list of achievements and accolades. Since earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Puerto Rico and her master's in fine arts in printmaking at Pratt Institute in New York, she has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. She's recently shown her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Juan, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chamalieres, France and El Museo de las Americas in Puerto Rico.

In New York, she has also participated in the Artists in the Marketplace and Prints Go Public programs at the Bronx Museum where she teaches art to children, ranging from age 7 and up.

"I love it here in New York. I wasn't planning to stay. It just sort of happened that way," says Marcano who since 1991 has called the Big Apple her home base if not exactly her home, because she still lives the rather itinerant existence of an artist on the rise.

In her upcoming show, Marcano explores the issues of her heritage, identity and the nature of memory as viewed through the filter of her various acquired identities: as that of an artist; as that of a Puerto Rican living in New York; as that of a single, independent woman.

One way she explores the changing perspectives on the past is through the construction of "memory boxes." Fashioning these containers from everyday materials, Marcano stitches or binds the boxes together by hand, hastening their aging process with layered, staining applications. Upon opening them, one comes across a passel of created "memories" infused with meaning through the repetition of words in her native Spanish, various photos, and "icons" - cutouts of archetypal imagery representing universal images of the collective life cycle of birth to death.

"I hope what people will find is that every part of the exhibit tells a story, whatever you think the story is," she says, also pointing out that the materials she chooses to use also tell their own story.

Readying herself to leave, the talented, transplanted New Yorker leads the way out of her studio, as the sky shifts from cornflower to ballpoint blue. The November nightfall approaching, she answers a final question, translating the meaning of her first name.

"Soraya? It means constellation," she concludes with a smile.

"Soraya Marcano: Recent Works" will be shown at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, Inc., 161-04 Jamaica Ave., Jamaica. For more information, call 658-7400.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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