Space to Say

Friday March 18th, 2022

Space to Say 

March 18th - May 15th, 2022 

Click here to watch the recording of the virtual artist talk 

With artists: Yesenia BelloSalvador Dominguez, and Yasmeen Nemett Alla

Space to Say creates a place to collectively reflect on themes of immigration, language (or lack 
thereof) and methods of empathy. Acknowledging the rippling effects of immigration on an individual’s ability to navigate communication, Yesenia Bello, Salvador Dominguez, and Yasmeen Nematt Alla come together to imagine new ways of speaking in place of words. How does one stay connected to a mother tongue while simultaneously undergoing a process of assimilation? What symbols can act in place of words? And what new language is created in place of legible words to communicate who matters to us most?

Bello playfully re-shapes colorful rope and fabric into draping, site-specific installations; Dominguez carefully lifts imprints of familiar places and objects into tiled relief paintings; Nematt Alla graciously invites visitors to take part in an interactive wishing well sculpture. In each of their work, language is reinvented in new spatial and physical forms. Communication is not only understood through words, but also through universally understood symbols and shared experiences. Through these faded letters, re-shaped objects, and traces of landscapes, each artist proposes alternative methods of conveying a message to reach shared understanding.

This exhibition gently understands how the barriers in language as a result of immigration can be sites of loss and grief; but, in turn, reimagines this loss as an opportunity to give birth to a new language. Space to Say is both an exhibition and invitation. Viewers are welcome to take part in this process and imagine their own language - to sit in the gallery and speak new words of care, as individuals and a community.

Yesenia Bello makes installations, drawings, and sculptures in Chicago that retrace her bilingual experience as a first-generation Mexican American. Her work has been presented at spaces including the Chicago Cultural Center (Chicago, IL), LVL3 Gallery (Chicago, IL), Tiger Strikes Asteroid (Chicago and LA), Chicago Artists Coalition (Chicago, IL), Super Dutchess Gallery (New York, NY), Comfort Station (Chicago, IL), 6018 North (Chicago, IL), and the Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago, IL). She was part of the HATCH Projects 2016-2017 group at Chicago Artists Coalition and completed the 2018-2019 Center Program at the Hyde Park Art Center. Between 2011-2016 she was co-founder and organizer of Walla Fest, a volunteer-run music and arts festival that worked to create community for emerging artists around the Philadelphia area. Residencies include ACRE, Oxbow, and Carrizozo AiR. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a focus in Fiber and Material Studies and is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts Administration and Policy at SAIC.

Salvador Dominguez: Like many first-generation immigrants, language is an important part of Salvador Dominguez's story. Dominguez grew up in Pomona, California, a working-class suburb of Los Angeles with a 70% Spanish-speaking population. From a young age, he acted as an interpreter of both language and American culture for his Mexican parents.Part of his artistic process has been examining and cataloging childhood memories. From these memories, his intention is to use familiar imagery that creates new objects. Dominguez comes from a culture in which “physical labor is a currency.” As a result, his work explores themes of labor and class, bringing together often competing materials (i.e. acrylic paint & cast bronze & using melted crayons like oil paint).The term “Mexican-American” is an accurate representation of his art practice. “I don’t aim to highlight the differences in my two cultures or examine what it means to be an immigrant through the lens of assimilation. For me, it is most important to embrace the overlapping similarities. My ambition is to educate viewers who come from communities like mine, as well as the contemporary art world.” Dominguez’s work has been presented at the National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago IL), One After 909 Gallery (Chicago IL), The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (Chicago IL) and The DePaul Art Museum (Chicago, IL). He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008).

Yasmeen Nematt Alla lives and works in Toronto, Ontario. She is an Egyptian artist and her practice approaches alienated narratives from an interpreter’s perspective. As someone who lives between cultures, she deciphers language barriers attached to alienation and otherness. She wonders how the translation of language, experiences, and visuals intertwine with care, grief, and community building. Her work has been presented in spaces including the ACRE projects (Chicago IL), Art Inculate (Toronto, Ontario), the Scarborough Arts Centre (Scarborough ON) and Xspace Cultural Center (Toronto, Ontario). She received a BFA in Fine Art from the University of Waterloo and is currently the Communications Manager at Akimbo Arts.