SOCIAL MEDIA SERVES UP A CONSTANT stream of happy, smiling faces. But, if we’re all so damn happy, why are prescriptions for antidepressants on the rise?
“We all wear masks,” says Rolando Chang Barrero, a Florida-born artist and graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “You always have to have a game face on.”
Mr. Barrero and the other artists whose work is featured in “Being Heard, Being Seen,” a new exhibition at the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County, know that it is the face behind the mask, not the idealized images we choose to share on social media, that makes us interesting, that makes us unique.
“These are all inside portraits,” Mr. Barrero says, referring to “Rostros Emotivos” (2021-2022, acrylic on canvas), an orderly stream of faces that flows across the walls of the Cultural Council’s main gallery. From anger to affection, sadness to serenity, the series of small canvases depict the variety of emotions that remind us we are alive.
His favorite is a canvas titled “Ambiguity.” In it the eyes are not merely blank, they are missing. “I’m looking at myself and not seeing anything,” the West Palm Beach-based artist says, recalling a time when drugs and alcohol had cut him off from the tangle of emotions that simmered behind his own mask. “That’s the one that started it all.”
“Being Heard, Being Seen,” which is on display at the Cultural Council’s headquarters in Lake Worth Beach through April 9, is presented in collaboration with celebrated mixed media artist Jose Alvarez (D.O.P.A.) and features the work of local artists who identify as LGBTQ+ as well as artists whose work explores issues of rights, representation and the lived experience of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Ates Isildak’s archival prints portray his subjects as they would want to be seen. Dariel Donovan, who graduated from Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach before attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, celebrates unity and diversity in his mixed media works. The solitary figures in Joe Horton’s oil paintings invite quiet introspection.
“The goal of this exhibition is to encourage everyone to be their authentic selves, to champion understanding, compassion and important conversations, and to create a safe space where everyone feels heard and seen for who they are — without question or compromise. When we do that, we make room for real impact.” Dave Lawrence, president and CEO of the Cultural Council, said in a statement. Whether it is the intense gaze of the child’s eye in Teresa Korber’s “Innocence” (2021, acrylic and golf leaf on canvas) or the intricate details of Mr. Alvarez’s “The Seer” (2007, mixed media on paper), bursting with psychedelic patterns and colorful floral imagery as well as shamanic crystals and porcupine quills, much of the work in “Being Heard, Being Seen” demands your attention.
The three-dimensional work of Emilio Apontesierra-Paretti goes a step further, refusing to be ignored.
“Covida,” one of three large-scale multimedia works by the Colombian born artist included in the show, is a commanding 8-foot presence with a head full of wildly flowing tin foil curls atop a figure made of fiberglass, galvanized poultry net, plastic black privacy screen, PVC pipes and other materials more likely to be found in a home improvement store than an art supply shop.
“We need to use existing materials to transform and change our contaminated world into something beautiful,” the Palm Beach Gardens-based artist, who immigrated to the U.S. seeking political asylum, said in a statement. “This is why I use recyclables in my work.” All of the artwork in “Being Heard, Being Seen” is for sale. “Many people don’t realize that for the same price you would pay for a commercial print from a retail website, you can buy a handmade, one-of-a-kind piece created by a local artist that you can talk to about the work,” says Jessica Ransom, artist liaison for the Cultural Council, who curated the exhibition. ¦