scherezade IT_LH

Scherezade Garcia. In Transit/Liquid Highway, installation view at Miller Theatre Lobby, Fall 2015. Photograph by Gerald Sampson.

On a brisk end-of-summer afternoon, two evenings ago, two Barnard first-years eschew dinner at Hewitt to get some cultural exposure. Crossing Broadway, Bwog correspondents Asya Sagnak and Sarah Dahl attended a talk at Columbia’s Miller Theatre by Dominican-American artist Scherezade Garcia, whose murals are currently on display.

Given the quirky title of the show (In Transit/Liquid Highway), we thought we’d be commuting to Tribeca or maybe even all the way to Bushwick to see the murals. Turns out, all we had to do was cross the street.

We can’t stress how easy it was to access this art–we even showed up a solid fifteen minutes early, expecting a queue or a ticket station, but just ended up mingling with other early-birds. Instead of handling the usual logistics of an art gallery, we befriended an elderly man in a yellow hat and contemplated on the nature of collegiate resources as we waited for the talk to begin. Who knew art could be so easy?

We didn’t – which is why we were so pleasantly surprised with the display inside Miller Theater on 116th and Broadway, just minutes from the center of campus. The exhibition, curated by Deborah Cullen, Director and Chief Curator of The Wallach Art Gallery (located on Havemeyer 8 and currently featuring a set of Rembrandt prints), consists of mixed media murals and stretches across several walls of the theatre’s foyer. Scherezade Garcia, the artist, came to New York from the Dominican Republic in the ‘80s to study at Parsons the New School for Design. After a brief introduction from Cullen, Garcia began discussing her work.

“I don’t like to be literal,” she explained, a sentiment clearly evidenced by the abstract brush strokes and plastic forms that compose her murals. Our friend in the yellow hat—who we later found out was Phillip Rodriguez, a compatriot of the artist and a fellow creative spirit—queried at the end of the talk, “What do those question marks mean?”. The artist responded that the question marks in question are actually just free-form brush strokes.

Garcia created In Transit/Liquid Highway over the course of four days using paint, silk screens, and plastic. She noted that she works in many other mediums as well, including video and sculpture, and that her art is displayed in galleries across the world, most notably as part of a permanent collection at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Although she listed her inspirations as being traditional (she looks up to the likes of Velasquez and Goya), she made it very clear that her intentions were nothing but progressive, stating that she wanted to “fight classical definitions of art” by “breaking any and all frontiers”.

In addition to her penchant for surrealism, Garcia has a clear passion for political expression. Although the installation of the murals took four days, the planning behind the concept was a process that started in February and focused on the sharing of cultures in the modern world. Her excitement about these inspirations was almost uncontainable—she threw her arms around herself as she exclaimed “I feel Dominican, but I also feel more! I feel Carribean! No, I feel American! No, I feel as if I’m from this entire planet!”

This line of thought is clearly reflected in Garcia’s art, which uses patterns to represent how all global cultures find their roots in the same human principles. “I’m actually more interested in the anomalies between the patterns,” she said, “because even though we are all the same, we also have our own unique ways of living, and that’s what makes every culture unique.”

At the end of the talk, we were escorted back to the lobby for refreshments. Being the classy and cultured youngsters we are, we opted for grapes and cheese.

Doesn’t this sound too good to be true? Free food? Free art? If there’s one thing we learnt from this experience, it’s that these opportunities are everywhere around campus. So if you’re passing by Miller Theatre—which you will be, since it’s right by the entrance of campus—you should do yourself a favor and quickly step inside. The fiery red of the mural is designed to be seen from outside the doors to attract the attention of people passing by. Worst case scenario, you’ll be delayed a few minutes. Much more likely, you’ll be immersed in a display of art and culture.

Keep an eye out for Miller Theatre—this is their third exhibition in collaboration with the Wallach, and they promise to bring more innovative artists in the future.

Photo via Wallach Art Gallery