COLLAGE ON VIEW
Vanidades: Vanezza Cruz
at Empty Set in Bronx, New York, USA
14 February-20 March 2021
“Vanidades” is a solo exhibition showcasing recent works investigating Vanezza Cruz’s experience in being Afro-Latina. Cruz’s overwhelming experience of conforming her identity to mainstream depiction(s) of womanhood, has inspired a body of work intended to expand and challenge this view in how women of color are seen as a series of parts, rather than as whole. “Vanidades” is a visual exploration of the artist’s preoccupation with ideals of beauty, stemming from childhood trips to hair salons with her mother for the purpose of getting her hair relaxed. Filled with moments of disconnection and feelings of erasure during these ritualized trips, Cruz was inundated with magazine images and oversized posters of women who not only did not look like her but, in retrospect, represented unattainable and idealized examples of feminine perfection. Vanidades (“Vanities”) was a widely popular Spanish fashion/beauty magazine in the 1970s and 1980s, was a staple in the homes and businesses frequented by Latina women. To the artist, these publications further reinforced a connection in the lack of representation of Black women in the mainstream media versus the irrefutable dominance of European beauty standards which shaped Cruz’s self-perception.
Found objects including store-bought hair from the artist’s protective hairstyles collected over the past 5 years, fabrics, packaging materials referencing hair textures, and reflective mirrors all grace Cruz’s layered and elaborate installation. She constructs imagery and iconography that references salon culture. This act of reconstruction is cathartic to her experiences and her complex relationship with hair. Cruz states, “With every brushstroke and hard tug, with every pass of the comb packed with hair relaxer, with every comment on how my unruly hair was just too thick and wouldn’t take, I remember feeling as if I wasn’t even sitting in that chair. And the more my curls were manipulated and the anticipation of the new me swelled within, I didn’t realize how small I truly felt until many years later when I decided to chop all my hair off and start anew.” The process of reclamation changes the authorship of a once forced narrative of idealized beauty imposed upon women of color. Cruz meets these antiquated and damaging beauty standards on her own terms, restoring the connection to her cultural identity for a new age.
(text adapted from the gallery’s press materials)
860 East 136th Street
Bronx, New York 10450 USA
Open by appointment