Video Work | Photo/Installations | Documentary Projects

The Boston Herald, October 16, 2000
Young Adults, Hub artists have enjoyed 'Crossing Paths'

by Mary Sherman

Mention public art and most people take a hike. That's because for years public art amounted to what derisively became known as "Plop Art." That was followed in the 80's by works spouting politically correct slogans.
Now a middle ground finally has been reached, and public art, thankfully, has again become both public and art, as revealed in a new projection installation on Columbus Avenue and a related exhibit at the gallery @ Green Street. Taking advantage of concrete buttresses positioned along the Southwest Corridor between Roxbury Crossing and Jackson Square, celebrated video artist Denise Marika and artist/community activist Corey Tatarczuk have created a stunning, eye catching portrait of the area's young people. At dusk, the blank chunks come alive. They become projection screens for a series of black and white stills of young people from the breakdance group Floor Lords. Caught in energetic poses, the Lords push out against the spaces' confines, a metaphor for what these youths face every day.
The projet iss titled "Crossing Paths." Sponsored by Visible Republic, an organization dedicated to placing temporary artwork in the public sphere, the two artists also worked with high school students from New Mission High School and Bikes Not Bombs, an activist organization that channels goodwill through bikes. They set up photography workshops at Roxbury Community College, during which 16 young artists photographed their worlds in ways that conveyed their hopes, fears and dreams.
The teens then submitted their photos to James Hull, curator of Gallery @ Green Street, who selected pieces for exhibition. The results are a moving look at how these youths see themselves and their surroundings; often the depictions are of emptiness, as in Brigitte Hunt's photograph of a Laundromat and Luis Santiago's of a desolate alley.
In other cases, the imagery is bleak, as in Ronnie Armstead's picture of a disintegrating car submerged in leaves, or touching as in Philip Moise's portrait of a sleeping teen and Shari Roberts' image of a young woman. Lashonda Jemmot's photo of kids playing (they look more like pawns on a chessboard) is simply memorable.
From their work with these young people and numerous neighborhood groups, Marika and Tatarczuk decided to project images of energy and limits to portray these youths' lives. And they report the breakdance group seemed like the ideal vehicle. Both agreed that this was one of the hardest projects they've done. They had to secure numerous permits and community approvals as well as deal with generators and electrical problems.
Two and a half years later, the project has finally come to fruition and, given the public response, it seems to be a huge success. The day that the projections went up, the artists heard a scream from a car, "Hey that's me!" and then a screech; next they saw a woman proudly looking at herself. Likewise, the opening at Green Street was jammed.
Everywhere, people were pointing out the pieces they wanted to buy. And if that wasn't enough of an impact on the community and the participating youths, there's the fact that a number of the teens have gone on to photography related endeavors, including working for Artists for Humanity, a photo lab and the school yearbook.