Ortiz Featured in Nesto Gallery
by The Milton Measure on Friday, October 28th, 2011
“It’s the kids who know the limit isn’t the sky, it’s the street they live on.” So states Chandra Dieppa Ortiz, a local artist whose work will be on display at the Nesto Gallery October 25 through November 22.
Ortiz’s work reflects her words: it is the kids who Ortiz paints for. Her vivid paintings, collages, and multimedia pieces contain certain vibrancy that screams to a restless generation of youth. Ortiz paints with a bright palate of eye-catching reds, blues, and yellows.
Her depictions of people are both cartoonish and shockingly real. Channeling Picasso, Ortiz portrays characters with more attention to emotion than to technical precision.
The results are living, breathing, highly relatable people on canvas. In some of her series’, such as “Brown,” (the title is a reference to Ortiz’ black and Hispanic characters) her figures are very much “people.” In others, such as the watercolor and gouache series “Flippin, Frontin, and Posin,” her figures are two-dimensional and much more abstract, but still very much alive.
While Ortiz’ mission, to “Explore issues of race, class, gender, and culture in the hopes of creating a dialogue between communities,” is heavy, she uses her work itself to visualize the concept of “cultural armor,” or the ways in which aspects of one’s culture, like “love, humor, faith, music, stories, and the telling of home truths,” can “protect” an oppressed or struggling people.
Yet behind scenes of dance-floors and records, the viewer grasps the dark side of inner-city life.
“What I heard,” a tribute to the city of Boston, is both beautiful and haunting. Images of music, the club scene, and the city Skyline are woven through graffitied bits and pieces of conversation. Some are empowering: “I have something to say, just listen.” Others are dark: “I was never asleep and I was never awake,” or “no one remembers.” Yet others are up to interpretation: “You ain’t never gonna get that play out of your head.” More than any other series, “What I heard” gives a voice to the silenced.
Ms. Ortiz, known informally as Dieppa, was born in Patterson, New Jersey, in 1971 to African- American and Latino parents, and incorporates her own experiences of growing up as a biracial American into her work. Though born and raised in the Northeast, she received her BA from Florida State University. She continued to pursue art at a graduate level at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts College of Art.
Her work has been showcased at the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American artists in Boston; the New Art Center in Boston; The New Art Center in Newton, Massachusetts; La Casa de La Cultura/ The Center for Latino Artists in Boston; the Copley Center for the Arts; and the Copley Society of Boston. Additionally, she was recently nominated for the Institude of Contemporary Art’s prestigious Foster Prize. She currently lives in Boston, where she works as a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and serves as the Art Director for Dorchestor Academy.
I strongly urge all Milton students and faculty to take advantage of this exhibit. More than any other work presented at the Nesto exhibit in the past few years, Dieppa’s work appeals to high school students. She uses topics that dominate pop culture, like music, dance, and graffiti art, to convey deep and powerful truths about society and the twenty-first century class system.
Viewers of every race, class, and socio-economic status will benefit from and enjoy this unique exhibit.
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