ORLANDO — Goddesses and historic peoples of the African and Caribbean diasporas will be a central part of a new exhibit coming to the Mennello Museum of American Art this summer, which will present the works of internationally renowned artist Firelei Baez.
The exhibit, “The Immersion into Compounded Time and the Paintings of Firelei Báez,” opens in June, and will show how Báez uses different mediums to create works that combine her personal connections to “weave stories in paint of what it means to be a diverse people,” noted Jeremy Kemp, the marketing and graphic design coordinator at the Mennello. “We are excited that we have the opportunity to share her powerful work with our community, and that she will be joining us for the unveiling in just a few short months.”
Katherine Navarro, curator of the Mennello, added, “Firelei Báez’s paintings bring the viewer into a full-bodied experience of space and time that is enrapturing. One cannot help but engage with the printed landscapes or swirling portraits she creates, becoming absorbed in a space of unlimited potential knowledge.”
Who is Artist Firelei Baez?
Born in Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic and now a resident of New York City, Firelei Baez makes intricate works on paper and canvas and large scale sculptures that cover a wide variety of topics, including anthropology, fantasy, science fiction, and the perspectives of black women.
In a 2018 interview with ArtNetNews, Baez described being an introverted child who was encouraged by her mother and teachers to pursue her love of art, which led her to study at Hunter College and Cooper Union.
“Creativity was a place that felt safe,” she told ArtNetNews. “Everywhere we moved, I would create a space I wanted to be in. I would make these little fantasy rooms out of whatever little room I was given, really changing the spaces and environment I was in, making painting to go in them. Something that gave me a place to anchor.”
As the Mennello noted, Baez’s work includes intricate paintings on paper, canvas, and institutional walls, works that construct figures, myths, and narratives into visual representations of culture.
“The artist’s complex and opulent practice generates expansive, overlapping identities and universes in the subjects she depicts and begs the viewer to contend with the past, present, and future of people throughout the Americas,” Navarro noted.
“Immersion Into Compounded Time” will be on display from June 7–Sept. 8, and as the Mennello noted in a release about the exhibition, “Her art converges at a beautiful demonstration of portraiture and intricate metaphors that give rise to powerful narratives of overlooked histories and obscured memories voiced for those in the present, merging geography, legend, and representation. Within the diverse cultural landscape of Florida, Báez’s work catalyzes and projects shared voices of multifaceted stories, symbols, and notions of beauty within the history of the diasporas, pre-colonialism to now, and individually, how that confluence of personal identity is reflected and felt in her own life.”
Shannon Fitzgerald, executive director of the Mennello, added, “As we are constantly tasked with thinking about how we define art in American museums and strive for the broadest understanding of how we as a culture developed, I am delighted to welcome Firelei Báez’s powerful work and introduce her to our community. Her work is evocative and brings expansive ideas about the Caribbean and its diverse diaspora in the Americas through emotive and poetic expressions. I look forward to witnessing her resonance unfold with our growing audiences.”
Báez earned her BFA at The Cooper Union School of Art in 2004, and earned her MFA at Hunter College in 2010.
She’s held residencies at some unique places, including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace, and had solo exhibitions at Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City.
Where Can Patrons See This Exhibit?
The Mennello Museum of American Art is at 900 E. Princeton St. in Loch Haven Park. Call 407-246-4278 to learn more.
The museum is open from Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4:30 p.m.
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $1 for students or children ages 6-17. Children under age 6 get in free, as do active or retired members of the Armed Services.
The opening reception of “Immersion Into Compounded Time” will be on Friday, June 7, and the artist will be in attendance.
There is a Mennello Members-only Preview from 5:30–6:30 p.m., followed by a Public Reception from 6:30–8 p.m.
The latter reception is free for members and $10 for guests.
There will also be an Artist Talk and Book Signing on Saturday, June 8 from 11 a.m. to noon.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.