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Constance Alexander: Our Kentucky Home exhibit proves Commonwealth is a true manto* of diversity

The feeling of entering a room gone suddenly quiet. Stop, look around, strain to hear voices, music, sounds of city and nature that seem a distant din. It is like waiting for a parade to arrive. The faint cacophony suggests that the spectacle is worth waiting for.

The vibrant artworks that line the walls of Murray’s Tourism, Convention and Visitor Center vie for viewer attention before even crossing the threshold. Hosted by the Murray Art Guild, Nuestro hogar Kentucky, Our Kentucky Home is exhibited until January 28. It will be available at other sites throughout the commonwealth until November 14, compliments of a partnership of the Kentucky Arts Council with Al Día en América and Casa de la Cultura Kentucky.

(Exhibit photo by Constance Alexander)

More than 30 artworks by 15 Kentuckians of Hispanic or Latin American heritage are displayed. They were culled from many submissions that were adjudicated by a panel of Hispanic and Latin American artists and cultural specialists for inclusion in the traveling exhibit.

“My Colorful Horse” – by Deyanira Esmeralda Martin, Fayette County — catches my eye right away. If this unique thoroughbred ran the Derby, it would beat every contender by a mile. Jockeys would leap off their mounts and genuflect in its honor. Bob Baffert would weep. This horse with heart proudly displayed on its snout sports a turquoise mane, spangled purple nostrils, and a sly look in the eye that taunts the viewer with a good-natured dare. “C’mon, take a ride,” it seems to be saying.

After the fabulous horse, I am attracted to stark black and white works by Thomas Meyer, Jefferson County. He creates his version of the skyline in “City of Louisville.” Buildings have rounded corners, some are capped by domes. The windows in these peculiar high-rises range from simple slits to dashes, to darkened ovoids that resemble closed eyes. The buildings are captured within a border of Mayan symbols, as if the city performs on a stage, complete with a proscenium arch.

Meyer provides another perspective with “Louisville Meets Maya.” The black and white cityscape is almost overpowered by Mayan images. What appears to be a dragon flies over the buildings that resemble filing cabinets where humans work in windowless cubicles that allow no glimpses of the vibrant culture outside.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

Calloway County is represented by three works of Cintia Segovia, whose photography and videos explore issues like politics, stereotypes, language, and identity. Using her own experiences as a Mexican immigrant to the United States, she engages the viewer with colorful juxtapositions. In “Smile,” the image brings to mind the cliche, “Say cheese,” which often accompanies photo sessions.

“Humor is a powerful tool and I like to use it in my work to express sensitive issues I care about deeply,” she said. “It’s a good way to start a conversation about the personal experiences instead of using political rhetoric which often divides rather than unites us.”

“Three Cuban Women” is the piece that lures me back for multiple viewings. The bright colors and flamboyant fashions make me smile. The three women are decked out with bows in their hair, fabulous hoop earrings, extravagant bracelets. Their baskets hold flowers we can almost smell. They are not model slim and their couture is uniquely styled. They make no apologies in this eye-catching oil painting. They mock us in our restraint. The one in the center defiantly chews on a cigar. Their eyes are not cast down. They challenge the viewer to see them and acknowledge their gorgeousness.

The works in the exhibition explore a range of themes that portray universal ideas: Family, where we live and work, friendship, nature, life, death, beauty. An online video provides an overview of these fantastic works.

*A manto is a quilt.

For more information, contact Debi Danielson at Murray Art Guild, 270-753-4059. MAG is committed to motivating artistic growth through community arts development and is supported by the Kentucky Arts Council. KAC, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in, and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Murray’s Convention and Visitor Bureau is located at 206 South 4th Street. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. There is no admission fee. Phone number is 270-759-2199.

POINT TO PONDER: I wrote this column on the anniversary of the French playwright Moliere’s baptism, and came across a quote from him that makes another connection to the vibrance of exhibitions like Our Kentucky Home: “All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing.”

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