Art exhibits gaining traction in West New York

This piece, by Stephanie Romano, is an homage to her hometown.

You may remember curator Bruce Soffer from an earlier story in the West New York Reporter that featured an art exhibit at Parker, titled “Art’s Endless Odyssey.”

That exhibit, Soffer’s first in his hometown, was a hit. So he’s capitalizing on that for a second show at Parker, a West New York cafe at 6504 Park Ave. that is a free venue for local artists to showcase their work. His partnership with Parker “creates awareness among neighbors that artists do exist here,” Soffer wrote in his curatorial statement.

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Soffer is building on his experience curating galleries in Manhattan.

“Reality and Fantasy” features three West New York artists. The title comes from questioning if what we’re told is truth, especially in the current social, cultural, and political climate. Artists Amanda Lopez, Stephanie Romano, and Artie Torres explore that theme in their work.

“Just as significantly, we hope that by experiencing art, the viewer will be inspired to imagine a greater future,” Soffer said.

The exhibit is free and open to the public until May 1 during Parker’s normal business hours, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

About the artists

Stephanie Romano’s pieces are in mixed mediums on canvas. Layers of heavy paint applied in a non-uniform way adds a third dimension.

Romano said in a written statement that her work addresses the male gaze, the sexualization of the female body, and gender norms, but ultimately lets viewers offer their own interpretations. Several paintings feature abstractions of the female form, creating distortions that Romano said apply especially to the male gaze.

“Recently, my art has been primarily focusing on the Latinx community,” Romano wrote. Growing up in West New York, a predominantly Latinx urban town, I always felt that we had a lack of representation. With today’s political climate I felt an urge to speak up for the Latinx community.”

Artie Torres’s works deal largely in fantasy and futurism. Vibrant color schemes add a pop to figures of cosmonauts, aliens, sea creatures, and spiritual figures, including Buddha. His works are largely inspired by horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films spanning the decades.

Soffer said that Torres’s works, while dealing with monsters, were painted in an optimistic frame of mind and that Torres views the future in a Utopian light.

Latina heritage

Amanda Lopez deals largely with paintings and wood prints, in a series of works depicting the human form along with cultural archetypes that celebrate her heritage.

“For the past eight years I have been exploring what being Latina means to me,” Lopez wrote. “My father was born in Borikén, also known as Puerto Rico. My mother was born in New Jersey, raised by parents who migrated from the island and continued to raise their children in a traditional Borikén household. Growing up, I did not understand their unapologetic pride of the island of Borikén since I was still a young girl consumed in the United States’s ‘European’ way of life.”

Lopez said that she got her first tattoo at 13, a tribal symbol of a Taino Coqui, a frog indigenous to Puerto Rico.

“Being Latina is more than just a label. There is not only one type of representation, and there is not one experience,” Lopez wrote. “My ancestors were part of the African diaspora, they are African, they are Taino indians, they are Spaniards. Latina identity is made up of so many intersectionalities, and it is something that I am proud to embrace.”

Soffer hopes his second exhibit will continue to draw enthusiastic audiences. He said that the reception so far bodes well for getting the word out on visual artists in town.

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