Who is an Outsider?

JCTC Opens Season with Art Show Exploring Acceptance & Alienation

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'She’s Come Undone' by Athena Flora Toledo is part of the Outsiders Art Show opening on September 13
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Jersey City Theater Center’s Outsiders Art Show was co-curated by Jenny Brover, a documentary and portrait photographer and Lorenzo Irico, an Italian-born painter.
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'She’s Come Undone' by Athena Flora Toledo is part of the Outsiders Art Show opening on September 13
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Jersey City Theater Center’s Outsiders Art Show was co-curated by Jenny Brover, a documentary and portrait photographer and Lorenzo Irico, an Italian-born painter.

Outsiders – the new series by Jersey City Theater Center – explores issues of acceptance, alienation and identity by asking, ‘Who belongs and who decides who belongs?’

Outsiders opens with an art-show featuring an array of visual arts, including painting, photography, mixed media and sculpture on Sept. 12, Merseles Studios, 339 Newark Ave, Jersey City.

JCTC selects a theme global in scope, yet relevant to the community. The Outsiders Art Show kicks off JCTC’s Fall Season, which includes the main show production of Lines in The Dust, and Voices: The International Theater Festival.

The season begins with the Outsiders art show opening, featuring nearly a dozen individual artists who responded to the blurb: “Have you ever felt like an outsider? Everyone has at some point in their lives. Then why, when you are in are the majority, do you forget how it feels to be outside the mainstream? What do you do to open up your circle?”

The Outsider Art Show runs Sept. 13 – Nov. 8 in the Merseles Studios Art Gallery, 339 Newark Avenue in
Jersey City, and is accessible during all Merseles Studios performances.

The theme has a personal resonance for Olga Levina, Artistic Director, JCTC, who was raised in the former Soviet Union before immigrating to the U.S.

“I have often felt like an outsider,” she says. “At times, I was outside the culture and also outside of certain circles, because being an immigrant, or a woman, or even an artists. But then there were other times I’ve felt like an insider, as I got older and had children and followed my career path. It’s a question I’ve always wanted to explore – what does it mean to belong and what obligations do we have to those who don’t belong?”

What acceptance means and what obligations acceptance implies sparked the imaginations of the co-curators of the Outsiders art show, Jenny Brover, a documentary and portrait photographer and Lorenzo Irico, an Italian-born painter who combines the often diverse schools of expressionism, symbolism and neo-modernist art.

The Outsiders ‘call for art’ was sent-out in the early summer, soliciting work through artist publications, social media and other channels. The theme attracted dozens of submissions for an often politically-tinged exhibition that prompts viewer to question their own roles in society.

“What does it mean to be an outsider?” said Brover. “Is it a radical choice, are we born alienated, or is it imposed upon us through the ignorance of others? I’m thrilled and honored to co-curate an exhibit that challenges the artist to answer, with their work, such meaningful questions.”

The final selection features an array of media by some of Hudson County leading visual artists, including many artists showing at JCTC for the first time alongside a few JCTC artist alumni.

Artists include: Catalina Aranguren (Photography); Leandro Comrie (Painting/Collage); Grigory Gurevich (Sculpture); Cecilia Martinez (Mixed Media Collage); Mike McLean (Painted Banner); Maglinda Perez (Sculpture); Robert Piersanti (Painting); Anna Ryabtsov (Photography); Jhoan Tamayo (Photography); Athena Flora Toledo (Painting /Mixed Media); Vanessa Velez ( Painting); and Frank Ippolito (Photography/Mixed Media).

As a topical issue, the ‘us vs them’ mentality can be seen on all sides of the political spectrum, making the Outsiders theme relevant to artists seeking to comment on the way we live now.

“Looking from the outside in is the true essence of the artist vision,” said Irico. “What defines an outsider? Can we choose to be one, or are we forced to be one because of the lack of acceptance by society of our peculiar diversities?”

The questions may be challenging and finding answers may be elusive, but the Outsiders theme ultimately echoed the positive role artists can have in society.

“Acceptance can happen only when we are empathetic to one another,” said Brover. “Open mindedness, as expressed through art, is what bridges the gap between strangers and creates community.”

 The Outsiders theme and its related issues of belonging, acceptance and alienation seem particularly relevant to the turbulence of our current political era. “The Outsiders theme is something we at JCTC have been discussing for some time, and it really touches on everything we are doing this season,” said Levina. “It has been a dream of mine for a long time and it’s very exciting to see it become a reality.”

For more information visit: www.JCTCenter.org.