There are neighborhoods New Yorkers pass through every day on the subway that they will never see. There are even boroughs that might get missed entirely in our lives. But for 16 artists and one borough that relationship is changing this spring, as Queens College Art Center launches “Express+Local: NYC Aesthetics,” a monthly residency and exhibition designed to encourage the interaction between the artists and Queens.
Curator Tara Mathison says of the artists selected, “They all share a common trait of having had other areas of the city affect them in powerful ways, but Queens was still a mysterious place to them.” Carl Gambrell, a Brooklyn artist participating in the March session along with his partner Rob Kimmel, agreed. “Most parts of Queens are still very foreign to us so it's been a real challenge. What makes this project interesting is trying to find the everyday elements of a neighborhood and turn them into something that is visually compelling.”
Gambrell and Kimmel are regularly exploring different neighborhoods in the borough, from Flushing to Bayside to Jamaica, and documenting them with Polaroid cameras. (Their project is sponsored by Dutch company the Impossible Project, the only remaining manufacturer of instant film for Polaroid cameras.) Ultimately their project will reside both online and in the gallery space, existing as a unique and unconventional map of the journey through Queens they’ve taken. “Maps can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s been great to walk the streets and demystify some areas of the city you don't normally see,” said Gambrell.
The artists participating in the program are given a studio space within the gallery, and will make their process open to the public at various points of their residencies. (The entire exhibition culminates with an opening reception on May 5.) “We want both the viewer and artists to understand that they are there to experience something different than just walking to their usual studio space,” said Mathison.