In De Lo Mío, Artists Push and Pull at the Seams of Dominican Collective Memory

In Dominican slang, one might say “de lo mío,” a phrase that roughly translates to “of mine,” to refer to kin or to identify the familiar. As it slices through conversations, it marks proximities (to subjects, objects, or topics of intrigue) and establishes the sort of absolute confidence that vanquishes further questioning. Fittingly, De Lo Mío, a group exhibition curated by multimedia artist Tiffany Alfonseca, installed across three galleries at Jenkins Johnson Projects in Brooklyn, locates these proximities in a common place. Together, Alfonseca — whose own work features in the exhibition — with artists Bianca Nemelc, Joiri Minaya, Monica Hernandez, Uzumaki Cepeda, and Veronica Fernandez, images a variegated collection of historical and familial memory, tethered to a shared homeland. 

De Lo Mío does not assume monolithic relationships to the Dominican Republic. In fact, works tend to swiftly diverge in medium and subject matter. As I move through the exhibition, I sometimes crave more space to sit with these differences. Still, the artists repeatedly turn to portraiture to narrate memory and reveal place. In Nemelc’s paintings, distended body parts are geographies themselves as brown nipples sprout between sharp blades of grass and budding flowers. Alfonseca herself magnifies the mundane to disclose location, paying close attention to interior details like shutter windows and a dangling clothesline. 

Veronica Fernandez, “Between This and Myself (You Never See Me)” (2021), oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

As if piecing together a fleeting dream, Fernandez layers a cacophony of hues and textures to create compositions that resemble images in a family photo album. In “Between This and Myself (You Never See Me)” (2021), figures — some fully rendered and others barely discernible — crowd around the number 21, embellished with the sort of garish calligraphy reserved for birthday cake. The work is installed across from Hernandez’s enigmatic portrait, “Clipped” (2021), in which a nude woman with a steady gaze nuzzles a dish that holds a bleeding chicken foot. Ripe swatches of coral, supple browns, and notes of green and cerulean are infused in these works and those surrounding, ushering viewers into a steamy, and ultimately unforgiving climate. 

Joiri Minaya, “The upkeepers” (2021), archival print on Hahnemühle Fine Art pearl paper, 17 x 11 inches

As this vibrant palette sweeps across De Lo Mío, it deepens, and darkens, evolving into a loaded signifier that surfaces deep-seated histories of coloniality in the Dominican Republic. In Minaya’s archival pigment print “Continuum II” (2021), flashes of hypnotic blue and hints of peppery red harbor sinister legacies. Here, the multidisciplinary artist juxtaposes a contemporary photograph of a Black woman (presumably a tourism worker) with a portrait of a Black woman performing comparable labor centuries ago. The contemporary worker smiles as she carries a silver tray with pineapple cocktails while the woman superimposed on her left mirrors her, clutching a silver platter topped with richly saturated fruit. These blazing hues sour with the fruit, becoming one among many visual threads that link the colonial past to the neocolonial present. 

De Lo Mío concludes abruptly with Cepeda’s haunting installation, “el pasado me trajo aqui” (2021), entombed in the back of the crowded downstairs gallery. A windowed corridor confines a hushed landscape, carpeted with the artist’s velvety textiles. My gaze meets a spotlight at the center that warms an assortment of small, found objects: a shell, placed near a devotional candle and a faceless terracotta figurine, standing stiffly, as if ready to be purchased, carried overseas, and housed on a shelf for eternity. The work elicits subjects that abound in De Lo Mío — tourism, migration, and national identity — informing the exhibition’s formidable and at times, paradoxical journey to record collective memory. 

Uzumaki Cepeda, “Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place” (2021), fur on found objects

De Lo Mío continues through March 27  at Jenkins Johnson Projects (207 Ocean Avenue, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn).

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