Claudia Peña Salinas: Anaranja
Exhibition and Artist Book:
This overall sense of intermingling extends to the title of the exhibition, “Anaranja,” deriving its name from Peña Salinas’ combination of two Spanish words that refer to orange: “naranja,” the fruit, and “anaranjado,” the color itself. Through the use of word play, she forms a hybrid word that means both, retaining the feminized version in Spanish by using the “a” at the end, as a personal reference.
Drawing from her life experience as an immigrant daughter of Mexican orange orchard cultivators, along with wandering the neighborhood streets, flâneur-like, Peña Salinas explores the relationship of the orange fruit and color, observing its prevalence in Chinese culture and tradition. Functioning much like portraiture, Anaranja is a parallel search for individual significance as well as for recognition of the two most populous and currently influential immigrant cultures in New York City.
Orange has a strong association for the Chinese as a symbol of prosperity, and Peña Salinas examines it through color, food, folklore, ritual, and religious ceremony. Walking through Chinatown, she discovers oranges are ubiquitous: for sale on fruit stands, as ritual offerings in Buddhist temples, in makeshift altars in corner stores, as a post-dim sum dessert, in florists as miniature trees, and as artificial plastic objects. Her artist book Anaranja chronicles the experience, through poetry and photographs, as she encounters manifestations of orange, searching for the blossoms as a form of springtime awakening and the flourish of new creative life.
The Anaranja installation at Forever & Today, Inc.’s storefront further evokes orange through color, texture, smell, light, and assemblage. Bringing together sculpture, paintings, photographs, and found objects, Peña Salinas makes carefully considered associations to create a subtle visual language with both macro and micro perspectives. The materials for the installation have all been either found or sourced in the Chinatown neighborhood, and often significant is the good luck number three, which appears in different ways within the collected works, literally or through implied absence.
This tableau includes a worn chair placed upside-down upon the floor, with a wax orange perched upon one leg, creating a somewhat puzzling juxtaposition. Upon the back wall, a digital inkjet photographic print is adhered, depicting the view through the window from behind the counter of the Chinese family fruit market next door to Forever & Today, Inc.’s storefront. In it, one sees a collection of objects from reverse, including a ceramic good luck cat and goldfish, as well a colorful jumble of traditional Chinese medicine packages.
Additionally, two paintings on canvas made from orange Kool-Aid face each other from opposite walls, as if in silent dialogue. A miniature heart-shaped tombstone model of polished black marble sits upon the floor nearby a stacked column of decorative plastic boxes, containing a vintage photograph of orange blossoms encased inside. An orange light fixture glows from the florescent lights above, making for another pop of color on the ceiling. The sweet smell of oranges hangs in the air, scenting the room and adding a meditative sensory resonance to the installation.
At once this curious grouping of works seems interconnected, by the orange objects and colors, and also the threes or triplings that begin to reveal themselves both in the installation and the artist book. Three being a lucky number in Chinese culture, but also for Peña Salinas, as a lifelong personal number of special meaning, as well as the triangulation between artist, work, and audience.
Claudia Peña Salinas (b. 1975, Montemorelos, Nuevo Leon, Mexico) lives and works in New York. She received her MFA from Hunter College, New York (2009) and has received awards including the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship (2007). Her recent group exhibitions include Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY (2012); Convent of St. Cecilia, Brooklyn, NY (2010); Flux Factory, Queens, NY (2010); Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York (2010); Roebling Hall, Brooklyn, NY (2006); El Museo del Barrio, New York (2005); as well as performances such as Swiss Institute at The Armory Show, New York (2006), residencies including SOMA, Mexico City, Mexico (2011) and many self-published artist books and publications.
Claudia Peña Salinas: Anaranja is curated by Ingrid Chu and Savannah Gorton.