Written by Jonel Juste for Artburst Miami
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Florida International University (FIU) is presenting “Mama, G-Ma, and Nana: Diamonds in the Sky” at its Miami Beach Urban Studios. This exhibit runs through March 28, 2023, and honors the role models in the lives of the artists Elyssa Llanso, Anna Goraczko, and Tori Scott.
The title of the exhibition “Mama, G-Ma and Nana” is a reference to the nicknames that the female artists used to address their grandmothers. The subtitle “Diamonds in the Sky” symbolizes the cherished memories that remain even though those women they consider their inspiration have passed away, according to Colette Mello, the exhibition’s co-curator with Elyssa Llanso.
The co-curators came up with the idea for this exhibit during a brainstorming session to celebrate Women’s History Month. “During our conversation, explains Mello, Elyssa shared that she had started working on a painting of her grandmother. This led us into a discussion about the prominent roles our grandmothers played in our lives and thus, so we decided to celebrate them through this exhibition.”
The exhibition features Anna Goraczko, Elyssa Llanso, and Tori Scott. Anna Goraczko is a mixed-media artist who employs cyanotypes to document a visual association between physical objects and visual memory. The co-curator Elyssa Llanso is a Miami-based painter who primarily works in painting portraits but has started to experiment with crocheting in honor of her G-Ma. As for Tori Scott, she is a multidisciplinary creator who received her BFA from Florida International University with a focus on Studio art and a Minor in Art History in 2020.
Throughout the exhibit, each woman depicts her grandmother as a way to honor and cherish her memory.
“Preserving the memory of my grandmother is an ongoing pursuit in my life and it is frequently reflected in my art,” indicates exhibitor Anna Goraczko adding that the whole process allows her to grieve her loss healthily.
“In my practice, I continue to seek more of her to know more about her and the kind of woman she was. She is a woman who I strive to be. She is my inspiration,” says Goraczko, who wishes that people may be inspired by her work—to feel a sense of closeness to someone in their lives, to think about how they retain their memories, and to reflect and share stories of their own.
On her side, Elyssa Llanso, born to African American and Cuban parents, explains that her artwork reflects personal experiences and values passed down from the women in her life. It serves as a tribute to them and the important role they played in shaping who she is as an artist and a woman today.
“My works were inspired by my grandmother Mildred (aka G-Ma). She taught me the basics of crocheting as a child, which led to the crocheted doily elements in my art. They were inspired by my grandmother’s practice of lining the dressers in her room with delicate doilies that cradled her precious items like her family photos and her perfume tray,” states Llanso.
“These are traditions passed down to me by the head matriarch of my family that I felt inclined to carry on through my work,” she concludes.
To the visual artist, Tori Scott, who mainly works in painting and digital photography, representing women in all stages of their lives is quite beautiful, especially when it’s done through art.
“For some time, my grandma has been the center of the bulk of my work. I have many memories of my grandmother in her later years and even photographed her before she passed away, but I wanted to focus on her before she became the person I grew up knowing.”
All the works in the exhibitions are poignant and moving, indicates the curator Colette Mello highlighting the importance of celebrating women’s influence in the arts at all times, particularly during Women’s History Month “to showcase talented female artists and other women who have played important roles in our lives and who have made a difference throughout history.”
“For far too long, women have not received the same accolades and recognition as men do in the art world. Studies show that museum exhibitions predominately feature male artists with roughly 30% -35% of them showing female artists,” she continues, hoping that exhibitions like this will create another crack in the glass ceiling and make a difference to the world at large.
Co-curator and exhibitor Elyssa Llanso adds that women, especially black women, are severely underrepresented in the art world, as with many other professions.
“As a black woman, I feel that it can be difficult for our voices to be heard. It is hard to navigate, but when you find people you enjoy working with and you foster communicative relationships it gets easier.”
Tori Scott also recognizes that it can be challenging to be a black woman in the arts, but to her being a black woman who presents art centered around blackness adds an extra layer.
“There were times that my work wasn’t received well because certain groups couldn’t find connections or relatability. Instead of changing my subjects, I made it a point to frequent spaces that were more diverse and accepting of all sorts of art, artists, and content.”
Finally, the co-curators noted that the familial relationships showcased in the exhibition provide a foundation for their identity and influence how they perceive the world. The common themes and motifs among the works in the exhibition speak to women’s experiences and perspectives, creating a space for reflection and appreciation.
They hope that visitors are appreciative of the women in their lives and realize that these unsung heroes have contributed to their well-being in many ways and often do not get the recognition that they deserve.
Picture: Artists Anna Gpraczko, Tori Scott, and Elyssa Llanso exhibit works as part of a new FIU MBUS exhibition.