Sonder, noun: the profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including the stranger passing on the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.
We live in a moment where awareness of self continues to overshadow our ability to consider others’ lives. How can we make space to recognize the experiences of others?
Through photography and video, fall 2021 artists-in-residence William Caballero, Renluka Maharaj, Ken West, and Cherrie Yu prompt us to consider the complexity and richness of the lives of others. This collective work centers, celebrates, and—with empathy—make visible the lives of laborers, family members, black and brown nerds, queer communities, and the stranger passing on the street.
William Caballero, a filmmaker, documents and explores the history and legacy of his familial migration from Puerto Rico to North Carolina. Creating mini 3D sculptures of his grandparents, Caballero combines their figures with live recordings of their stories to create videos that place their stories in the canon of fine art and the broader American narrative.
Renluka Maharaj translates stories of her familial and cultural history from photography and research. Taking form as substrates on her colorful, mixed-media paintings, photographs give face to the history and memory of labor. These often-large-scale works question the legacy of indentured service and migration and their impact on identity within Indo-Caribbean communities.
Ken West uses his solitary experience in tech as a foil for his photographs. Conveying empathy and humanity in his practice of documentary photography is critical in his search for beauty in everyday things. Often taken on the streets, West creates images intentionally, building more intimate or familial images of black, brown, and queer communities.
Cherrie Yu mines everyday moments in time, habits, and routine as the visual language in their performance-based work. Their videos document or otherwise create collaborative, choreography-based work that recontextualizes movement by taking it out of its traditional context and re-creating it in an unfamiliar environment. Whether recreating a wrestling match in the street or pairing the movements of a ballet dancer and janitor, their work forces the reconsideration of value we place on one form of labor and movement over another.
Sonder and the residency of Renluka Maharaj are generously supported by Windgate Foundation.
Featured image: Ken West, Mother of Man (detail), 2019. Metallic Archival Paper; 30 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist.