Eyes of a Woman

Courtesy of Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts

What would it take to bring a diversity director, a cultural anthropologist, a digital photography teacher, and a woodwork artist together? The answer is Len Rodriguez.

On Friday March 18, the four women  described above were introduced to each other for the first time at the Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts gallery in Pilsen at the opening of the “Visiones Femeninas” exhibition, where their photography was on display.  Gallery director Len Dominguez claims his wife, Patricia Carlos, was the inspiration for the exhibit. “She is the one who makes sure that we honor Women’s Month every year, by either bringing a work of theater from Mexico, featuring women, or by exhibiting women artists in the gallery,” he explains. Carlos is well known in Pilsen for her work with children’s theater, putting on performances in local schools and in the National Museum of Mexican Art. In fact, half a dozen puppets she had made–shaped like anthropomorphized body parts for a show about hygiene–lay smiling on a table in a corner.

Dominguez and Carlos have dedicated much of their adult lives to education and the arts, eventually founding the gallery in 2005. Before that, Dominguez held a long career in Chicago Public Schools, at one point rising to Chief of Policy. But even prior to that, Dominguez was editor-in-chief for Nit & Wit, a Chicago literary arts magazine. After retiring, Dominguez knew he wanted to make art a bigger part of his life again, and convinced his wife to convert a storage area of their apartment into a gallery space. The couple remodeled the space, and slowly began working with their many community connections to organize shows. Today, Dominguez beams that the gallery is booked through the rest of the year.

For “Visiones Femeninas,” Dominguez reached out to less established artists as well as those whose work he had seen before in the neighborhood. The youngest artist on exhibit, 27-year-old Rosy Torres, is a self-described Chicana, photographer, poet, activist, and mystic living in Pilsen. Though currently her energy is invested in creating custom-made wooden jewelry, Torres says she remains motivated by “a burning desire to expose truth through photos.” Her collection of snapshots in “Visiones Femeninas” is as eclectic as her interests–an image of a grandmother wrapped in an American flag hangs next to a black-and-white photo of a girl peering into a water basin in which a tiny ninja floats.

Like their lives, the photographs each woman contributed are incredibly different. The photographs of Sharyne Moy Tu, who directs committees and diversity initiatives for the American Bar Association, are hanging on the wall next to Torres’s. This is Moy Tu’s first show, and although her style still seems to be developing, the positive experience of participating in the show has encouraged her to display her work publicly more frequently. “These women were just so nice,” she smiles. “You and Patricia have been incredibly nice, too,” she adds, looking at Len, “But we were just instant friends.”

In the back of the room are three black and white photographs by Analia Rodriguez, a teaching artist and founder of VILLARTE, an arts organization in the Little Village. The photos  show close-ups of what appears to be skin; patches of diamonds and the outline of feminine toes provide a unique take on celebration of womanhood.

Images from the travels of Nachieli Macías, a community artist trained as a cultural anthropologist, line the adjacent wall. The largest and most diverse collection, her photographs span multiple continents, and are each placed on a different colored matte.  Her women and children subjects are photographed lovingly, shedding light on their relationships and environments, and with zoomed-in facial expressions. Macías expertly captures glimpses of full lives, in addition to smiles and scenery.

With “Visiones Femeninas,” Dominguez hoped to display “the sublime beauty which surrounds us moment by moment.” The title of this exhibit is ambiguous and its aspirations vague, but by some happy accident, in his attempt to celebrate womanhood in general, Dominguez got at something even better: four distinct and deeply intimate visions of life and beauty.

Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts, 1538 W Cullerton St. Through April 8. Hours by appointment. (773)580-8053. artpilsen.blogspot.com