Press Release

In New Exhibit at Pace University Art Gallery, Six New York Artists Explore Identity via Textiles

June 2, 2023

Pace University Art Gallery is pleased to present “To Be Made Whole,” an exhibition featuring artists Elia Alba, Desmond Beach, Nicholas Cueva, Jeanne F. Jalandoni, Juan Sánchez, and Melissa Zexter who each unravel and reassemble identity via a synthesis of representational imagery and tactile textiles. The exhibit opens with a free public reception on Friday, June 2, from 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. and was co-curated by Prof. Sarah Cunningham, the gallery director, and Francisco Maldonado ’23, who received a research assistantship from Pace’s Center for Undergraduate Research Experiences.

The six artists in the exhibit fabricate fuller and more complex understandings of identity, culture, and history through their work. Maldonado notes, “In this show, we review art that combines representation and fabrication as a means to explore our collective identities and memory as well.” Their unique amalgamations are tangible forms of visual storytelling in which illustrative images are literally stitched or woven together to form complete narratives.

Jalandoni, for example, states that her paint and textile pieces “navigate the complexities and tangibility of being culturally Filipino American as a 2nd generation New Yorker,” reflecting that “the intricate process and performance of building a textile also has its references to journey-making and time-stamping.”

Similarly, Zexter elaborates that, “The thread acts as a connection between the person and myself or place that I have photographed. I always think of the photograph as something from the past and the thread as a reaction to the past and present.”

Additionally, inspired by her mother who immigrated to the US in 1950s and worked in the garment industry, Alba says, “Creating these works out of textiles pays tribute to the material creativity as an act of agency across diasporic communities.”

Meanwhile, Beach reimagines African-American quilts as shrouds. Haunted by the image of Michael Brown’s body lying uncared for in the street, he says, “My heart ached not only for the brutality that led to that moment but for the lack of tenderness in its aftermath…The quilt could serve as protection and allow him to maintain his dignity and respect as it blanketed him.”

By combining photo-related and fiber arts—both widely accessible quotidian processes that many viewers practice personally, the artists in “To Be Made Whole” simultaneously examine not how these materials function independently, but rather in conversation. At this generative intersection, they illuminate the ways identities are pieced together and demonstrate our collective capacity to be active participants in their creation.

This exhibit, which remains on view through Thursday, September 14, 2023, is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. All of the gallery’s exhibits and events are free and open to the public. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday—Saturday from 12:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m. and by appointment.

Artist Biographies

  • Born in the U.S. to parents who immigrated from the Dominican Republic, Elia Alba (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist, whose practice is concerned with the social and political complexity of race, identity, and the collective community. She received her BA from Hunter College and completed the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Science Museum, London; Smithsonian Museum of Art, El Museo del Barrio, National Museum of Art, and Reina Sofía, Madrid. Awards include the Studio Museum in Harlem Artist-in Residency, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, Anonymous Was A Woman Award, and the Latinx Artist Fellowship. Collections include the Smithsonian Museum of Art, El Museo del Barrio, and Lowe Art Museum. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art Forum, ArtNews, and Forbes. She was part of the curatorial team for El Museo del Barrio’s critically acclaimed exhibition, Estamos Bien: La Trienal 20/21. Her book, Elia Alba, The Supper Club (Hirmer, 2019) brings together artists, scholars, and performers of diasporic cultures, through photography, food, and dialogue to examine race and culture in the United States. She lives and works in the Bronx.
  • Desmond Beach is a New York City artist and educator who explores race, identity, and social justice themes in his artistic practice. Through his work, Beach aims to transform the tragedies of the transatlantic slave trade and the Jim Crow America South into a celebration of fully living Black life. Beach has an extensive background in teaching and has served as a visiting lecturer/artist at various institutions, including Coppin State University, Emerson College, Morgan State University, and College of the Atlantic. He has also been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Skidmore College, among others. He has exhibited at museums including The Phillips Collection (DC), Katonah Museum of Art (NY), the Neuberger Museum of Art (NY), and The Contemporary Museum (MD) and had recent solo shows at Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (NY), Chesapeake Gallery (MD), and Evanston Art Center (IL). His educational background includes an MFA from the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where he also earned his BFA. Currently, Beach is a PhD candidate in Creative Practice at the University of Plymouth in England.
  • Nicholas Cueva (b. Dana Point, CA, 1983) received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011 and has lived in New York since. He has exhibited widely throughout the United States, including group exhibitions at the Torrance Museum of Art (CA) and Ess Ef Eff (Brooklyn, NY) and solo exhibitions at MPTSN and Dreamboat (Chicago, IL), among others. The Sex Wax paintings on fabric draw from his upbringing in the Calvary Chapel Surfing Association, a self-described “surfing church.” His work examines surfing from a personal perspective, presenting it as a nexus of emotional resonances and fatalistic paradoxes, all the while exploring its intrinsically dynamic formal qualities. Born with Truncus Arteriosus, a rare congenital heart defect that left him physically weak, he was rarely able to surf and felt like an outsider looking in.
  • Jeanne F. Jalandoni is a painter and textile artist, based in NYC. Her work navigates Filipino American cultural identity through personal research and experiences as a second generation American. She uses national symbols such as the carabao, bangus to express characteristics she associates with her biculturalism, in an attempt to redefine the Filipino American narrative. Jalandoni received her BFA in Studio Art from NYU, and had solo shows with Taymour Grahne Projects and Real Art Ways. She exhibited in group shows with Jeffrey Deitch, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Textile Arts Center, and Asia Society Texas Center. Jalandoni was an artist-in-residence at 36 Chase & Barns (2018), the Textile Arts Center (2021), and ChaNorth Artist Residency (2022). Jeanne is a recipient of the Real Art Award, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Creative Engagement Grant (2019).
  • Juan Sánchez was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1954 to working class immigrant parents. He earned a BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art and a MFA from Rutgers. Maintaining an activist stance for over forty-five years, he establishes his art as an arena of creative and political inquiry that encompasses the individual, family, the communities with which he engages, and the world at large. Sánchez has received many grants and fellowships including the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the CUAA Augustus Saint Gaulden Achievement in the Visual Arts Award. He has exhibited internationally including major solo exhibitions at BRIC Arts/Media House, Zoellner Arts Center, MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Jersey City Museum, and EXIT ART. His art is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, El Museo del Barrio, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, El Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, and El Centro Wilfredo Lam in Cuba. Sánchez is Professor of Art at Hunter College.
  • Melissa Zexter was born in Rhode Island and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a BFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from New York University. Zexter has exhibited throughout the United States and internationally including shows at Muriel Guepin Gallery (NY), The Triennial Design Museum in Milan, Italy, The Fuller Craft Museum (MA), Robert Mann Gallery (NY), and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Her work has been published and reviewed in numerous publications including AfterImage, ELEPHANT, Juxtapoz, The New York Times, The Boston Herald, The New Yorker, Art New England, BUST, and New York Magazine. Zexter combines embroidery with photography. She sews by hand directly onto photographs she has taken, combining a traditional practical skill, embroidery with a modern and mass reproducible process, photography. The artist’s fundamental concern is to explore the photograph's material status as three-dimensional object as well as to examine issues of identity, memory and technology.

About the Pace University Art Gallery

Founded with the conviction that art is integral to society, the Pace University Art Gallery is a creative laboratory and exhibition space that supports innovation and exploration for both artists and viewers. Open to students, staff, and faculty from across the Pace campuses and, equally, to the Lower Manhattan community and visitors from around the world, the Art Gallery encourages personal investigation and critical dialogue via thought-provoking contemporary art exhibits and public programming. Enhancing the Art Department's Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts programs, the Art Gallery offers students real-world opportunities to exhibit their own art and to work directly with professional artists to install and promote exhibitions. All exhibits and events are free and open to the public.

About Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

Pace University’s liberal arts college, Dyson College, offers more than 50 programs, spanning the arts and humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and pre-professional programs (including pre-medicine, pre-veterinary, and pre-law), as well as many courses that fulfill core curriculum requirements. The College offers access to numerous opportunities for internships, cooperative education and other hands-on learning experiences that complement in-class learning in preparing graduates for career and graduate/professional education choices.

About Pace University

Since 1906, Pace University has been transforming the lives of its diverse students—academically, professionally, and socioeconomically. With campuses in New York City and Westchester County, Pace offers bachelor, master, and doctoral degree programs to 13,600 students in its College of Health Professions, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Lubin School of Business, School of Education, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

More Press Releases

Press Release

Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law is once again ranked #1 in the country for Environmental Law by the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings, released today. Haub Law was also ranked #13 in the nation for its trial advocacy program, placing it impressively among the top 10% of schools nationwide.