Saturday, March 9, 2024

A day at the museum with Manny Vega

Ten tenants joined our neighbor, Artist-in-Residence Manny Vega for a tour of his Byzantine Bembé exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.  With a sense of humor, an even greater sense of community, and lot of wisdom and joy, Manny shared his art with us. 

Click here for a few photos from the day.   (If you took photos or videos, please send them along and I'll add them to the album.)

We knew we were in the right place when we saw a model of Manny's head (by his mentor John Ahearn) at the entrance to the exhibit.  Then we followed Manny from one work to another as he talked about how his art came to be chosen by the museum, and about the community (both ours and East Harlem) that it reflects.  

The Museum of the City of New York reached out to him and loved his apartment. So they invited him to be artist-in-residence (the museum's first!) and to design the exhibit, with an emphasis on East Harlem.  Manny painted the space the color of his apartment walls, and organized some of his art to reflect the Latin and Afro jazz he loves - and that played in the exhibit as he spoke.  Some of the works showed how he learned different techniques: He showed us an acid etched piece he did, influenced by Goya, of the death of a member of the Young Lords. We saw quick portraits he painted of people who passed by his park bench, and beautiful, large detailed line drawings that reminded some of detailed wood or lino prints and recorded members of a Barrio band, including the lead dancer, Julia, and a male band member dancing on a drum, barefoot. 

Posters for East Harlem dances he had made as a community contribution showed the energy and music of the events.  And one wall was covered in pieces reflecting his Brazilian/African spiritual focus, with African and other deities,  each piece inspiring him to create the next.  

When he won a contest to do the artwork for the subway station at 103rd and Lexington Avenue, his work was put onto tile by Peter Columbo. That person rebuffed Manny's request to learn how to do that, so he went and bought tiles and taught himself techniques from the 4th century.  He became known for his tile work, now evidenced by the Tito Puente memorial that will be on the northeast corner of Central Park and 110th Street - a model of which is at the Museum.  

Some neighbors stayed for his 1 pm art workshop:  he wants everyone to see his art and want to create their own.  And he's promised to do a workshop in the building!

Many thanks to Manny himself for sharing his life and art with us with wonderful stories, and to Pat Jordan for organizing the event for our members. 

And join us at this Wednesday's meeting, "Good to Know!" in the Community Room at 8.  We'll share coffee, tea, cake, fruit and other goodies, chat, and talk with someone from Bloomingdale Aging in Place (for all ages), the NYC Department of Sanitation, and the local NY Public Library (Bloomingdale branch).