At my special request, Carolina Cambronero Varela poses alongside my favorite image from her photographic exhibition, “From Negative to Positive,” on view at the Offit Gallery, Teachers College, Columbia University through next Thursday, May 30, 2019.
This not-to-be-missed exhibition, which focuses on the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph (CSJ) in Brentwood, NY, demonstrates the unity and reconciliation the CSJ has fostered, and the support the CSJ has provided the community to accomplish the Sisters’ mission of education and social justice through the hands of others. This particular photograph of Carolina’s (at left) depicts Anna Pignataro, a resident of one of the several specialized facilities on property leased by the CSJ to sympathetic organizations. The elderly Anna is pointing out to the viewer her lovely young self in a yearbook page. A companion closeup is found in the bound book of Carolina’s photos that is also on view at the exhibit. The layout of this complementing book employs a format that allows viewers to draw connections between the images, as I naturally did, and hence extract a more personal experience. The closeup picture of Anna’s yearbook reveals more about our subject, a graduate of the Class of January, 1942: “‘And her voice, it murmurs lovely, as a silver stream may run.’ Tall...is Anna, our morning music maker…”How fitting that Carolina Cambronero Varela organized a spectacular panel event about the power of music, art, and the hands of others. Held in 306 Russell Hall on Wednesday, April 30, 5-8:30pm, just next to the Gottesman Libraries’ opening of her work, the panel “From Negative to Positive: Experiences of Harmony and Hope in Correctional Facilities” shines a light on the transformative effect that the arts and community outreach can have on marginalized and challenged populations. Hosted by the Student Advocates for the Arts (SAA), in collaboration with the Youth Board of Music on the Inside, Inc. (MOTI), the program began with a visual poem, performed in American Sign Language, about the music that is inside all of us. Carolina Cambronero Varela’s photographic exhibition demonstrates work that, itself, is visual poetry without words. Her study of the CSJ demonstrates that the timely mission of the Sisters, like MOTI, remains very relevant in addressing current social, political, and economic issues. Congratulations to Carolina on an outstanding exhibition and panel event!