Young New York artist Jehdy Vargas creates a unique way of linking the past with the present even as it is being experienced in her head. This process allows her to relieve the moment in a purging process of transformation. Sometimes acting as a therapeutic process. Past and present meet everywhere in a person’s mind most notably geographically and more importantly emotionally. Both are equally appropriate beginnings for Jehdy’s body of work.
Jehdy has always taken a journalistic approach to her work. Her process is composed of shooting, printing, pasting, painting, scanning, painting and repeating until the primary mechanic image is lost. Sometimes, replacing the traditional canvas, there is a necessity to incorporate found objects to carry the picture. Through this process she examines and re-creates past and present. Using photography as an object to create art that exemplifies transfiguration. Past and present experiences take on a new physical form.
Jehdy recently completed two 5 month residency at Mana Contemporary Art center provided through Martin and Lorraine Kaminsky studio program. She has participated in many group shows including: ESKFF 2x2 Exhibition at Mana Contemporary, ESKFF Paddel 8 auction exhibited at Mana Contemporary, exhibition at Made In America’s Artist and Culture Village in Philadelphia, The All Female Last Brucennial’s exhibited through Bruce High Quality and Vito Schnabel in New York City, Brooklyn Museum’s Go Open Studios, and Sound of Art Group show at Heath Gallery in Harlem, Group show at Trestle Art Gallery, Performance Art pieces at MOMA PS1 and curated art fundraising art auction called The Hood art Auction for group of orphaned children that she has worked for in the Domibican Republic.
Growing up I was exposed to a lot of things that most people would call socially unacceptable or taboo. One of those things was the practicing of Santeria. Santeria is a Syncretic religion of West Africa and the Caribbean. It’s origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity. Aspects of this origin are mixed with rituals that vary greatly. Most people associate it with black magic or witchcraft.
I have vivid memories of my grandmother walking on fire and broken glass. She would perform spiritual rituals to bring people back spirits from the dead. I remember being young and wanting to eat the candy that my grandmother would leave out for the “saints” as offerings and I would get in trouble if I attempted to eat them from her altars. The memories I have from this time in my life are very animated and distinct. They are striking, colorful, vibrant images that I find beautiful to paint.
In my body of work I pulled from my memories utilizing a combination old photographs from my childhood as well as new ones I take reenacting certain scenarios from past ceremonies. As I am creating the work, I am thinking about my cultural and African diaspora and how my grandmother would of never started this practice if it wasn’t for my ancestors. I found all of her spells and altars disturbing, but also beautiful as a child. I couldn’t but help to find it strangely romantic that she would do anything in the world to bring love to her 11 children. With the constant love spell or candle ceremonies followed by Pallo parties—in hopes to reach some sort of spiritual belief that by doing so she would reach some sort of subconscious truth.
I have been documenting memories into finite objects of self-reflection and identity, making a stamp or map on the moment occurred in a journalistic approach of attempting to record. This ethnographical recording can be seen in my Santeria Love Spell Instillation. Growing up in Dominican Republic and in New York I experienced the African diaspora as young American girl. Trying to understand why my aunt would light a cross on the floor with Florida Water on a New York City apartment in the Bronx and walk over it in hopes of “cleansing” the apt of bad spirits and to open her self up to new found love. I document these events from my past as a technique of self-representation that is not of stable form, but in constant fluctuation. My past and present experiences are transformed from ephemeral memory into a finite physical form through art. I create autobiographical work as a form of transformation, while at the same time using my art as an opportunity to cathartically purge my lived experiences. By transforming photographs into objects and collaging them onto other objects I re-examine the past. Through art I romanticize the often disturbing and uncomfortable parts of the human existence and realities of my life. By utilizing art as a means of consciousness in my own surrounding, I can mentally, emotionally, and physically record the changes that occurred.