April 19 – September 30, 2023

Persisting Multiplicities

Works by Mariana Bolaños, Fei Ji & Dana Prieto
Curated by Esmond Lee

Presented in partnership with Neighbourhood Arts Network

The newcomer label is often used in good-faith to identify a beginner in the process of orienting and learning. It refers to the development of new skills and the navigation of new experiences, from riding a bicycle to the first day at a new job. In this optimistic reading, the term newcomer is a signal for patience and guidance‒suggestive of an apprentice who will eventually become a master. However, within the context of global migration and settlement, the newcomer is a not-so-innocent categorization composed of many more dimensions and processes.

Migrant newcomer is a category that privileges a host nation. Newcomer is a particular social-political construct that normalizes binary relationships: inside and outside, domestic and foreign, belonging and unbelonging. Situated within colonial and capitalist systems, this master-apprentice dynamic intentionally emphasizes inadequacy and incompleteness, felt even before arrival. Peoples’ histories become flattened as caricatured backgrounds. What appears to be a self-determined journey is in fact mediated by processes of status, class, race and gender through the socio-economic system. How and when is someone no longer a newcomer? Can integration be measured? Newcomer is a term that can reduce multiplicities-of-being into static units that serve preconceived categories of social and political hierarchy.

Through their work, the artists in Persisting Multiplicities negotiate complex social, cultural and political identities. Viewers are invited to reflect on these artworks beyond binary framing. Why and how art is made ‒ including art not made ‒ are important considerations. The creation of this artwork is the very site where identities and relationships are negotiated. The artists’ processes and outcomes reveal and resist the hidden and ongoing forces imposed by colonialist, capitalist, and nationalist systems.

The artists in Persisting Multiplicities are all past recipients of the Newcomer Arts Award, presented by Toronto Arts Foundation’s Neighbourhood Arts Network.

About the Artists

Mariana Bolaños is a Mexican artist based in Toronto. She has created a diverse body of work in painting and ceramics. Focusing on art with a social purpose, she works as a facilitator in community programs with children, women and newcomers around Toronto and the GTA. Mariana has collaborated with the Neighbourhood Arts Network, North York Arts, and Muse Arts. Mariana is a recipient of the RBC Arts Access Fund and has received grants from the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council with Pinceles Latinos Collective. She exhibits her work regularly and has been part of several shows in Canada, Cuba, and Mexico. Mariana studied visual arts in Mexico and obtained a Diploma in Fine Arts when she moved to Canada. She has recently graduated from the Ceramics program at Sheridan College.

Fei Ji is a painter currently working in Simcoe, Ontario. She studied animation art and multimedia design in Beijing and Quebec universities, and holds two bachelor of arts degrees. Fei’s work frequently explores themes of identity, nationality, sexuality and belonging from the perspective of a female immigrant — and with a strong focus on daily life. Fei is grateful to be supported by Ontario Arts Council.

Dana Prieto is an Argentine visual artist and educator based in so called Toronto. Their art practice responds to the sites where they work, and it manifests in sculpture, installation, performance, writing and collaborations. Prieto’s work examines intimate and collective entanglements with colonial institutions and power structures, calling for a careful attention to our ways of relating, thinking, making and consuming in the Anthropocene. Prieto holds a Master of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto, a BFA from OCAD University, and is a York University EUC Research Associate for the Finding Flowers Project. Their work has been presented in national and international galleries, public spaces and informal cultural venues.

About the Curator

Esmond Lee 李春錦 is a community-engaged artist, researcher, and architect based in Scarborough. Lee explores long-term, intergenerational experiences of migration in peripheral spaces. He holds a Master of Architecture and is pursuing a Doctorate in Critical Human Geography. Lee draws from these seemingly diverging backgrounds to examine identity, belonging, and nuanced cultural and political borders in the built environment. Recent public artworks include two photographic sculptures for Nuit Blanche Toronto (2019, 2022) and a 30-foot tall installation at Malvern Town Centre presented by the Doris McCarthy Gallery for CONTACT Photography Festival, nominated for a 2022 Heritage Toronto Public History Award. Lee’s current projects include two photobooks: Below the City, recognized by the Edward Burtynsky Grant, and community-driven book for Woodside Square Library as the Toronto Public Library Artist-in-Residence. His work is in the permanent collection of The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Michael Garron Hospital, and Doris McCarthy Gallery (DMG) at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). Lee is supported by the Toronto, Ontario, and Canada Art Councils.