When the body and mind are as fragile as glass, Scout Cartagena’s “You Have Their Eyes” at DaVinci Art Alliance

An installation that resembles the interior of a house frames the multidimensional art of Scout Cartagena. The Afro-Latinx artist’s subjects are the fragility of the body and the slipperiness of identity and memory. There are prints, furniture and an eye-catching tree stump with red-colored glass flames coming out of the top. Corey appreciates the intimate look into the artist’s identity. Go see the show before it closes Nov. 24.

A photo shows a bright-lit room with table and two chairs, three large objects on the left wall, plates on the table, curtains in the background and rooms beyond.
Installation view, Scout Cartagena “You Have Their Eyes” at Da Vinci Art Alliance. Courtesy Veronica Knell.

Even after reading about the show in advance, I assumed Scout Cartagena’s You Have Their Eyes was titled with attention in mind. Upon visiting the solo exhibition in Gallery 1 of Da Vinci Art Alliance, the title started making sense in a different way.

Said eyes are clearly those of other family members. Family and heritage are themes played with through a variety of installations. In their artist talk with DVAA, Cartagena talked about having parents in the military. With this came endless moving from place to place, a narrative familiar to children with parents in the service. When one’s home is constantly changing, items take on a sentimental role.

“Nostalgia As Reflex” feeds into this sentimentality. A large glass slab hung on the wall vertically is cut into a triptych, screen printed on in beautiful blood red patterns resembling Persian rugs. The mirror-turned-nostalgia-object looms in the gallery in homage to rugs the artist’s family lugged from place to place. Its patterns call you in to see the details, possibly reflexively scaring you with the realization that you can see yourself.

In the low-lit very back of the gallery, “That’s Just How I Remember It (HLH)” actually has a Persian runner paired with a vintage upholstered chair. You can nearly smell its 30 years ago-ness. The wall projects 90’s home videos of the artist and other family members/memories superimposed over footage filmed from inside a glass-blown piece. This view from a set of glass eyes feels intestinal, a perspective in conversation with Cartagena’s two chronic illnesses, Lupus and HLH.

A photo shows a shiny surface of a cut tree stump that is orange-brown, from which emerge strings of dark red that end in little bulbs of color. The background i neutral whitish.
Detail, “And It All Comes Back to The Blood” by Scout Cartagena. Courtesy Veronica Knell.

Internals are further explored in “And It All Comes Back to The Blood”. A tree stump garnished with leaves and other woodsy tanglings sits tall on the gallery floor, calling your attention. The stump is slightly deconstructed at the top, slit and pulled apart, with flame-worked streams of glass blood ascending from the tree. Blood leaves the metaphoric family tree in estrangement, bringing ambivalence about family to a show otherwise mostly nostalgic. Along with the slit bit of stump escaping the rest of the tree, the blood hints at the inheritance of conditions, like Lupus.

“Lengua” delves into the estrangement in gothic fashion. A long wooden table separates two place settings at either end. These plates are attended to by hands without bodies. Guava red hands attend to a plate containing a tongue without a mouth — the artist’s lack of Spanish despite being Puerto Rican. Black wax hands at the other end watch over an empty plate, representative of the lack of things Black women receive societally. The distance between the two sets of hands is the gap of estrangement of being mixed race.

With how personal and family-centric this show is, it’s interesting and sweet how much Scout credits their family in Tyler’s Glass Department. Many of You Have Their Eye‘s pieces contain some type of glasswork. In the previously mentioned artist talk, there was a lot of mention of how collaborative and physically present Glass People at Temple are with each others’ work. This is a different type of family, a good reminder of the benefits of having an artistic community (regardless of size) one can feel comfortable enough to share works-in-progress with.

Cartagena’s gothic, woodsy show is an immersive look into their identity. The interdisciplinary installations make full use of the gallery, giving you an intimate look inside and out of bits of their experience as a disabled Afro-Latinx artist. Though the eyes of the show’s title are totally inherited, there is much here to give your attention to.

You Have Their Eyes” by Scout Cartagena is viewable in Gallery 1 at Da Vinci Art Alliance from November 3rd — November 24th, 2021. You can visit Friday-Sunday from 11am-5pm, or by appointment on Wednesdays and Thursdays

Photo shows a corner of a room in a gallery with a rug on a wall, a small object in the background and track lighting on the ceiling.
Installation view, Scout Cartagena “You Have Their Eyes” at Da Vinci Art Alliance. Courtesy Veronica Knell.