Diaz, a Germantown resident and multidimensional artist, is the curator of ‘The In-Between Spaces’ exhibition, which boldly explores the nuances of Black identity, love, and resilience, offering a diverse perspective on the collective Black experience.
Everything is not black and white, and The In-Between Spaces, a collaborative art installment, represents life’s “gray” areas. Illustrating Black identity, love, resilience, queerness, and more, Doriana Diaz opens a dialogue to explore the complexities and nuances of the Black experience.
Diaz is a self-proclaimed multidimensional artist, bookmaker, collage artist, curator, memory worker, and Renaissance woman. But, she’s also a collector with a reservoir so renowned its observers may stare with admiration. She does not collect coins, rocks, or trader cards, give or take the value. Their preservations are priceless–a collection of the collective Black experience.
“I think the Black experience is also just chaos in the most beautiful way possible. And so that’s what I really wanted to call attention to… What are the in-between spaces of life and our own experiences? And can we seek refuge there sometimes? Can we find community in those places sometimes?” contemplates Diaz.
Indulge Me if You Please, a 2021 Diaz original and one of the art pieces found at the art installment, layers portraits of Black women on a reflective surface. At the top of the piece, clipped yellow lettering bordered with a pink outline spells out “Negro.” It feels as if the collage is screaming through the glass. In its rebellious effort to drown out the exhaustingly biased newspaper headlines in which the frame lies, the art aims to influence its viewers to refocus their attention on the opulence of Black beauty.
And if the display didn’t already incite an overpour of emotion, Diaz’s raw passion for bookmaking and collaging might.
“I think it’s a patience that is like I’m looking and searching and making this thing that then will live beyond me and can be utilized beyond me and can become sort of the collective part of a collective memory. And I really feel that collage and bookmaking have become a very spiritual practice for me,” said Diaz.
The In-Between Spaces is a synergic expression, threading artwork from local artists and students learning from Diaz herself. With presentations of bookmaking, collaging, cyanotype, and photography handpicked by Diaz, the lead, the 12 creators reclaim a jaded Black historical narrative to construct a new timeline that brings power to their vulnerable interpretations.
Encompassing the message behind the curation, Diaz elaborates: “It’s an exhibition that claims to reacquaint the unknown by connecting those makers and subjects to contemporary Black thinkers across time. It’s thinking about the past, present, and future of what the Black experience is like and has been like for us as individuals, but also how it has been for us as a collective of people.”
Navigating the logistics of The In-Between Spaces has come with obstacles but has been backed by earnestness and perseverance. After being denied financial support of $1,000 by the city and library bureaucracies, Diaz has moved forward as an independent contributor and curator. Diaz pays thanks to a connection they acquired in their years as a bookmaking and collage-making teacher, Suzanna Urminska, for being a shoulder to lean on, helping them to finalize the project’s vision.
“It’s been a huge amount of labor and love that I’ve put into this for months and months and months, and I don’t really know if anyone will ever understand how much time I’ve given to it. It’s at the point where I’m like, ‘I need my motherfucking flowers for this,’ because it has, you know, given me so much life,” said Diaz devoutly.
Naomieh Jovin and Tomarra Sankara-Kilombo, both Germantown artists, have joined the phenomenon of The In-Between Spaces. Positioned amongst the exhibit’s 22 glass displays is Jovin’s Prayer Hands, a 2023 digital print of hands resting in white gloves, gracefully adorned in gold framework, with candles and dried eucalyptus to amplify its respect toward Black spirituality further.
Sankara-Kilombo’s ode to Black acceptance in Reaping Consciousness proudly boasts: “When I fell in love with black, it contained all colour. It wasn’t a negation of colour. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colours. Black is the most aristocratic colour of all.”
And while her artistic flair has significantly impacted the bigger picture, Sankara-Kilombo reads “in-between” the lines to acknowledge the testament of Germantown talent her accomplishment conveys.
“There’s a lot of artists in Germantown. It’s a very creative neighborhood. And really, I think it’s like the unsung hero of the arts world or, you know, here in Philly,” said Sankara-Kilombo. “I feel like we don’t get the love some of the other areas do like Fishtown and [Northern] Liberties… So I think that’s really important and anytime Black women come together for anything, you know, it’s a movement. It’s something that should be seen and heard and participated in.”
The In-Between Spaces doors opened on November 13. The opening reception is on Thursday, November 16, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The exhibit will be on display until February 2024 at the Parkway Central Library at 1401 Vine Street in the West Gallery One Heim Center for Cultural and Civic Engagement.