A 5-year exhibition kicks off with a ‘Shout Out from the Bronx’

by TANYANIKA SAMUELS for the NY Daily News
After losing her job, artist Melissa Calderón took out her grandmother’s sewing box and channeled her frustrations into embroidery.
After losing her job, artist Melissa Calderón took out her grandmother’s sewing box and channeled her frustrations into embroidery.

 The result is a telling series she’s dubbed “My Unemployed Life.” The pieces are now part of “Art of the 5,” an ambitious five-year rotating exhibit at the Interchurch Center in Manhattan.

“It was a hard and difficult time,” said Calderón, “but my art got me through to the other side.”

The “Art of the 5” exhibit series will showcase the talents in each borough with a group art show each spring. First up: the Bronx.

“I think people will see that the Bronx is an ever-changing, vibrant community of artists and people,” said Paula Mayo, the center’s president and executive director. “Looking at the artwork, you get a sense of their real love for their environs.”

“Art of the 5: A Shout Out from the Bronx” spotlights 12 artists and nearly 50 paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, drawings, embroidery and prints.

Guest curator Debra Vanderburg Spencer chose artists from varied backgrounds and degrees of fame, and intentionally steered away from a thematic show.

“The artists were chosen because their work challenges our power of perception,” she said. “Their works are rooted in the Bronx. You can see the sounds, the smells, the rhythms and the spaces that inspire them.”

Artist Bill Behnken, whose works can be found at Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum, is showing three prints including “Bronx Nocturne.”

“The works are all images of the city, but they are really about the poetry of light and the mystery of nighttime,” said Behnken, of Van Cortlandt. “There’s kind of a quietness about them that draws the viewer in to look at what is happening with the light and create a mood.”

Renowned artist Betty Blayton, who co-founded The Children’s Art Carnival of Harlem, is showing three works inspired by meditation.

“I’m very much into spirituality and metaphysics,” said Blayton, of Tremont. “When I paint, I’m trying to get the viewer to be introspective.”

Sculptor Jeanine Alfieri is showcasing five works using such unconventional materials as leather, denim and steel. While she hopes viewers react to her pieces on a “visceral” level, Alfieri also hopes to enlighten.

“I want people to see there’s an artist community in the Bronx and it’s a strong one,” she said.

The other artists in the show are John Ahearn, Amir Bey, Elena Bouza, Xavier Figueroa, Kuniyasu Hashimoto, Danny Hauben, Hatuey Ramos-Fermin and Hrvoje Slovenc.

“Art of the 5: A Shout Out From the Bronx” runs through June 19 at The Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Drive.

An opening reception is being held from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. For more information, call (212) 870-2200.

tsamuels@nydailynews.com