New BRIC art exhibit explores the mythos of the American dream

people look at the new exhibit at BRIC.
The new exhibit at BRIC.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

The historic arts organization BRIC opened its latest exhibit on Wednesday, bringing a packed crowd to their latest display that explores the mythos of the American dream via individual experience.

“When I am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly” features the work of seven artists (Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez and Pacifico Silano) at the BRIC House in Fort Greene, and will be on display until April 30.

Ayanna Dozier, clad in a mirrored mini dress, spun around her installation, refracting the light from the projector of her Super 8 film onto visitors.

Dozier’s autoethnographic film, Forever Your Girl, accompanied by her original score, gives viewers an intimate window into the black, femme experience when attempting to reconcile her desires to reclaim youthful freedom and whimsy with her outwardly sexualized form.

“I’ve always been obsessed with kiddie rides,” said Dozier, but this particular work was inspired by a viral video she encountered of an adult male enjoying a coin-operated ride to the delight of thousands of online spectators celebrating the shameless embracing of his inner child.

“I wondered, would my body be accepted in the same way as his?” she asked.

Ayanna Dozier reflects the light from the projector. Photo by Caroline Ourso

“Men always get to go back to being a child without any repercussions,” she continued, while, conversely, adulthood is often forced upon black femmes from an early age.

Dozier’s film, which features her clad in platform heels and a blonde wig spinning around a tiny carousel in Bushwick, prompts the question, what kind of status does the black femme hold in the collective American mind when embracing youthful experiences in her adult body?

During the process of filming her work, despite having acquired permission from the shop owner to film there, Dozier was plainly doused with water by the location’s landlord in an attempt to remove her from the space.

“You can see it in the film,” said Dozier. “He left water pouring on the ride for almost 90 minutes.”

“His reaction felt almost too obvious to include,” said Dozier, “but it’s also like, wow, you just proved my entire point.”

Pacifico Silano’s work.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Pacifico Silano, a Brooklyn native, floated around his portion of the exhibit, flowers in hand, discussing his work’s themes with friends and onlookers.

“This work is all about the shadow figures of gay American iconography,” said Silano of his colorful triptych printed on aluminum, along with and another series of black and white images printed on paper.

“All of my work comes from vintage, gay erotica,” said Silano, “and I’m really interested in imagery that is about power and danger and the way gay men fetishize that.”

Taken from magazines and videos, Silano crops and prints his still images to create a new narrative, this time particularly examining the tendency for gay men to fetishize American masculine archetypes seen as powerful and possessing physical prowess, such as the police officer, the cowboy or the wrestler.

Attendees view Pacifico Silano's work
Attendees view Pacifico Silano’s work.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Silano, whose parents owned an erotica shop, began the process of archiving imagery for his work over a decade ago.

“There are images that operate in the margins,” said Silano. “Sex is complicated, and desire is complicated, and there is a sort of politics of sex that people don’t really talk about, specifically gay men.”

“When I am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly” is on view at BRIC House (647 Fulton St.) in the Main Gallery from January 26 to April 30, 2023.