Chicago-based artist Sandra Antongiorgi has filled the walls of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Advocate & Gochis Galleries with powerful pieces that delve into internal struggles.
Her thought-provoking exhibit, Turning a Blind Eye, looks at such issues as childhood trauma, the systematic marginalization of women and ethnic minorities, and incarceration. It opened on July 19 and runs through August 31.
“A lot of what I create, from abstract to realism, has to do with subject matter we don’t want to look at or that we don’t want to talk about,” Antongiorgi said.
“Most of us have pieces of ourselves that we feel are broken and there is that in this work,” she added. “We tend to insulate ourselves and not look around at the things that are happening that are similar to what happened to us—things that were in our childhood or in our family. It’s important to be aware of these things and for us all to feel.”
The exhibit features a wide range of work from this queer artist who has contributed to scores of murals in Chicago neighborhoods such as Pilsen, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Wicker Park, River West, Bridgeport, and South Chicago.
Antongiorgi’s work has also been showcased in museums and exhibitions throughout Chicago, including the School of the Art Institute and the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Growing up on Ridgeway Street
This exhibit is inspired by real-life Chicago stories including her growing up years on Ridgeway Street which, for a time, was considered neutral territory for rival gangs.
Her background inspired the painting titled Neutral Territory which depicts a young woman in a cloak protecting herself from what’s going on around her and is painted on wood from Antongiorgi’s mother’s house that is more than 120 years old.
“Growing up, I just saw so much violence,” she explained. “You could hear it, you could see it. For a young person to be in that, you protect yourself. This piece is about going inward to protect yourself and still maintain this grounding, this sense of innocence, and being optimistic, and still feeling love, and not being jaded or cynical.”
Looking at the painting she added: “You have to stay with this piece a little bit longer to see what you’re getting from it, what you’re feeling from it. That’s the nature of art. Everyone takes something differently from each piece.”
Upon entering the gallery, the most eye-catching part of the exhibit is Caged Rooster, giant, colorful paintings based on real-life Cook County Department of Corrections booking mugshots that include one of the artist’s brother, Carlos, whose nickname is Rooster.
“That struck me hard,” Antongiorgi said of her brother’s arrest. “Our family was devastated.”
Mistreatment of Women
The Circus section of Turning a Blind Eye focuses on the mistreatment of women. It includes paintings of naked women on a trapeze and on flying chairs.
“I focus a lot on the objectification of women, the abuse of women, domestic violence, sexual abuse,” Antongiorgi said. “This is the series that I think is the hardest to look at. We become the rides that you want to look at and maybe get on. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s very real. There are things that we need to fix in order to be a better society and really be responsible for our youth and our children.”
The artist wants her work to make people think and feel and hopes that in some way it leads to positive changes.
“What I hope is that people feel compelled in some way to take some kind of action,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re writing letters and all that—even though that would be great—it could just mean that in your neighborhood or just within your own home or just within your own self.”
Turning a Blind Eye is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The galleries are located at The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden PL., Los Angeles, CA, 90038.