ArtsWestchester’s new exhibition Modern Families, on view from March 5 through May 25, explores diverse representations of what “family” means. The show is anchored by the work of noted photographer James Van Der Zee. Westchester resident Donna Mussenden Van Der Zee selected and loaned her husband’s pictures, which provide a framework and context for the exhibition. A leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Van Der Zee documented the lives of the rising African American middle class from all backgrounds and occupations through masterful studio portraits and innovative darkroom techniques. With equal attention and care, he photographed notables like Countee Cullen and Marcus Garvey, lesser-known portrait subjects, as well as weddings, funerals, family groups and clubs. The contemporary works in the exhibition include both studio-style portraiture and documentary work by eleven photographers. Many of the exhibiting artists define “family” differently from one another – some focus on those they were born to, while others emphasize their chosen families, such as sports teams, friends or communities. Chris Verene and Chappaqua native Gillian Laub each photograph their extended families and friends in Galesburg, Illinois and Westchester County, respectively. Iaritza Menjivar records her experiences as the daughter of immigrants. Barry Mason’s deep ties to Mount Vernon are on display in his photos of families at public and private gatherings, while Shayok Mukopadhyah’s portfolio features “The People of Port Chester.” Peekskill resident Ocean Morisset’s street photography includes portraits of LGBTQ groups that exemplify “chosen” families. Significant works by Tom Atwood, Stefan Radtke, Sandra Wong Geroux and John Shearer round out the show. An opening reception will take place on March 3. ArtsWestchester’s monthly “Gallery Nite Out” happy hour program will continue on March 7, when guests can have their portraits taken. For more info about Modern Families, visit artsw.org/awmodernfamilies.
A version of this article first appeared in the March issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.