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New art exhibit explores transcommunality

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum is presenting a new exhibit from artist Laura Anderson Barbata. Running Jan. 16 to April 10, the exhibit’s emphasis is on transcommunality. Traditional clothing and costumes from Mexico, Trinidad and Tobego, and Brooklyn are on display. Screens in the exhibit display performers dancing on stilts, adorned with colorful garb. The curator of CFAM, Amy Galpin, pointed out quotes from the artist and explained how the stilts represent a metaphor for elevating ourselves to see beyond our small societal perspective. She helped organize an interview with Barbata and a few performers (the Brooklyn Jumbies) while they were visiting campus.

Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies performed on Holt Avenue last Thursday evening. The performance consisted of stilt walking, dancing, and crowd interaction. Barbata, originally from Mexico City, is a professor at the Escuela Nacional de Escultura, Pintura y Grabado La Esmeralda of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, located in Mexico. The Brooklyn Jumbies have been performing together for decades and first met Barbata in 2004, during a visit to New York City. When interviewed, Jumbie creators Ali Sylvester and Najja Codrington agreed that they “tailor their performances to each audience.” They gather all kinds of traditions together to create their art, and what began simply as youth outreach has since turned into a traveling group of artists. Najja likened his group to the A-Team, each member from differing backgrounds and each contributing something new in their own way. This is all a passion project, separate from their regular 9-to-5 jobs.

Laura Anderson Barbata describes their art as “transdisciplinary.” She explained how their art was not meant to change anything, but instead was to showcase tradition in a new and interesting perspective. They travel around the country as well as internationally—their show next month is in Jamaica.


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