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Parrish Art Museum gifted life-size wooden figures representing Latino immigrant workers

Salvadoran artist José Campos with some of the figures from “Chisme”, the collection of works that represent immigrant workers and their struggle.
Fountainhead Arts
Salvadoran artist José Campos with some of the figures from “Chisme”, the collection of works that represent immigrant workers and their struggle.

“Chisme” is the name by which the Salvadoran artist José Campos, known in the art world as “Studio Lenca,” decided to call a collection of life-size wooden figures representing Latino immigrant workers. The work was created by the artist with the help of a group of 20 Central American and Mexican immigrants, members of the WeCount organization, who work in cleaning, construction, and agriculture and are fighting for better wages in the United States.

The best thing about this story is that 15 pieces from the original collection of 20 have been gifted to the Parrish Museum of Art by Salvadoran-born collector Mario Cedar-Fresh, founder of Y.ES Contemporary, whose mission is to create opportunities for prominent artists from their country, advance in artistic practices and interact with curators, collectors and gallery owners inside and outside of El Salvador. The “Chisme” pieces will be on view to the community between March 12 and April 16, adding to the list of Latin American artists in the Parrish's permanent collection.

“We are delighted to receive this significant gift from Mario Cader-Frech and honored to have Studio Lenca become part of the museum's collection,” said Executive Director Monica Ramirez-Montagut. “This marks the beginning of the partnership with Y.ES Contemporary in an effort to showcase more artists from Central America, and El Salvador in particular, at the Parrish. Suffolk County's population is more than 20% Hispanic/Latino, and the Museum is committed to having all communities represented in our collection and programs."

The figures are cut-outs of workers, but “reimagined” as monumental, joyous figures, dressed in canary yellow, tangerine or neon pink and sporting fancy hats.

"Instead of toiling in the dark, they purposely occupy space, stand with dignity and face the viewer in the face," reads the description of the work, which was completed by WeCount members with drawings of plants, trees and seeds on the back of the figures, thus incorporating their lives and personal stories.

“With this approach, Campos upends traditional roles by foregrounding typically ignored and overlooked individuals: Chisme figures represent the antithesis of those resigned to living in hiding due to forced assimilation or concern for the personal safety," the Parrish Museum of Art said in a statement.

On Friday, March 17 at 6 p.m., the Museum will host the artist in a public program where he will talk about "Gossip" and share his experiences as an immigrant and artist. From March 15-19, Campos will join Parrish educators to lead a series of workshops for local middle and high school students and families from community organizations, including Project MOST and Whalebone Village.

A Spanish language media outlet serving Suffolk County, New York.