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20th Annual TOUR DE BRONX (10/26/2014)

Thousands of people gathered on this past sunny October Sunday with one goal in mind....finish the tour! I arrived at 161st St & Grand Concourse to an army of fixies, road bikes, speed bikes, decked out Puerto Rican club bikes, and even one unicycle. As the Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. noted, it was the 20th annual Tour de Bronx, a 25 or 40 mile route (ending at New York Botanical Gardens) mapped out of my gorgeous borough, with all its rivers, creeks, tagged up buildings and passionate people.

As an avid biker myself I took on the (25mi) challenge with several friends and although we all endured some crashes and popped inner tubes (I no doubtedly slept with a heating pad for my lower back last night) we all made it safe, tired, but me personally with a more solidified opinion that The Bronx is so underrated and so beautiful. Check out the video below of footage I shot throughout the day- maybe you'll want to join next year.... (Its also free by the way!)

Modeling at the first ever Bronx Fashion Week?! - BTS with designs of NYNE | NYC

If you've navigated through my website or seen my work anywhere you can probably guess... I'm a photographer. A videographer. An overall artist who dabbles in self-portraiture on occasion. Not a runway model. But this past weekend, accidentally, I was that too.

This past Friday (9/5/14) I arrived at the inaugural Bronx Fashion Week 2014 on Grand Concourse at the Andrew Freedman Home thinking nothing much, other than that it was really really humid out. Until. Within 15 minutes of arrival I was bra-less, getting my hair done, and in one of Jesenia Lopez's garments from her SS15 capsule collection for NYNE | NYC.

Let's rewind? I arrived to greet my friend and fellow Bronx artist Eliot Ray who after us both randomly spotting Big Ang of the Mob Wives (insert pictorial evidence below!) introduced me to Lopez, who was with her models rushing and hemming and fitting garments. I congratulated her and her models on being featured in tonight's show and in the same breath she looked at me wide eyed and asked if I was here to model. Wait. What? After saying that I was there as a guest she asked me if I would be willing to walk for her and what my shoe size was. While being shocked and confused and excited I said sure and proceeded to change. Walk? Like a catwalk type of walking? Yes. I'm sure every woman has dreamed of walking down a runway with cameras and undivided attention, but most of us don't actually pursue it. However I'm the type of person to say yes to any opulent opportunity and learn to do it later, which is exactly what happened that night.

As we were in the waiting area, I was trying to relive every episode of 'Top Model'  I've

ever watched trying to remember 
something that would help and thinking to myself What the f*%k did this night turn into?! The models walking for Lopez were gorgeous and helpful to me but nervous - in the hour I had been at this event I went from spectator to model and didn't have the time  to nurture nervousness, I was still shocked from my hair being tightly brushed into a huge bun at the front of my head. And I was very sweaty.

With over 200 seats sold out and 17 designers showcasing their collections, this was a huge night for The Bronx art scene-- but hold on it was our turn to walk now! So I went, cameras flashing and recording, and catching glimpses of people's eyeballs. I actually wasn't uncomfortable but swearing under my breath things along the lines of Is this sh%t really happening?  WTF.  I walked back behind the stage happy but still very confused and had celebratory hugs, high fives, and compliments. Later on that night walking with Eliot we gossiped about the event, having watched a taping of Mob Wives, and I thought of how random this Friday turned out to be.

It wasn't until I saw THIS picture below the next morning taken by Morris Perk's social media page that I realized this really f*%king happened!! There was no denying it, I was walking down a catwalk and I was actually seen. This weekend's fashion shows were monumental moments for The Bronx and the Uptown fashion and art scene and I felt accomplished having attended the event let alone being in it. I thank Jesenia Lopez for having me and for the lovely Andrew Freedman Home for hosting the event. And that's all she wrote!

Photo courtesy of Morris Perk (BX Cafe + Art Gallery). Seeing this I was all "...Tell me it's real, this feeling that we feel....♫"

Photo courtesy of Morris Perk (BX Cafe + Art Gallery). Seeing this I was all "...Tell me it's real, this feeling that we feel....♫"

"Occurrence (Schaefer St)"... a movement series

This month I've worked with Anthony Rosado, a Brooklyn based performance artist/choreographer on a new series with photo/video content called "Occurrence". The idea is to take desolate, but visually striking and thematically dense spaces and capture moments of free form and dance inspired movement.

A moment of controlled flight during Occurrence. ©Melanie Gonzalez

A moment of controlled flight during Occurrence. ©Melanie Gonzalez

Portrait of Anthony Rosado at the start of our shoot.  ©Melanie Gonzalez

Portrait of Anthony Rosado at the start of our shoot.  ©Melanie Gonzalez

Not deriving from a trained dance background but a theater/film/photo one, it's an interesting experience what a person using technical tools of expression (me) and one using solely the physical and inner self (Anthony) creates when put in a space together. For projects like these I like the idea of using subjects that are totally comfortable, trained, and instinctual when it comes to moving their bodies in a barren, urban space (like my Flight on Castle Hill series). The platform a space like this part of Schaefer St becomes is impactful. Throughout the shooting process I would pause and give specific directions and tell him to portray a certain feeling, or interact with the space in a certain way.

Rosado on Occurrence: "This first presentation of our Occurrence series
allowed me to inhabit this nostalgic part of Brooklyn. In essence, the more I got dirty the more I felt cleansed. Trusting my body and instincts, I spun as fast as my momentum could allow; fell without fear of pain; climbed without hesitation." 

All of the pictures from this shoot can be seen right here.

Get to know Anthony and his works/current happenings.

Kara Walker's "A Subtlety" was anything but...

"Goodbye Domino Sugar."

Was one of the eery sentences I heard from visitors like myself as I left the exhibit this past weekend. 

The exhibition's intro text was pasted right onto the building.

The exhibition's intro text was pasted right onto the building.

In front of the "Marvelous Sugar Baby" for a view of the proportion. She's huge... Thematically and physically.

In front of the "Marvelous Sugar Baby" for a view of the proportion. She's huge... Thematically and physically.

I took some time to go out to Brooklyn this past weekend to make the pilgrimage to "A Subtlety", the large installation presented by Creative Time by visual artist Kara Walker.

I stepped through a place that was emotional and breath-taking. The near hour-long wait and release form submission was totally worth it (its on a live construction site and some of the warnings and hazards besides slippery floors and machinery was possible inhalation of chemicals and exposure to asbestos...)

As you step in you're bombarded with the smell of molasses/burnt sugar (as I was obviously shocked by as you see in the video). And as there were 100-200 people in the facility at any given moment, it still felt and smelled like an abandoned, forgotten place. 

Making your way towards the 'mammyfied' sphinx or "Marvelous Sugar Baby", you step on solidified puddles of brown sugar, collected by the melting sugar sculptures of children carrying what looked to resemble straw baskets. If that wasn't surprising enough, some of the figures were completely knocked over by their own melting weight and left there until it melted into nothing, much like the rest of the building. Something about the abandoned type of smell with the amount of people that came to see A Subtlety with the knowledge that this building was due to be demolished after the exhibition (through July 6, 2014) I collected tears in my eyes and held onto a few breaths.

There is amazing content on the public art org Creative Time that presented Walker's ambitious project on their website. Definitely check out their video with the building process, literature on Walker, and her mission for Marvelous Sugar Baby and drafts and drawings from her inspiration.        

"Letters to Armando", Solo Photo Exhibition.

"Mandame una foto Armando. Te amo, mami, Alba Gonzalez."

At B.C.A.D. Art Gallery earlier this month I presented my first solo photo exhibition -showcasing a series of 6 self-portraits and 4 large resin-cast paper sculptures. I don't know whether the process of putting the show together (most of this past year) or having the idea of hanging up large pieces of my face in a large empty room for everyone to gaze at was crazier. Either way it was life changing and something I am so content with, now having had some time to reflect on the experience. 

At the gallery installing "Letters to Armando", photo courtesy of Tyler Dow.

At the gallery installing "Letters to Armando", photo courtesy of Tyler Dow.

While experimenting on an assignment I had last year with archived imagery, I decided to work on portraits of my own family - dressing up as certain members and recreating the images. Somewhere in between shooting I decided to write letters between two of the characters, Armando (my grandfather) and Alba (his mother), and creating a narrative in 1950s based Bronx/Dominican Republic - around the time the photos were taken. And 10 works later L2A was born -and with the help of artist/friend Stephanie Mota, whom I'm much obliged to, we decided to make this into a show. 

Preparing prints at B.C.A.D. Art Gallery. Photo courtesy of Tyler Dow.

Preparing prints at B.C.A.D. Art Gallery. Photo courtesy of Tyler Dow.

With accompanying video (shown above) and the process of casting the enlarged handwritten letters in resin, the letters came to life. The project itself wasn't so much about finding out who they were but literally placing myself into the history - one that I created because I know very little factual information. Detailed images of the work can be seen here.

 

 

Alex Martinez and Matt Negron were pivotal working parts on getting the gallery together and Nia Fields for producing footage of the reception. And I am ever grateful for the love and support I encountered that night for those who came and those who visited throughout its running. Thank you.