“When one door closes, another door opens,” said her mother, as she and her family were anxiously leaving Puerto Rico to be taken in by a friend in El Dorado, Arkansas, after abandonment by their father. “I would later realize exactly what she had meant by that statement and I would come to fully appreciate the tenacity and strength it took for her to find that next door,” said artist Virmarie DePoyster. The doors to DePoyster’s exhibition, Beyond Labels, at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum are set to open on November 18, with an opening reception Friday, December 1 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Once in America, DePoyster faced years of being labeled a foreigner, her distinctive accent and her profession as an artist often deemed frivolous. These experiences spurred her to question the influence of external labels on our self-identities. DePoyster decided to ask both friends and strangers in her community to consider being interviewed and photographed for a painting in pastels. They were each asked to bring an item or embody a persona which illustrated how they see themselves. During these interviews, DePoyster explored issues of identity and connection through in-depth conversation about the significant labeling, and mislabeling, that have affected their lives.
The pastel portraits that came from these sessions aim to illustrate the meaningful selectivity we use in deciding which of our layers we peel back to show the world and which we keep concealed. DePoyster uses color as a technique, a tool, and a language to emphasize an overall feeling in her paintings.
Although greatly diverse – like the portrait subjects themselves – these paintings are unified by their manipulated shapes, gradation, and textures that evoke empathy and curiosity. “My hope is to inspire an appreciation in our community for what makes each of us unique so we can learn to look beyond labels and truly see one another,” says DePoyster.
Be sure to attend Virmarie DePoyster: Beyond Labels, which runs from November 18, 2023 through February 11, 2024. An added bonus, DePoyster will give a free on-site artist lecture on Friday, January 19, from 5 to 6 p.m.
Located at 1601 Rogers Avenue in downtown Fort Smith, the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum offers a modern, 16,000-square-foot facility dedicated to fine art exhibitions from world-class artists, important traveling exhibitions, permanent collection exhibitions, and works by emerging artists. RAM actively engages with the community, providing professional art workshops, juried art contests, online art classes, and free Saturday art-making programs to fulfill the cultural needs of the region. The museum’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please visit the website at fsram.org or call 479-784-2787. Admission to exhibitions at RAM is always free.