At Noho’s La Galleria at La MaMa, the art currently on display springs from an unlikely source: Each is a physical representation of a healing ceremony undertaken by female survivors of domestic violence.
The exhibition, “Divine Breath NYC,” brings Colombian artist Ruby Rumié’s project of the same name to a new audience — and a new group of participants. Timed for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the show is an uplifting, transformative experience featuring photographs of 100 women from Cartagena, Colombia, and 100 more from New York City, all of whom have participated in Rumié’s healing ceremonies. In those rituals, female survivors of domestic violence select a vessel created by Rumié into which they breathe their pain, each one “recognizing, releasing, and transforming her silent pain into divine breath.” The white ceramic vessel is later sealed off and labeled with her initials.
The diverse group of women from the “two Americas” — diverse in age, race, and socioeconomic status — is depicted across two collages that face one another at the entrance to the gallery space. They are photographed at the waist, their faces not revealed, and they hold their ceramic healing vessels. The initials of each participant, written in Sharpie, hang by strings around the pieces.
The 100 ceramic vessels used in the New York ceremonies, which took place in July, are original designs cast by seven New York City–based artists. All these containers are on display in the center of the gallery, laid out on a long, white catwalk, sealed and tagged. Walking alongside them, you can’t help but consider which vessel you would choose if called to do so — which of the many sizes and shapes would set you apart? Then there’s the lack of color choice: All the vessels are white, as all victims of domestic abuse share a common experience. A projector on one wall plays a reel of quotes from survivors in English and Spanish.
“Divine Breath NYC” is the first of Rumié’s shows to include domestic-violence survivors from New York City; it follows her “Halito Divino” exhibit of Colombian survivors, which was on display at both the Nohra Haime Gallery in New York and the Centro de Formación de la Cooperación Española in Cartagena in 2014 and at Galerie NH in Paris in 2016.
La Galleria at La MaMa’s iteration runs through Saturday, October 26.