Nicaraguan-themed Art Exhibit in Hampden

By Jermaine E. Davenport

A solo show for the up-and-coming local artist Jessy DeSantis–who was recently profiled on the front page of the “Baltimore Sun”–takes place all this month, June 1 through 30, at the new Davenport Gallery in the Hampden district of Baltimore.

Titled “Ancestral Medicine,” the exhibit debuts about a dozen one-of-a-kind paintings–mostly acrylic-on-canvas but also watercolor-on-paper–using tropical color and intricate detail to celebrate the indigenous flora and fauna of the artist’s native Nicaragua.

DeSantis’s selected subjects, including maize and papaya, hibiscus and helliconia, and toucans and quetzals, are not only beautiful but are prized in Nicaragua’s traditional cultures for their medicinal or therapeutic qualities.

In a distinctive, acclaimed personal style seen in group shows at Motor House, Goucher College, University of Maryland, and the concourse gallery of BWI airport, among other venues, the depicted natural objects appear largely lifelike–but with a touch of the “magic realism” genre associated with the art and literature of Latin America.

The paintings in various sizes take imaginative artistic liberties in the juxtaposing and contextualizing of fruits, flowers, and birds–often adding to the artworks’ power and uniqueness.

Seamlessly and wittily, several paintings in the Davenport show even blend Meso-American elements with those of Baltimore, where DeSantis moved and settled six years ago.

One painting, for example, has quetzal birds perched atop a Baltimore street sign; and another imagines lush tropical trees on a typical block of Baltimore rowhouses.

In a recent interview, DeSantis, who grew up largely in Miami, explains they have had a lifelong passion for learning about Nicaragua’s history, cultures, and nature–and that their art helps to express, reclaim, and share their roots.

While the artist says they have no targeted audience for their paintings, they enjoy reaching the Central American diaspora; this includes the populous Central American community of Maryland, including many people displaced by imperialism, war, and other civil strife in Central America.

But DeSantis added they “equally enjoy” when their paintings educate and delight those of other heritages, who might view them “not yet knowing anything about Nicaragua.”

“Ancestral Medicine” is on view daily and free-of-charge in the month of June at the new Davenport Gallery on the parlor level of 714 West 36th Street in Baltimore, and all paintings are signed and for purchase.

The exhibit’s opening reception, on Saturday, June 4, from 3 to 5 PM, is also open to all but masks are required for the event.

For more information call Davenport Imports & Arts at (410) 977-7082.

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