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Harlem Artist Debuts Digital Photography at Chashama Gallery – Inspired by Twin Sister’s Death
By Madina Toure
Katherine Emely Gómez (second from right), and her father, Miguel Gómez (right) posing with their relatives on the exhibit’s opening night
When 24-year-old Katherine Emely Gómez lost her twin sister two years ago, she felt unimaginable pain and sadness. She fueled these emotions into art, keeping her sister’s memory alive by capturing the emotions and thoughts running through her head as she and her family grieved, the good times the sisters had and the healing process.
Two years later, the resultan exhibit titled “Perpetual Binary” – debuted at the Chashama Gallery on West 126th Street in Harlem on May 10. The opening night drew roughly 50 people. The digital photography exhibit, containing more than 30 photographs, documents Gómez’s experience after losing her identical twin sister, Emely Gómez, in November 2012, to an epileptic seizure. The photographs demonstrate the three exclusive identities she now inhabits: her sister, her twinhood and herself.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx by Dominican parents, Gómez received her bachelor’s degree in motion graphics at Lehman College in the Bronx and will receive her Master of Fine Arts in digital media at the end of the month.
Her sister died at the age of 23. She received her bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology at Lehman and was working on a master’s degree in special education. Gómez legally changed her name to include her late sister’s name.
Gómez said her parents stressed staying positive and that her animation professor Michael Ferraro encouraged her to channel her true emotion vis-à-vis her art.
“Each and every piece, what I do is I sit in my room and I just really think about it,” Gómez said. “I create a list and all my moments, happy moments and memories and also sad moments after she passed away. I create each environment for each photo.”
Founded in 1995 by Anita Durst, Chashama supports artists by turning abandoned property into work and presentation space. Chashama has locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Katherine’s artwork has been featured at the Living Gallery in Brooklyn and The Gateway II in Newark, N.J. as well as in media outlets such as News 12 in the Bronx and in Brooklyn and the El Diario newspaper.
She dabbles in drawing, painting and photography, and is inspired by the surrealist movement and artists such as Salvador Dalí and Dannielle Tegeder and photographers Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman. She describes her style as documentational, mystical, dream- like and expressive.
The photographs depict her relationship with her sister and the various emotions she felt following her death. For example, one photograph features Gómez posing as herself and her sister. Her sister is lying down and colored in blue, representing her death, and she is sitting upright and half-blue, because she lost part of herself. Another photograph shows the objects she saw heavily when her sister passed away, such as lit candles during prayers.
“In my artworks, I’m transforming myself, becoming my sister and all these environments together,” Katherine Gómez said.
Art has always been a way for Katherine to cope with the loss of her sister, said Miguel Gómez, 46, Katherine’s father.
“Working and painting and drawing, but always with Emely in her mind, and that’s why she’s venting through the art, venting through pictures, because it’s really sad,” Miguel Gómez said.
One of Katherine’s classmates, Lorena Kalaja, 29, said that her art began to take a different direction following her sister’s death.
“After a while, I started to see her work popping up and I thought that it was a really emotional theme and I was kind of impressed because her work really took another direction,” Kalaja said.
The exhibit will be on display until May 24.