A series of presentations inside “Club Americano” explore contemporary notions of American identity. Through academic and personal perspectives, we compare hemispheric and nationalist definitions of the term “America” throughout history. “America” has been the subject of multiple re-inventions since 15th-century Europeans arrived in the Caribbean islands and described them as a land of supernatural beings and fantastical landscapes. This program sheds light on a term that shifted from referring to a single continent that Columbus “discovered,” to its appropriation in English referring to only the United States, even as many people throughout Latin America have long referred to themselves as americanos.
Performers and speakers address the cultural legacies of Mexican Irish scholar Edmundo O’Gorman’s 1961 publication The Invention of America: An Inquiry into the Historical Nature of the New World and the Meaning of Its History, and that of US minister, photographer, artist, and antiquarian Wallace Nutting’s mass-produced, retouched photographs of New England, which disseminated romanticized notions of the US’s colonial past, introducing a nostalgic perspective on a country that was just over a century old.
Layla Bermeo is the Kristin and Roger Servison Assistant Curator of Paintings in the Art of the Americas department. Before joining the MFA in September 2016, she worked at galleries and museums including the Williams College Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and she was the co-curator of the Black History/Art History Lecture and Performance Series at Harvard University. Layla has an MA from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, and is a PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. Her dissertation, “Images without Borders: North American Art and the U.-Mexican War,” has been supported by fellowships from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.
Kevin Brea is a member of the MFA’s Teen Arts Council.
Jennifer De Leon
Jennifer De Leon is the editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education (University of Nebraska Press, 2014), recipient of Walter Dean Meyers Grant and a current City of Boston Artist in Residence. Her short story, “Home Movie,” originally published in The Briar Cliff Review, was the One City, One Story pick for the 2015 Boston Book Festival. Named the 2015–2016 Writer in Residence by the Associates of the Boston Public Library, De Leon teaches creative writing at Emerson, Berklee, and GrubStreet. She is working on a YA novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From.
Aisha Donna is a member of Urbano Projects.
José Luis Falconi
José Luis Falconi is Fellow at the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University, where he received his PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures in 2010. In Latin America, he has been a Visiting Professor in the Chair of Aesthetics at the University of Chile (2012), at the National University of Colombia (2013), and at the Universidad Nacional San Carlos en Guatemala (2016). His latest academic publications include A Principality of Its Own (2006) co-edited with Gabriela Rangel; The Other Latinos (2007), co-edited with José Antonio Mazzotti; Portraits of an Invisible Country (2010); A Singular Plurality: The Works of Dario Escobar (2013), The Great Swindle (2014); and Ad Usum: The Works of Pedro Reyes (2017).
Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with installation, sculpture, photography, drawing, socially engaged art and performance. His most renowned projects include “The School of Panamerican Unrest” (2003–2006), a nomadic think tank that traveled from Alaska to Patagonia making 40 stops in between, and “Librería Donceles” (2013–2017) an itinerant Spanish-language secondhand bookstore addressing the lack of outlets that serve Latino communities. Drawing from his experience as educator, his artistic projects often incorporate pedagogical devices such as the classroom setting and lecture format. Since 1991 he has worked in a variety of contemporary art museums and currently serves as director of Adult and Academic programs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2008 he was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and also was the recipient of a 2005 Creative Capital Grant. Helguera is the author of Education for Socially Engaged Art (2011) and The Pablo Helguera Manual of Contemporary Art Style (2007), among numerous other publications, and is the maker of Artoons, a series of cartoons poking fun of the art world.
Performance Art at the MFA is supported by Lorraine Bressler.