Alex Dolores Salerno at Real Art Ways

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Alex Dolores Salerno

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Real Art Ways presents a solo exhibition by 2023 Real Art Award recipient Alex Dolores Salerno.

In Naoki Higashida’s bestselling book “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” Higashida answers the question, “Would you give us an example of something people with autism really enjoy?” by explaining “we do take pleasure in one thing that you probably won’t be able to guess, namely, making friends with nature.” He elaborates that “the greenness of nature is the lives of plants and trees. Green is life”. In addition to being the lives of plants and trees, greenness is also another word for gullibleness, naivety, lack of experience, and other concepts that are often used against autistic people who are perceived and pathologized as childlike and incapable. Greenness, however, grounds itself in autistic and neurodivergent sensibilities through its focus on sensory regulation and sensory exploration.

Spanning installation, soft sculpture, video, and photography, Alex Dolores Salerno’s first solo exhibition, Greenness, draws from the artist’s own autistic experience of nature, and the sense of “access intimacy” (as coined by Mia Mingus) that they feel through the work of disabled ancestor Mel Baggs (sie/hir pronouns). Salerno dedicates the exhibition to Baggs and incorporates hir language and wisdom in multiple works. In addition to hir extensive autism and disability advocacy, Baggs also wrote about hir connection to and engagement with the earth as affirmation of hir existence and place in this world. While being in relationship with nature can be particularly supportive for many autistic people, the artist argues that it is an access need for everyone, just as ramps, ASL interpretation, audio description and other accessibility practices are necessary for us all to live together in community.

Salerno further explores greenness through their use of the color “OSHA safety green” throughout the gallery. Utilizing this federal standard color that indicates the location of safety equipment or information, the concept of safe working conditions is expanded to include environments and bodymind experiences that might otherwise be overlooked or disregarded. Rejecting socially constructed and restrictive ways of engaging in art contexts, our workplaces and our environments, Greenness invites touch, stimming, rest, and slowness. By intertwining these actions and ways of being with the concept of workplace safety, the exhibition makes apparent how capitalism and its destructive demand for continuous productivity, production, and increasingly fast paced consumerism estranges us from both the earth and our needs.

Please join us for a virtual conversation between Alex Dolores Salerno and poet ofi davis, moderated by artist Francisco echo Eraso hosted by NYU’s Center for Disability Studies. This virtual event will take place on Friday, April 25th from 6:00pm to 7:15pm. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. 

About the Artist

Alex Dolores Salerno (b. 1994, homeland of the Nacotchtank, Anacostan and Piscataway people colonially known as Washington D.C.) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Lenapehoking, colonially known as Brooklyn, NY. Informed by queercrip experience, community, and culture, they work to critique standards of productivity, 24/7 society, notions of normative embodiment, and the commodification of rest. Salerno received their MFA from Parsons School of Design and their BS from Skidmore College. They have exhibited at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt), Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo de Castellón (Castellón), ARGOS centre for audiovisual arts (Brussels), Art Windsor-Essex (Windsor), The 8th Floor, the Ford Foundation Gallery (NYC), among others. They have been awarded a Wynn Newhouse Award (2022) and an Art Matters Foundation Artist2Artist Fellowship (2023). Recent publications include Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art and Art in America. Salerno has been an artist in residence at Art Beyond Sight’s Art & Disability Residency (2019-2020), the Artist Studios Program at the Museum of Arts and Design (2021), the Visual Artist AIRspace Residency at Abrons Arts Center (2022-2023), and they are currently in residence at BRIClab: Contemporary Art Residency Program at BRIC (2023-2024). Visit Salerno’s website HERE for more information.

About the Real Art Awards

The Real Art Awards is an annual opportunity for emerging artists living in New England, New Jersey, or New York. The open call, offered with no entry fees to artists, attracts hundreds of applicants each year, of which 6 artists are chosen. Selected artists receive a solo exhibition, with a commissioned essay, professional documentation, and a cash prize of $2,500. The 2023 Real Art Awards was juried by artist/educator Aki Sasamoto, artist/writer/curator Devin Kenny, and Real Art Ways Executive Director Will K. Wilkins. The 2023 Real Art Awards is supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation.


National Endowment for the Arts