Firelei Báez’s paintings and installations explore the histories of Afro-Latina and Afro-Caribbean women who have largely been forgotten by the West. In her site-specific installation For Améthyste and Athénaïre (Exiled Muses Beyond Jean Luc Nancy’s Canon), Anacaonas, Báez focuses on Haitian history with portraits of Améthyste and Athénaïre Christophe, daughters of the first king and queen of Haiti, which gained independence from France in 1804. Following the death of their father in 1820 and the fall of the Kingdom of Haiti, Améthyste and Athénaïre were forced into exile, ultimately settling in Pisa, Italy.
As no paintings or photographs of Améthyste and Athénaïre are known to exist, Báez’s portraits serve as the only physical testament to the sisters’ importance within the larger narrative of the Haitian Revolution. Báez reclaims the sisters’ story from the margins, celebrating their resilience in the face of unrest and migration and presenting them as symbolic of the rising of a new people and culture in the New World. By doing so, the artist encourages us to take a more complex view of the independence movements that occurred throughout the Americas during this period.
The Modern Window is a series of site-specific installations by contemporary artists commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art and designed for the exterior window of The Modern restaurant on West 53rd Street. Since 2008, artists including Korakrit Arunanondchai, assume vivid astro focus in collaboration with Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, Xaviera Simmons, Mickalene Thomas, and Andrea Zittel have created installations that respond to and engage with the architecture of the window.