Explore Upcycled and Repurposed Art at Vibrant New Exhibition at the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County
Posted by: Linnea Bailey
January 17, 2024
When Boca Raton-based professional artist Sonya Sanchez Arias learned about a book written by her great-great grandfather in the Smithsonian Libraries’ online archives in 2022, she knew she had found something special.
The book offers a historical snapshot of life on the southern Caribbean island of Trinidad, where Sanchez Arias grew up. A fifth generation Trinidadian (whose mother’s paternal French Creole side of the family stretches back even further), the book so inspired Sanchez Arias that she created an exhibition honoring her ancestors, her rich cultural heritage and celebrating diversity found both in Trinidad and South Florida.
Pairing found objects with digitally collaged hybrid portraits and texts to connect past and future, the result is a dramatic, not-to-be-missed solo art exhibition in downtown Lake Worth Beach.
The exhibition Sonya Sanchez Arias: Then and Now (Something Old Something New) will take place January 26 through March 9 at the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County’s Solo Gallery at its Lake Worth Beach headquarters. Free and open to the public, exhibition hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.
Using discarded, recycled and alternative material to create her work, Sonya Sanchez Arias challenges the concept of beauty, addresses nostalgia, and honors the tenacity of her ancestors and various found objects that have survived over time. By pairing these objects with digitally collaged hybrid portraits and texts, she attempts to visually connect the past and the future and start conversations about topics from then and now.
“Sonya Sanchez Arias breathes new life into discarded objects by meticulously recombining them to create her narrative,” said Jessica Ransom, the Cultural Council’s director of artist services, who curated the exhibition. “Viewers should expect to spend some time discerning the individual objects in the amalgamation and then stepping back to view the whole as it has been conceived by Sanchez Arias.”
Selected through a highly competitive application process, Sanchez Arias is one of six Palm Beach County-based professional artists whose work was chosen by a committee for one of the Cultural Council’s coveted Solo Gallery exhibition spots. All the artists chosen for the 2023-2024 season are women.
Sonya Sanchez Arias: Then and Now (Something Old Something New) tells the story of Sanchez Arias’s journey and point of view moving from one multi-racial and culturally diverse island to a new and equally diverse experience in South Florida.
“My work incorporates the wisdom and experience of ancestors — both mine and others — through things they left behind,” she said. “Each piece in this body of work incorporates something old and vintage with something newly created with digital art and present-day technology. My goal is to celebrate the ‘now’ by merging these two together.”
And she was especially moved by uncovering her great great-grandfather’s book (circa 1874-1912), which inspired her to research the history of her home island and how its racial and cultural diversity has evolved through the centuries. That research led to this body of work, and the book itself will be present at the exhibition, she said.
“Sometimes to go forward, we must go back. By revisiting and understanding our history, we can move forward with greater wisdom and appreciation,” Sanchez Arias said.
In addition to creating mixed media assemblages, paper dresses and a popular line of art jewelry, Sanchez Arias has spent more than 25 years working as a successful photographic stylist, commercial photographer, and photographic art director.
Her one-of-a-kind artwork and distinctive style have been recognized internationally, nationally and throughout the Caribbean, with work in recent exhibitions at Resource Depot’s GalleRE, the Armory Art Center and the Box Gallery in West Palm Beach, as well as the Cornell Museum, Arts Warehouse and Arts Garage in Delray Beach.
“All of my art pieces are the result of manipulating or rearranging used and discarded materials,” she said. “These repurposed materials give my art a strong identity with unique characteristics effectively making each piece distinct and unique.”
Sonya Sanchez Arias: Then and Now (Something Old Something New) will run from January 26 through March 9 at the Cultural Council’s headquarters in Lake Worth Beach. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Visit palmbeachculture.com for more information or to register for the opening artist reception on Saturday, January 27, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; to RSVP, visit palmbeachculture.com/arias. To see more of her work, visit https://sonyasanchezarias.com/ or find her on Instagram at @cre8tivechild.
About the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County
The Cultural Council for Palm Beach County is the official support agency for arts and culture in The Palm Beaches, Florida’s Cultural Capital®. Headquartered in the historic Robert M. Montgomery, Jr. building in Downtown Lake Worth Beach, the Council presents exciting year-round exhibitions and performances featuring artists who live or work in Palm Beach County. The Council features spectacular work by Palm Beach County-based professional artisans in its Roe Green Uniquely Palm Beach Store and offers complimentary resources for visitors in its Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Visitor Information Center. The Council is open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information and a comprehensive calendar of cultural events in The Palm Beaches, visit palmbeachculture.com.
Linnea Bailey (561) 713-0673