See Me: A Look at “A Natural Turn”

The Honors Program recently took a guided tour of the DePaul Art Museum. In this post, Honors student Isabelle Robichaud reflects on the experience.

Though I’m a longtime lover of art, as a freshman, I’ve yet to go to DePaul’s Art Museum. That changed when the opportunity to visit came on January 19th, and I went on a guided tour of the A Natural Turn exhibit. It features four female artists of color that work under surrealist themes. Unfamiliar with surrealism, I thought it would be an educational and eye-opening experience.

The first artist featured in the exhibit, Joiri Minaya, was my favorite. Her work focuses on the sexualization of Dominican women, including herself, through Western eyes. Minaya’s use of mixed media and larger-than-life works immersed me completely in her work. Besides the surrealist atmosphere, what really struck me was Minaya’s engagement with her audience.

Ayoowiri / Girl with poinciana flowers by Joiri Minaya (2020)

There was one piece in particular that I felt was really engaging. It was a video that was projected on the wall of the exhibit’s first room. The video featured Minaya first painting a huge mural, pouring water on herself, and then dragging herself across the wet painting, staining her body and clothes with the paint. When she slowly poured cups of water over herself while dressed in white, it reminded me of the “wet t-shirt challenge” which, at best, is a sexual party game. What was subversive here was that Minaya’s back was turned to the audience. Here, she rejects the expectation of what this act entails, which is a nearly nude body, by literally turning her back on it. She then looks over her shoulder to make direct eye contact with the viewer, which to me felt like she was challenging the audience to examine what our expectations are for images of women in art.

This motif is continued and expounded on throughout the exhibit. In Brazilian artist Rosana Paulino’s work, she depicts herself in mythological, repeating portraits, sprouting roots, leaves, horns, and halos in a series. Her use of repeating imagery was particularly powerful as I found myself in a room full of her eyes looking at me. While the figures were nude in this exhibit, it felt empowering rather than sexualized- like the artist was taking her image and recreating it into something mythical, all while looking at the audience as if challenging them to say something different.

María Berrío and Kelly Sinnapah Mary’s work differed from Paulino and Minaya’s work in that they felt more centered on childhood. Sinnapah Mary’s mortar sculptures felt youthful. Her bright use of color and motion is able to create this youthfulness for her central pig-tailed subjects. Berrío’s adolescent characters are one with their natural world, surrounded by sheep, tigers, and goats appearing to live in harmony. All of these women and girls are gazing back at the viewer, as if to proudly say that this is who they are and the world they live in.

Notebook 10, childhood of Sanbras by Kelly Sinnapah Mary (2021)

As a whole, I thought the exhibit was beautifully curated. Though separated by four rooms, each artist’s collection felt intimately interconnected. In nearly every piece, almost exclusively female figures are looking straight at the viewer through the vegetation of their environments. From the individual works to the exhibit was a powerful representation of self. It was a very moving experience, and I am grateful that I was able to observe it. I honestly recommend that everyone takes time out of their day to visit the museum for themselves.

Isabelle Robichaud is a first-year student at DePaul majoring in Media and Cinema Studies. If you’re interested in submitting to the Honors Blog, contact us at

Check out A Natural Turn at the DePaul Art Museum

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