Alum’s Work Displayed at Tremaine Gallery


Alum Eilen Itzel Mena ’13 engages in community conversations with students.

The Tremaine Gallery has once again been filled with artwork created by alumna Eilen Itzel Mena. The exhibition, titled “Holding Self-Regard”, features 14 different works on love, community, and other important themes in Mena’s life.

Mena is an Afro-Dominican artist from the South Bronx. She studied fine arts at the University of Southern California, and later continued her studies abroad in Brazil. Mena’s art pieces have also been displayed in New York, San Francisco, Miami, and London and featured in the New York Times, Deem Journal, and Hyperallergic. Additionally, she supports her community through co-founding Honey and Smoke, a global artist community, and is a principal member and interim studio director for Zeal, a Black Artist studio and cooperative agency.

In the gallery, Mena’s works mostly represent identity, spirituality, and community. Ms. Terri Moore, director of the Tremaine Art Gallery, was her former art teacher at the school. Commenting on Mena’s work, she said, “When she came back to being a painter and a maker, she really embraced symbolism, identity, culture, memory, spiritualism, [and] community.”

A larger abstract component of the  exhibit is the idea of reflection. This idea is portrayed through one of her favorite pieces, “God’s Love”. The spelling of the phrase “God’s Love” is mirrored, only showing the spelling correctly when faced with a mirror, which brings in the concept of looking yourself in the mirror upon reflection. The other aspect of the piece is a depiction of her grandmother, an important figure in her life.

Mena said, “The artworks in this show underscore a youthful state of being, where the soul rejects inhibitions and its true impulse is freedom.” In the creation process, Mena asks questions such as “how can I create a safe space for my spirit to grow?” and “how does spirit, family, and community support my expression of self?” Additionally, she implemented rainbows, clouds, flowers, and smiley faces as her visual language.

When at the school, Mena hosted workshops within the gallery for students. Describing the interactions of students and Mena in the workshop, Ms. Moore said, “They were sharing ideas and it was freeing and enjoyable. It was sort of a breath of fresh air for them.” During the artist talk, Ms. Moore described, “Close to 80 people were there…everybody was just totally focused.” All studio art students had the opportunity to interact in a workshop with Mena, gaining insight of her inspiration and work methods.  Working intensively with the DEI Program, Mena designed a mural for the Multi-Cultural Center, which can be found across the post office.   

To see Mena’s artwork, check The Tremain Gallery, which will still be available to view until March 5.