Jenny Pacillo

Photos by Desdemona Kusi

“Growing up there were a lot of images around the house,” Worcester based artist Claudio Eshun aka Don Claude begins, “always taking pictures and I think it just subconsciously resonated with me. I was kind of more raised with my mom, so I wasaround her more. She’s more of a hairdresser, so I saw magazines, it was something that I gravitated towards.” Eshun’s accomplishments are impressive, from his many exhibits throughout the state, his 2022 MassArt MFA Fellowship Award to his work as an educator at Harvard University. He is also a featured Central Massachusetts Artist Initiative Artist at the Worcester Art Museum, where his work will be on display through May 5th.

Eshun’s exhibit at WAM explores the intricacies of identity, his family’s journey from Ghana to Italy to the United States, and the challenges of reconstructing one’s life. His work unfolds through a series of compelling pieces, each weaving a unique tale of personal and cultural significance. “I started combining my immigration backlog documents with my archival images and kind of created this photo montage. And then, as I continue experimenting with photos, as I call myself a photo based artist, I not only make images, I collect and manipulate images in the real world, but also in the digital space.”

Aspects of Eshun’s exhibit delve into his exploration of feminine and masculine energies, influenced by his upbringing under the guidance of his mother and occasional male mentors. This introspective journey is manifested through screen printing, a process that challenges the conventions of traditional photography. “There have been certain moments when men will come into my life and kind of try to share some form of mentorship and guidance,” Eshun explains, “And then I started kind of venturing into like, screen printing and things and as those are photo languages. I see myself using my work, screen printing specifically, as it’s a process where you’re using a digital negative, some kind of going from digital back to film in a sense with screen printing. That’s kind of how I am challenged in the medium of photography in a gallery sense or museum sense, but then going in and being a little loose with it just to kind of show the process and not really be too clean and perfect. That’s the quality of screen printing I like, it removes the pristineness of the fine art of putting your print all framed up in a museum with museum glass and such hardware.”

Eshun’s exhibit takes a profound turn with his archival piece, a blend of immigration backlog documents and nostalgic images. Eshun dives in, explaining that he’s, “Not really holding back and feeling like I’m a target while I’m trying to become a citizen or a US permanent resident. And like this notion of your identity, being stripped from you or taken away from you and talking about how I feel alienated sometimes. Also in my work, I talk about constructing and reconstructing our lives. So the four quadrants it’s like a way of reconstructing my life and they’re not reconstructed perfectly, because life is not perfect.” This photo montage becomes a reflection of his personal narrative, a testament to the complexities of identity and the immigration process.

Eshun’s art transcends the gallery walls, becoming a narrative of migration, identity construction, and the ongoing process of self-discovery. Through his lens, we witness the beauty of imperfection, the power of cultural symbols, and the resilience required to navigate the complexities of life. Eshun’s potential is endless and his art serves as a poignant reflection