The Rainbow Center’s annual gala shines a spotlight on the LGBTQ+ experience through art

Student art is put on display at the Rainbow Center. The art pieces cover a wide array of subjects and tackle these subjects through multiple mediums such as photography, print or written word. (Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus)

Student art is put on display at the Rainbow Center. The art pieces cover a wide array of subjects and tackle these subjects through multiple mediums such as photography, print or written word. (Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus)

At the annual Rainbow Center Art Gala, powerful pieces of art from diverse mediums including photos, essays and paintings were all showcased. Every artist’s piece was emotional, personal and full of passion and color no matter what medium was used.

The featured artist of the gala was Lauren Perez-Bonilla, a Ph.D. student studying geography.

Perez-Bonilla, a photographer from the Dominican Republic, said her work reflects her identity.

“I photograph what I see and the way I see it is connected to so many parts of my identity, as a woman, as a cisgender woman, as a Dominican immigrant, as an educated young woman,” Perez-Bonilla said.

Though identities make her see her work one way, others may interpret it in a different way and the varied interpretations of art should be embraced, Perez-Bonilla said.

“They say (a) picture is worth 1,000 words but those 1,000 words for you may not be my same 1,000 words,” she said.

“I think for other people that have different identities than mine will be able to interpret my pictures in many other ways that I didn't even think were possible,” she said. “I think that's the beauty of it.”

Perez Bonilla’s photos were all taken in the Dominican Republic and include one of a man with tropical birds on his shoulder. This person is someone who puts the birds on tourists for pictures but doesn't get photographed himself, she said.

She said it was her goal to photograph those who may not be as seen for this project, also including a photo of a woman preparing a wedding dress titled “the non-bride.”

This project started as a part of her master’s thesis about sex work in the Dominican Republic, Perez-Bonilla said.

Her display also included a picture depicting this, entitled “Paid Romance,” where a Dominican sex worker and European tourist are walking on the beach together.

They say (a) picture is worth 1,000 words but those 1,000 words for you may not be my same 1,000 words.
— Lauren Perez-Bonilla

Though Perez-Bonilla said this particular photo project shifted her work from landscape to more of a portrait style, she doesn't define herself with either style.

She also said her work is defined by its color and simplicity.

“I think I'm a colorful artist because I don't edit my pictures that much,” she said. “I just want to enhance the color.”

Perez Bonilla described how being chosen as the featured artist was a great opportunity and that it meant a lot to her. “It means that an institution like the Rainbow Center has faith in the type of work that I do so that's very important to me,” she said.

Another artist showcased at the gala was Aries Peralta, a fourth-semester art history major.

Peralta’s piece, titled “Sin,” depicted a fig leaf surrounded by a ray of light, surrounded by a snake with an apple at its mouth. Peralta said the piece was a representation of the Garden of Eden.

Peralta said the light ray is commonly associated with figures like Guadalupe or the Virgin Mary, so its position around the fig leaf that Adam and Eve used to cover their sins was a play on religious symbols.

He said the piece was inspired by the question, “How do you make something holy unholy or vice versa?”

Ian O’Connor, an eighth-semester actuarial science and journalism major, said he felt the pieces were profound and thought provoking.

“I think it's interesting seeing so many takes on so many topics even from the same artist,” O’Connor said. “They make you look deeper than just a passing glance.”


Gladi Suero is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gladi.suero@uconn.edu.