The Art of Janice Aponte Celebrates Womanhood, Nature, and Her Puerto Rican Heritage

AponteART is a new art gallery that recently opened in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Janice Aponte, who is the gallery owner and also an artist, originally saw the storefront as a working studio where she could work and display her own art. But those initial plans changed once the space was renovated. She no longer saw the storefront as a working studio, but rather as a space where she could exhibit her art and the works of other artists.

Aponte was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and during her childhood and adolescence she relocated between New York City and Puerto Rico several times. Even though she faced challenges of having to readjust to a new environment as well as differing cultural values during those moves, her love for art was a stabilizing force in her life.

Janice Aponte, “Amethyst Dream.”
Janice Aponte, Amethyst Dream, 2023. Acrylics on canvas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

When looking at her body of work, one is immediately drawn to Aponte’s bold use of color. This is particularly evident in her "Flower Series" where she portrays various women with flowers in their hair. But the flowers do not act as a decorative element, but instead act as a life force of their own, growing in an organic manner. In these works, Aponte reminds us of the importance of developing a deep connection with nature where we not only celebrate the beauty, but are also mindful of the cycle of life and death.

Another series of works is "Colorful Faces" where Aponte depicts women’s faces in various shades and hues. The colors do not act as a mask, but instead highlight a spectrum of emotions and characteristics that each of these women possess. Some of the faces possess attributes of strength and resilience while others have a meditative look.

In many of her works, one experiences Aponte’s use of magical realism. In these paintings, the viewer sees women experiencing a deep communion with nature, peacefully co-existing with wildlife. When looking at these works, one feels the spiritual connection her subjects have with the world around them. Although there is a whimsical beauty to these works, one also feels that Aponte is giving us a subtle but important message on how we are all part of nature and need to be aware of ecological issues.

Janice Aponte, “Self Portrait”
Janice Aponte, Self Portrait, 2023. Acrylics on canvas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Many of Aponte’s works have a deep connection to her Puerto Rican heritage. A good example of this is Borinquen, a work that had gone viral on Facebook and Instagram before she actually sold this painting. In this work, we see three women (a Taino, a Spaniard and an African — all who represent the racial ancestry of Puerto Rico) standing in front of a distressed Puerto Rican flag. The tattered flag represents what the island of Puerto Rico has experienced in the last few years such as Hurricane Maria in 2017, the 6.4 earthquake in 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the flag looks worn and weary, the women on the other hand display expressions of hope that represent the spirit of Puerto Rico.

Janice Aponte, “Borinquen.”
Janice Aponte, Borinquen, 2020. Oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Also on display are Aponte’s paintings of petroglyphs that were inspired from ancient rock carvings that can be found in Puerto Rico. Aponte pays homage to this art form by recreating them in her paintings, giving them new life while also educating us about this ancient form of expression.

The power of Aponte’s work is how her paintings depict enigmatic and dreamlike scenes in a magical light — blurring the boundaries between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Her work also invites viewers to explore and embrace all the mysteries of life.

It’s worth mentioning, that besides displaying her art, Aponte also sells her handmade jewelry such as bracelets and earrings. She also sells mugs, bags, and scarves that have screenprints of her paintings on them.

On March 22, there will be an opening reception for the exhibition, Expressions Segarra, that features the work of Ivan Segarra. The reception will be held from 5pm to 9pm. RSVP through Eventbrite. Walk-ins are welcome.

AponteART is located at 5504 W. Lawrence Avenue and the hours are Saturday and Sunday, 1pm to 5pm or otherwise by appointment. For more information, visit AponteART.com.

Did you enjoy this post and our coverage of Chicago’s  arts scene? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation by PayPal. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!

Picture of the author
Thomas Wawzenek