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On Hispanic Heritage, Alyssa Cruz Digs Deep

It’s a warm but guarded kind of greeting. Eleven faces turn knowingly outward, lips pursed. Breath passes in and out and in again. Eleven different skin tones, from café con leche to cocoa, wink out at viewers. Eleven hairstyles, kinky and wavy and straight, run past shoulders and stop at chins. Twenty-two vigilant eyes follow you around the room, asking for a second look.

These faces comprise Collective Portraits: An Authentic Look into Hispanic Culture, running now through Oct. 20 at Albertus Magnus College. The exhibition, timed to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month, features portrait by Albertus Magnus senior Alyssa Cruz. This Saturday, the college will host an open house for the show, installed at the Margaret L. MacDonough Gallery in the Hubert Campus Center.

It’s an intimate and striking look at women of color, by a woman of color. Unlike Joe Standart’s WE ARE: A Nation of Immigrants or Rob Goldman’s I Matter series—both portrait projects by white men depicting people of color—Cruz’ starting point is her Puerto Rican heritage, and hope to dig deeper into it. It’’s the most in-depth project she’s done in five years of taking photos, a practice she started while riding the school bus from her native Bridgeport to Metropolitan Business Academy for high school. Nothing feels cursory about her approach, like the project could continue long after the images have come down, and she has graduated in the spring.

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