NXTHVN exhibits artworks expressing the liberation of daydreaming

NXTHVN in New Haven, CT presents “Deserve What You Dream,” an exhibition featuring works by Derrick Adams, Isaac Bloodworth, Jihyun Lee, and Sarah Zapata. The exhibition is on view from Saturday, June 8 to Sunday, September 1, 2024, with an opening reception on Saturday, June 8, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

This selection of works provides a space of respite and rest for viewers to experience the liberation of daydreaming. Through an intentionally curated arrangement of furniture dispersed amongst the works on view that offer lounging and reclination, NXTHVN encourages viewers to relax, daydream and compose poetry with their bodies in the gallery while contemplating the following prompts: “Why do you dream? How do you dream? What do you dream of?”

The exhibition is curated by Marissa Del Toro, NXTHVN’s assistant director of programs and exhibitions.

“Deserve What You Dream” invites visitors to sit and rest while gazing at leisurely pool scenes of Black joy from Derrick Adams’ Floater painting series; abstract paintings of musings and intuitive thoughts by New Haven-based artist Jihyun Lee; and intricate sculptures and latch-hooked rugs by Sarah Zapata throughout NXTHVN’s gallery and aula spaces; along with a vinyl window install of Adventures of Joy Da Black Boi from New Haven-based artist Isaac Bloodworth

Historically, Black individuals and people of color have a higher rate of sleeping issues, ranging from low-quality sleep to short and long sleeping hours. Several contributing factors, such as physical and emotional stress from racial discrimination, financial concerns, environmental stressors, medical care inequities and acculturation to a dominant culture add to these disparities.

“At NXTHVN, when working with artists from marginalized backgrounds we are continually reminded how important it is to create space for rest and relaxation,” Del Toro said. “We witness firsthand how BIPOC communities struggle to balance a multitude of stressors, with sleep often being the first sacrifice. We hope visitors leave our gallery feeling restored and hopeful.”

With sleep being a critical aspect of a well-balanced and healthy life, this exhibition encourages viewers to rest and find a moment of reprieve.

Tricia Hersey’s 2022 book, “Rest is Resistance,” proposes that when we allow our bodies to rest and nap, we resist the status quo and provide ourselves “a portal to imagine, invent and heal.” Included artworks encourage viewers to slow down and relish in the pleasures of the here and now and to engage in a path of imagination, healing and liberation to simply exist and dream.


NXTHVN is a new national arts model that empowers artists and curators through education and access to a vibrant ecosystem. Supported by intergenerational mentorship, cross-sector collaboration and local engagement, NXTHVN accelerates the careers of the next generation and fosters retention of professional art talent while helping catalyze New Haven into a world-class, sustainable arts community.


Derrick Adams (b. 1970, Baltimore, MD) is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He received his BFA from Pratt University, New York, in 1996 and graduated with an MFA from Columbia University, New York, in 2003.

Adams has held numerous teaching positions and is currently a tenured assistant professor in the School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts at CUNY Brooklyn College. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Maryland Institute College of Art.

Adams celebrates and expands the dialogue around contemporary Black life and culture through scenes of normalcy and perseverance. He has developed an iconography of joy, leisure and the pursuit of happiness within a practice that encompasses paintings, sculptures, collages, performances, videos and public projects. Adams synthesizes representational imagery with planar Cubist geometry to produce multifaceted figures and faces that address the richness of the Black experience.

In 2022, Adams established Charm City Cultural Cultivation, an organization to support and encourage underserved communities in the city of Baltimore through events conducted by three entities: The Last Resort Artist Retreat, a residency program that subscribes to the concept of leisure as therapy for the Black creative; The Black Baltimore Digital Database, a collaborative counter-institutional space for collecting, storing and safekeeping the data of local archival initiatives; and Zora’s Den, an online community of Black women writers started in January 2017, which has since expanded into in-person writing workshops, a writers’ circle and a monthly reading series that strive to promote instruction, support and social engagement.


Isaac Bloodworth is a New Haven native and Black Artist. He is a graduate from the University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts Program. Bloodworth’s works center around his blackness and the experiences of the black community in America. He envisions a world in which his original characters not only survive, but thrive.

An experienced muralist, Bloodworth collaborated with Citywide Youth Coalition to paint a permanent installation at their Black and Brown Power Center on Chapel Street. His latest mural was installed by The City of New Haven’s Department of Arts Culture and The Town Green Special; Services District at City Hall.

One of his favored methods of storytelling is through puppetry, using a style called “Crankie.” He has performed his puppet works for the Lineage Group at Art Space and at City-Wide Open Studios. Through his murals and puppet performances, he hopes to inspire youth in the black community to see themselves in a positive light and help them understand their lived experiences. He is a member of A Broken Umbrella Theater.


Jihyun Lee (b.1979, Seoul; currently based in New Haven, CT) is a versatile artist known for her diverse exploration of mediums. Her work is interdisciplinary, primarily centered around oil paintings of various scales, ranging from intimate pieces to larger, immersive works. Regardless of whether her art is representational or abstract, Lee’s pieces resist simple interpretations, encouraging personal reflection as they delve into open-ended themes and indeterminacy. Using surrealist and self-referential imagery, Lee invites imaginative interpretations while candidly addressing contemporary themes related to womanhood and displacement.

She earned an M.F.A in Fine Arts, at School of Visual Arts, New York in 2018 and an M.F.A in Painting at Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul in 2003.


Sarah Zapata (b. 1988, Corpus Christi, TX) is an artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She has held solo exhibitions with the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Performance Space New York, el Museo del Barrio, amongst others.

Zapata was the 2023 National Resident for CALA Alliance, and currently teaches in the graduate painting program at the Yale School of Art.

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