Dara Haskins at Corridor ’62

When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint Them

By: - Mar 12, 2024

Dara Haskins at Corridor ’62
When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint Them

Independent curator, Shawnette Smalls, organizes Fall and Spring exhibitions in the corridor of the ‘62 Center of Williams College. During the summer the area displays memorabilia of the renowned Williamstown Theatre Festival. There have been four such exhibitions with the latest on view through May 10.

It was energizing to meet the 31-year-old artist, Dara Haskins, who was born in Baltimore and now lives in Philadelphia. We found it impossible to resist her charm and enthusiasm. She was eager to sell me a small painting but I fended off stating that I was there as a critic.

Her intent is to raise enough money to return to Cuba where she recently resided for a month. That experience is documented in the figurative and still life works that are displayed in the wrap around corridor space. We are encouraged to get close and take in the colorful, expressionist paintings with collaged elements including rhinestones.  There was no ready explanation for why several of the figures are painted in blue. The kindah answer is that it expresses her sense of freedom.

“Cuba taught me about color” she told me. There she interacted with artists and many musicians. Once you get there it’s surprisingly inexpensive. The round trip flight was just $150 and beforehand she booked into an Airbnb.

“You should go” she said persuasively. Indeed for young artists it’s something of a creative paradise. Travel expresses her mandate to get out and interact with communities from Cologne to Havana and now Williamstown. She also spoke of how exhausting it can be.

For a young artist she has enjoyed success and her shows generally sell out. Noah Smalls, a WCMA curator, was among the first to show and promote the work. He told me that the works on view range from $500 to $5000 with the larger canvases not for sale.

There is a refreshing whimsy to the work. On a small still life of lemons she has inscribed “When life hands you lemons, paint them.” We get the flavors of Cuba with a study of cooked crab and another of grilled fish.

The most ambitious work is a larger, unstretched figure on a mattress. We confront it from the vantage point of feet-first rather like Mantegna’s dramatic perspective view of “The Dead Christ.”


Dara Haskins (b.1992 Baltimore) has rooted her practice in Philadelphia, PA working primarily in painting oil portraits, figurative oil and mixed media paintings. Addressing the ways the black body has been represented and looked at throughout history, she challenges the identity of being seen and unseen connecting historical content to contemporary spaces and how that relationship coexists. Haskins received her BFA at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2019, winning the Franklin C. Watkins Memorial Grant for gifted painters in (2019) and The J Henry Scheidt Memorial Travel Scholarship to Cuba in (2019). Haskins currently lives and works in Philadelphia.


My work has been impacted by the surroundings of living in Vedado and Old Havana Cuba. Originating from an important part of my painting process that lies between connecting historical content to contemporary spaces, and how that relationship coexists. It is inspired by the Afro-Cuban religion, African art, location, and music. This series explores a reflected story of intimacy, color, joy, and Afro-Cuban culture. Throughout history, the gay black body has been a reflection of racism, underrepresentation, and hardship. I am to challenge that reflection by capturing the essence of what day to day may or may not look like, manifesting normalcy and transparency in domestic spaces. I challenge the memory of my work by exaggerating color and structure to create an atmosphere as well as physical elements of figures or objects as being seen or not seen that reflect and question identity.


‘62 Corridor ‘62 at the ‘62 Center for Theater & Dance was envisioned as a space where the community would share and engage with visual and interdisciplinary art. With this mission in mind, the Corridor ‘62 gallery was conceived as an exhibition space to expand access to the visual arts across the Williams College community and engage the public with works of art that embody the values of the ‘62 Center. This space displays artwork created by underrepresented artists at various points in their careers. Corridor ‘62 is led by independent curatorial consultant Shawnette Smalls and a team of guest curators and volunteers. To provide feedback, please contact the Visiting Artist Producer and Outreach Manager Randal Fippinger at