Francheska Alcántara: Secure the Bag, Mint the Soaps and Throw the Bones

May 20 – June 25, 2022

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, Secure the Bag, Mint the Soaps and Throw the Bones will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

Ways to Experience the Project

Events are subject to change. With the exception of drop-in hours, we ask the public to reserve a time online for one or more of the following public engagements. Since slots are limited, we ask that visitors commit to attending and cancel in advance if their plans change. All events are free. Participants are asked to bring dry goods or hygiene products for local mutual aid efforts.

Drop-in Interactive Hours (time-variable) – No RSVP needed Fridays & Saturdays from July 22 – August 13 (with the exception of August 5 & 6) 12-6 pm

See the works as they progress and view the hybrid installation/artist studio that the artist has created for the project. Either the artists themselves or a Recess docent will be available to walk you through the space.

Private Studio Visits with the Artist (60mins, For Groups of 1-4)
Thursdays 2-6 pm

By appointment only, sign up no later than 10am the same day at

Domino Game Days
Saturdays July 23 & 30 and August 13, 2-4 pm

Come view the installation, listen to music, and enjoy refreshments while playing dominoes and conversing about the exhibition themes. No prior domino-playing experience is necessary.

Register for a Domino Game Day

Secure the Bag, Mint the Soaps and Throw the Bones

Drop-in Hours

Fridays & Saturdays 12-6pm

Private Studio Visits with the Artist

(60mins, For Groups of 1-4)

Thursdays, 2–6 pm. By appointment only.

To make an appointment, sign up no later than 10 am the same day at 

While we do not require proof of vaccination, use of KN95, or N95, or KF94 Masks (age 2+) are required for all visitors. One will be provided if other types of mask are worn.


Secure the Bag, Mint the Soaps and Throw the Bones is a site of exchange that aims to recontextualize the intricate histories of the brown paper bag and Hispano cuaba soap while inviting the audience to play a game of dominoes. This is based on the artist’s ongoing examination of these items found in private and domestic settings. Nonetheless, their combined racialized, colonial and social complexity reverberates in the customs and dynamics of collective space within a black diasporic subjectivity and imagination.

For example, the humble brown paper bag is a ubiquitous utilitarian receptacle for transporting items and is often disposed of as urban detritus. However, the “Brown Paper Bag Test” harkens to a colorist discriminatory history in which those with a skin color lighter than a brown paper bag were allowed access to certain spaces or privileges. Then, in the 1970s, the bag reappears emblazoned with The Black Panther Party logo as a visible symbol of the People’s Free Food Program to highlight the inaction of the US government to combat hunger.

As a Dominicanx artist living in the Bronx, Alcántara is also interested in the objects that connect them to an intimate and communal relationship with the Island and its diaspora. Hispano cuaba soap isa standard item in Caribbean households and the diaspora for cleaning clothes and the body. Additionally, it holds very particular connotations in relation to bodies capable of becoming pregnant as an item for hygiene and as a way to test for pregnancy (despite its harmful effects on vaginas’ pH levels, according to medical studies). Meanwhile, the Hispano brand and its marketing reinforce a white-Eurocentric ethnicity that washes over the violent history of conquest and erasure in the Americas. How might these loaded objects that conjure both a comforting familiarity and oppressive histories be reinterpreted into new social formations?

The Session gallery will be the site of an evolving installation of brown paper bags transformed through embroidering, collaging, dyeing and accumulated crystallizations of sugar, salt, adobo, soil, coffee grinds, and coconut oil into jewelry-like pendants which function as a symbolic shrine in the gallery. The Hispano cuaba soaps will be altered to incorporate natural ingredients and the debossed lettering on the soap will be changed from Hispano to Black, Negre, and Afro to subvert the assumed whiteness of the Hispanic ethnicity.

The artist will host events where the public can ponder these material associations over a game of dominoes sculpted from Hispano cuaba soap. Through guided conversation over this quintessential diasporic pastime, can we collectively navigate and break from the impositions of anti-Blackness to sustain mutual aid efforts and fight other forms of systemic oppression?

Secure the Bag, Mint the Soaps and Throw the Bones is part of Recess’s program, Session, which invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

 About the Artist

Francheska Alcántara (they/them) is an Afro-Caribbean, Latinx, queer artist raised by their grandmother and hailing from The Bronx. Francheska explores slippages in-between memories, fragmentations and longing. Their aim is to explore the specific social meaning within the realm of domestic and public life of artifacts and interactions such as: hand-washing their underwear with cuaba soap while taking a shower, setting up buckets to catch rainwater to wash their hair, and peeling plátanos with the knife that has the right sharpness to follow the platano’s curve without cutting their hand. Francheska wants to use these subjective experiences to expand our capacity for pleasure, love and intra-connection. Francheska graduated with a MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University, a BFA in Painting from Hunter College, and a BA in Art History from Old Dominion University. Alcántara has shared their work at the Brooklyn Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Queens Museum, La Mama Theater, Grace Exhibition Space, and BronxArtSpace.

Recess is supported, in part, by Alloy Development, LLC, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, Art for Justice Fund, Art Matters Foundation, The Andy Warhol, Foundation for the Visual Arts, Blavatnik Family Foundation, Bloomberg LP Philanthropy, Brendan Dugan, Brooklyn Community Foundation, The Cy Twombly Foundation. The David Teiger Foundation, David Rockefeller Fund, The Destina Foundation, DFW Fund, ELMA Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, Frank E. Clark Charitable Trust, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, Jane Hait, Jewish Communal Fund, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Lawrence & Idell Weisberg Foundation, The Luce Foundation, Kickstarter, MacKenzie Scott & Dan Jewitt, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York Community Trust, The New York State Council on the Arts, The Odyssey Fund, The Pinkerton Foundation, Progressive Philanthropy Group, The Prospect Hill Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, Saks Fifth Avenue, The Salomon Foundation, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, The Shapiro-Silverberg Foundation, The Silverweed Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Tikkum Olam Foundation, VIA Fund, Visionary Freedom Fund, Wescustogo Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation