In an age when many visual artists insist that their work is not political, the overtly political Mexican American artist Andrea Arroyo might rightly be seen as an anomaly.

Arroyo's exhibit “Femenina,” a collection of 22 paintings about women's bodies, opens Friday at The City University of New York. Like many of her shows, this exhibit is intended to draw attention to and celebrate the female body and mind.

The organizing theme of the show may not be radical or novel, but it seems particularly relevant and important in a political season during which the female body has been an ideological battleground for policy and legal arguments.

I am very interested in contributing to the dialogue about relevant issues, and I am humbled by the opportunity to generate a discussion of important topics that need to be addressed.

- Andrea Arroyo, artist

“I am very interested in contributing to the dialogue about relevant issues, and I am humbled by the opportunity to generate a discussion of important topics that need to be addressed,” Arroyo said.

In the course of her career, Arroyo's artwork has stimulated conversation not only about women's issues, but about immigration and race and class as well. She has participated in and curated group exhibits of art created to respond to stringent anti-immigration laws, as well as to draw attention to female victims of violence in Ciudad Juarez.

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The works exhibited in her new solo show, “Femenina,” hardly give away that Arroyo has focused on such dark subjects; these paintings are characterized by their vibrant, vivid colors and their vital energy. The women in the “Femenina” series are very much alive and in motion, celebrating female power and potential.

The influences, both ideological and cultural, for “Femenina” represent a broad cultural spectrum. Hindu and Yoruba goddesses, an Egyptian queen, and the Mexican icon La Malinche are just a few of the women whose stories and bodies are brought to life on Arroyo's canvases in this show.

“I am especially interested in strong women from literature, art, history, mythology,” says Arroyo. “The larger-than-life women who helped shape our world.”

Arroyo's politics and her commitment to improving women's lives aren't confined to her canvases. She has mentored numerous immigrant high school students from countries around the world, including China, Poland, Colombia, and Mexico, and she creates professional development programs for artists that are presented in collaboration with organizations such as The New York Foundation for the Arts.

In her work as a curator, she says she has a special interest in ensuring that women and minority artists are represented, and one of her long-term goals is to expand her creative community-building work beyond North America.

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“I am very interested in developing projects involving young women and girls internationally,” she says. “The subject of women is very extensive, and the inspiration from women—past and present—is never ending.”

Andrea Arroyo's exhibit, “Femenina” opens Friday at The City University of New York from 6-8 p.am. at The Cunard Building, 25 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10004. The exhibit will remain on view through April 27, 2012. Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday 10 AM-8 PM. Admission is free.

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Julie Schwietert Collazo is a freelance writer based in New York City.

 

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