Featured Feminist: Andrea Arroyo

| Interview by Jennifer M. Reeher
Andrea Arroyo is a visual artist who has been creating and presenting work about women and women's issues for over twenty years. Additionally, she is also a Speaker and Curator most interested in presenting exhibitions about socially relevant topics and in showcasing the work of women and artists of color. Ms. Arroyo was also honored as an "Outstanding Woman of the Year" by the New York newspaper  El Diario  in a ceremony on April 18, 2014, in New York City. Her artwork is exhibited, published, reviewed, and collected extensively and is in the permanent collections of The Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution, The National Museum of Mexican Art, The Richmond Museum, and the New York Public Library. She was selected as "Global Citizen Award Artist" by President Clinton and her other honors include: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century; Groundbreaking Latina in the Arts; Official Artist of the Latin Grammys; Woman of the Week, Women in the World Foundation; and New York City Council Citizen Award for Achievement in Art. Her work has been published extensively, including in publications such as  The New YorkerThe New York Times , and  The International Herald Tribune , and she had been the subject of over 150 features in the national and international media.

Jennifer Reeher (JR): How did you get started as an artist?


Andrea Arroyo (AA): I started in the field of Contemporary Dance; I came to NYC on a scholarship for the Professional Program of the Merce Cunningham Studio, and danced professionally for some time, before transitioning to the Visual Arts full time. When I was still a professional dancer, I became interested in the visual arts as well. I fell in love with the ancient reliefs of the Near East at the British Museum and immediately began researching and experimenting with various art materials and techniques while building my first body of work. Because – as a dancer - I was very familiar with the form in three-dimensions and I felt very comfortable working with the human figure, I created mostly three-dimensional works for many years (making sculptures and relief works) and began painting and drawing only later. Movement and color are at the core of my work, and I created my signature style very early in my career, in which I stylize the human figure in a manner that is very much influenced by my background in dance.


JR: What are some of the obstacles or challenges that you've faced? And what are some obstacles that you still face today?


AA: Although we all face obstacles, I tend to consider these obstacles as challenges that will lead me to grow as a professional. As a self-employed, full-time artist who works independently, I love the space for creativity and the autonomy it allows me, but sometimes it can be isolating. One of the biggest issues I face is having enough time to complete the many projects I have in mind, I often work on several projects at a time and have little time to recharge.  I find that creative work is very stimulating but is also demanding, so finding a balance can be a challenge.


JR: Where do you find inspiration for your art?


AA: My main source of inspiration are women, I am fascinated by women’s stories and also by the female form. I am specially drawn to diverse depictions of women in art and literature throughout time (including sources from world history and mythology). I am also inspired by the struggles, challenges and achievements of women past and present, from strong women from history that are universally recognized (Cleopatra, Rosa Parks, Frida Khalo…) to the women of present times that contribute everyday to all aspects of contemporary society (as artists, scientists, politicians…). I am specially inspired by the millions of immigrant women around the world who face enormous challenges as they struggle to build a better life.


JR: Do you have an current or upcoming exhibits that our readers can look into or attend?


AA:  I will be participating in the following exhibitions in the next couple of months:


"If You Build It" Exhibition , organized by No Longer Empty and Broadway Housing Communities, New York City, on exhibit July-August 2014.

“Uptown Arts Review” Grantees Exhibition , Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, New York City, on view through June 17-July 27, 2014.

“Mix Masters” Exhibition , ArtHaus Gallery, San Francisco, CA, on view through June 28, 2014.

 Public Art Project:

"Ephemeral Art,"  Sherman Creek Park, New York City, commissioned by NoMAA and the New York Restoration Project, on view June 7-27, 2014.

 Art Auction:

“Art for Aids” Auction , San Francisco, CA. September 2014.


JR: Can you tell us a bit about your most recent project?


AA:  My most recent project, my 35th individual exhibition, titled “Memories Interlaced” was held at the historical Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center (through February, 2014). In this exhibition I presented a series of female-centered works displayed amid the striking plaster garlands, cherubs, and marbleized columns of the restored Audubon Ballroom - the Thomas Lamb classic built in 1912 and the site of the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965.


For this project, I created site-specific works that repurposed traditional garments collected from the women in my community, such as a hand-woven Mexican huipil, an Indonesian silk wrap, and an Indian prayer shawl, to examine notions of memory, belonging, and body image to honor the resilience of the female spirit.


The exhibited generated a wonderful response and was reviewed extensively in the media, including: "Memories Interlaced" Awaken Inspire Create ; "Goddess at the Center"  The Manhattan Times  (video and article.) "Mujeres objeto de admiración"  El Diario ; “Tap Into Your Inner Goddess with Mexican Artist Andrea Arroyo”  Inkandescent Radio ; “Memories Interlaced”  Examiner NY ; “Sirenas y Mitos de Mujeres Mexicanas and El arte de Andrea Arroyo”  Yareah .


Additional recent media include: 

Telemundo National “Talent as Weapon, Andrea Arroyo”


El Diario, NY “Outstanding Women of New York Awards, Andrea Arroyo”



JR: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists?


AA: I always advise emerging artists to focus first on finding their own voice and to strive for excellence, creating the best artwork possible. I also recommend finding or creating a professional network for support and the sharing of resources and information. And, I always say: never stop learning.


JR: And what does being a feminist mean to you?


AA: For me is very simple, I believe in true equality of women and men (including in the political, economic, cultural, and social aspects of society). There has been a lot of progress, but there is still a lot of work to do. I bring attention to women’s issues through my work, which focuses exclusively on women and women’s issues. My projects examine the status of women in society and celebrate the beauty, resilience and strength of women, honoring the female form and highlighting women’s struggles, achievements and contributions to society.


JR: And finally, where and how can our readers learn more about you and your work?



My website:  www.andreaarroyo.com

Linkedin:   http://www.linkedin.com/in/andreaarroyo  



Image used with the permission of Andrea Arroyo