Song of the Magdalene CD Release and Art Exhibit

Latina artists Raquel Z. Rivera and Tanya Torres launch multidisciplinary project exploring the mythical character of Mary Magdalene through art, songs and an artist’s book.

 Song of the Magdalene, an artistic collaboration between scholar and musician Raquel Z. Rivera and artist and poet Tanya Torres, will launch on September 10, 2010, at 7:00 pm, with a concert and art exhibition event at the East Village’s iconic performance space St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery.

“Mary Magdalene is the Bible’s redeemed prostitute, according to some, she is Jesus’ wife according to others, but through our project Song of the Magdalene (Canción de la Magdalena), we celebrate this mythical character as a muse and a source of creative inspiration,” said Raquel Z. Rivera, who is also the author of the books New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone and Reggaeton.

Song of the Magdalene consists of a handmade book, an exhibition of images and a CD of songs dedicated to the Mary that the artists playfully call Our Lady of Lexington, in reference to the place in New York City where they live and create. A product of 5 years of conversations, study and artistic creation, Song of the Magdalene takes its title from the edition of 21 books created by Tanya Torres, which includes a song by Raquel Z. Rivera.

“The book brings together both parts of the project: the musical and the visual. It is completely handmade, and I wrote each page by hand on papyrus brought from Egypt, where the original Gospel of Mary was found,” says Tanya Torres, former director of Mixta Gallery in East Harlem, NYC, who began creating books in 2001, when she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. “A book is an object of worship, and the process of making it a source of healing for the soul. We are trying to express our devotion to the Magdalene as a fluid and malleable source of artistic inspiration.”

Both artists stress the connection between truth and myth in their art and music. “The Magdalene can hold any of her customary titles: most beloved disciple, the apostle to the apostles, the possible inheritor of the Church, or she can become anything that a person needs her to be: a visionary, an evolving myth, an embodiment of truths,” says Torres, while Rivera, who also holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and is affiliated researcher at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies of Hunter College, expresses that “I believe in the Magdalene passionately, but not literally. I’m not religious. The Magdalene is simply my favorite myth. She is the truth and the way that lives within each of us.”

Song of the Magdalene has received funding from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Association of Hispanic Arts and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, and is co-sponsored by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, City Lore and St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. It will continue to travel throughout New York City and Puerto Rico in September and October, and is expected to reach Latin America and Europe as the project continues to evolve. One of the books of the edition will make a series of posadas, or house visits, throughout New York City as the others find their way through the world. To find out more about Song of the Magdalene or to become a guardian of the book, visit:

About the artists:

Raquel Z. Rivera

Raquel Z. Rivera is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and songs. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she has lived in New York City since 1994. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology and is an Affiliated Scholar at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College. Co-editor of the anthology Reggaeton (Duke University Press 2009), she is author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone (Palgrave Macmillan 2003) and numerous academic and journalistic articles on Caribbean/Latino popular music and culture. Her essays, short stories and poetry have been featured in various journals, newspapers and literary websites. A founding member of New York City roots music groups Alma Moyó, Yaya and Yerbabuena, Rivera has also performed with internationally-renowned Dominican fusion artists Luis Dias and Xiomara Fortuna. Las 7 salves de La Magdalena / 7 Songs of Praise for The Magdalene is her debut CD. Visit her website at:

 Tanya Torres

         Tanya Torres is a Puerto Rican artist living and working in New York City. She spent her childhood in Puerto Rico, and moved back to New York City at age 15. She graduated from the City College of New York with a B.A. in Art Education, and an M.F.A. in Printmaking. She also studied at the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Alcalá de Henares in Spain. Her artwork has been presented at the United Nations Organization, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies Library, the Museum of the 19th Century Dominican Family in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), and the Porta Coeli Museum of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, among other institutions. Her books are in the collections of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies Library, the University of Puerto Rico Library and private collections in New York and Puerto Rico. She is Artist-in-Residence at P.S. 57 in East Harlem, New York City, where she has created a series mosaic murals and 2 poetry murals since 2007. In 2002, El Diario/La Prensa selected her as one of the 50 Women of the Year. She teaches art and poetry workshops at hospitals, community organizations and other institutions that serve their communities. Canción de la Magdalena is her most recent artistic project. Visit her website at:


Raquel Z. Rivera

 Tanya Torres

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