Kudos to Artworks Curator Eva Loyaza for bringing together five Latina women artists in an exhibit at Artworks Trenton, titled Mujeres.
The title translates to English as “women” and these women artists have a lot to say to us that is worth paying attention to—and they’re saying it with art that is sometimes disturbing, sometimes peacefully inspiring, and always well executed. They come from diverse backgrounds and, because of that, what they are exhibiting is diverse.
TAMARA TORRES, emigrated here in 1978 from a troubled background in Puerto Rico. She became homeless but, instinctively knowing she had creative talent, she worked to develop it as she watched people on the streets fighting in many ways for dignity. “I saw it all the time and thought about it and that’s when I started doing collages,” she says. She has exhibited her work in London, Italy, New York and New Jersey. According to her bio available at the exhibit, while “working with UNICEF for Italy, she created an artwork that has inspired and helped many women globally.”
Of her many dramatic works on exhibit that will cause you to stop and pay attention is her “Purgatory,” for which she used acrylics, spray paints, gold leaf paper and wire. She presents a wire cross affixed to the surface where in the background of night you can discern people gathered with raised hands in a gesture of pleading.
“I was thinking about what is going on now all around us and, to me, this is a sign of what we are seeking from the chaos,” she says.
Among a group of expertly executed acrylic paintings by GUADALUPE REYES is her “Hay Cosas No Se Dicen.” Translated, this means “There are things that can not be said.” And to portray this, she shows the face of a woman, one finger to her lips in the universal sign of “Shhh.” The woman is surrounded first by white shapes, then by a jagged and pointed mosaic of strong colors. Displayed nearby is a painting showing a young woman seated at her easel at work on a painting of a woman holding a sign aloft that reads “Do Not Stereotype Latinas!!!
Reyes earned an AB in Business Management and a Fine arts degree from Mercer County Community College where she was awarded two scholarships, one for painting excellence and another for outstanding work by a graduating student. She has exhibited extensively in this area and now exhibits in New York and California and has recently begun to exhibit internationally.
A monumental black and white installation by MARY VALVERDE conjoins three black and white circles linked together with gold geometric lines created by winding gold thread around tiny nails placed at points around the circles.
“The geometric symmetry created taps into the ancients’ understanding of mathematic and astro physics, and their complex thinking of the universe,” says Addison Vincent, Artworks Exhibits Coordinator. “Mary’s fascination with string theory and quantum physics is a resonance of the ancient understanding of these complex mathematics, and led to the creation of this piece.”
The circles seem to change before your eyes as you view them. Sometimes they are three circles on a flat plane that are black with white ovals meeting in the middle. But if you keep focused in the center, one black and white circle seems to move forward as if floating before two solid black ones.
Valverde earned her MFA at the University of Pennsylvania and teaches at Hunter, York & Cooper Union School of Art. She has been awarded many distinguished Fellowships. She has exhibited her work in several museums and galleries in the U.S.
Although JENNIFER RIVERA’s bio describes her as “a 25-year old developing artist,” her work more than holds its own in this exhibit of artists who are farther along on their paths. Born and raised in Trenton, she says she is inspired by artist Frida Kahlo “and her creative Uncle Jose.”
Among other of her works on display is on that surely draws you to her collection in the gallery. Titled “Alienation,” it presents a shocking green figure whose face comprises one blue eye that seems riveted at you while two “hands” embrace a fetus lying in a bed of dripping red in the figure’s abdomen. Pink circles swirl around the figure against a white speckled background. Are the green figure’s hands embracing the fetus as it stares at you or is it lifting it out of its womb and offering it to you? Rivera leaves it to you to decide.
Rivera may be a developing artist, but her work is very much at home in this group of highly regarded professionals. She is a member and active volunteer for S.A.G.E. Coalition in inner city Trenton.
Constructed of brass, metal, gold leaf and gold chains with beads, ESPERANZA CORTES’s chandelier titled “Empire” lends a grace note to the exhibition. You see it as you enter the exhibition space as it hangs from the ceiling with its delicate beaded chains spreading gracefully and puddling on the floor.
Among her other works on display is “Cumbia,” a clay head with an embedded emerald which she says honors the women miners of Colombia where she was born.
Cortes who now lives and works in New York, says in her bio she often reworks found objects “that are impregnated with cultural symbols and archeological qualities that act as sites of memory.” Her work has been exhibited broadly in museums and galleries in America and in nine foreign countries. It has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Village Voice and many others. She has been the subject of interviews on public radio and public television in the United States and articles about her work have appeared throughout Europe, South America and the Caribbean. She has been the recipient of numerous grants, awards and international and national fellowships.
A statement that accompanies this exhibit defines it’s purpose: “As Latinos, we are often lumped under a title that’s so vast that our individuality is lost,” it says. “We come from different countries… We have our own dialects, our own food, our own holidays and traditions. While language and cultural similarities bond us, we are uniquely different. We hope to put this diversity on display with Mujeres.”
IF YOU GO
WHERE: Artworks, 19 Everest Alley, Stockton Street between Front and Market Streets, Mill Hill District of Trenton.
WHEN: Through October 1. Hours, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday.