This work didn’t stick around long. It was purchased as the display went up, my signature was still drying! Later, I had the opportunity of viewing some of the buyer’s other acquisitions and was honored to have my painting included in such a fine body of artwork. Knowing that my work is relevant to institutions and connoisseurs, it’s validating, and not only to me, but to those who have kindly supported my artistic endeavors by purchasing artwork.
This artwork was commissioned by ArtSí, Charlotte’s Latino arts community initiative. It was created for the organization’s 10-year anniversary, Con A de Arte (A is for art) an event hosted by the Mint Museum in uptown Charlotte. As an invited artist, I was charged with the task of creating an artistic response to the Museum’s exhibition, Sociales: Débora Arango Arrives Today. I titled the painting “Libre” because it is about the liberation of ideas.
The Colombian artist, Débora Arango, lived in a time and place where her only available mode of self-expression was art, and even her art was rejected by her community. This is because, at that time, in Envigado, Colombia, women were dominated. They were repressed by men, the state, and the church. Women could not vote and they were not allowed to drive vehicles. Arango highlighted her realities in her paintings. Frequently, she painted grotesque depictions of prostitutes and female inmates, or she created allegorical devices using animals to represent government and men. Predictably, Colombia did not embrace her. However, Arango’s ideas, through her artwork, were liberated. Today, Débora Arango’s message has been heard around the world, proving that art is one of the most powerful tools of communication.
In my painting, “Libre,” I borrow some of Arango’s devices and I create some of my own. In the painting, you see a woman. Representing victims, she is being assailed. On one side, a beast from the shadows covers her mouth, and on the other, she is groped by a man in uniform. The woman is, however, undaunted, and releases a swarm of colorful butterflies. I chose butterflies to represent Arango’s artwork, not because her brush strokes are beautiful like a butterfly but rather because her artistic achievement resembles the butterfly. Her genius is in appropriating art to expose the injustices of her homeland. Her paintings are imbued with her revelations. Through art, she stimulates dialogue about the issues that she cares about, and her art was a catalyst for change. Her victory, then, was freedom of expression and freedom of expression is like the butterfly. Thus, in my painting, a stream of butterflies light-up the grim scene. Like Arango’s message to the world, they are set free.