Meet a NYFA Artist: Andrea Arroyo
NYFA speaks with 1989 Sculpture Fellow and 1995 Printmaking/Drawing/Artist Books Fellow Andrea Arroyo.
NYFA: Hi Andrea! Please tell us what are you working on and/or what’s coming up for you.
AA: Currently I’m working on two projects, both honoring women. The first one -titled “Sacred Women”- is a series of paintings on custom-designed panels, inspired by sacred architecture and female characters from sacred texts.
The second one -titled “Flor de Tierra, Homage to the Women of Juarez” (“Flower of the Earth”), is a project-in-progress that consists of 400 drawings, in tribute to the women of Juarez, the border city in Mexico where more than 400 women have gone missing or been killed in the past 15 years.
On May 6th, I will be honored with the “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” Award, given by Women’s E-News, to “21 outstanding leaders dedicated to improving women’s lives”: In conjunction with the award, I will be presenting an exhibition of a selection of pieces from “Flor de Tierra” (work-in-progress.)
NYFA: Tell us a little bit about your process, how do you begin working on a piece?
AA: I create a concept for a whole series first, and then I create more specific concepts for individual pieces. To create my paintings I design and prepare the supports, starting with a few layers of sand texture, to create a rough surface, which adds to the richness and dimensionality of the painting. I start creating each piece by making many sketches. After I have the outline, I select a general color palette and make a few color versions in watercolor or color pencils. Once I start the process of painting I refine the color by applying many color layers and gradations (this part of the process can take up to 2 weeks.) To create my Conte drawings I start with pencil sketches and work on them continuously, until I have a very stylized final image that I use for the final piece.
NYFA: Who or what is your biggest influence or inspiration right now?
AA: Women inspire all of my work; I celebrate femininity, strength and courage. The “Sacred Women” series is inspired by women from world history and mythology, the “Flor de Tierra” project is inspired by the victims of Juarez, and by any woman who has been the victim or who fought against violence or injustice.
I’m also inspired by everyday things, like the open sky I see on my walks alongside the Hudson River in Manhattan.
NYFA: Do you collect anything?
AA: I have a collection of Virgen de Guadalupe and Buddha statuettes and images that I have acquired in my travels throughout the years. I love how different artists interpret these symbols to make each piece unique and universal at the same time.
NYFA: What are your goals for the future?
AA: My main goal is to keep creating my work, and to exhibit and place it in more institutional and museum collections. I also would like to do more public art (I’d like to explore bronze and other permanent materials for large scale work.)
On a shorter term, my goal is to obtain additional funding in order to finish the 400 drawings for my project “Flor de Tierra” and to exhibit the completed project in New York and as a traveling exhibit in the US and abroad.
NYFA: What do you hope viewers of your work will take away from it? Do you consider your “audience” when painting?
AA: I generally do not consider the audience during the creative process. However, I’m aware of the impact that art may have on an audience, because I’ve experienced when I see strong work that moves me in some way (to feel, to think, to act…) I always hope viewers will be moved by my work.
NYFA: Can you talk a little bit about your work in context, culturally, historically, aesthetically or in any other context that is pertinent?
AA: My work is greatly influenced by dance. I’m a self-taught visual artist with a background in contemporary dance (I trained with Merce Cunningham.) When I was a professional dancer, I was fascinated by the female form. Soon after I became a visual artist, I began doing research on women’s images. Since then, I have been intrigued not only by the female form, but also by female stories.My career in the visual arts has been somewhat atypical in the sense that I started by doing sculpture (because of my dance work, I was familiar with the human form in three-dimensions), and then I moved to relief work, later to painting, and only recently to drawing.
NYFA: What is one technology that you’d like to see developed?
AA: Solar energy that can be made available to everyone, everywhere.
NYFA: Is there anything that you’d like to see addressed more adequately by artists service and funding organizations? If so, how might this issue be addressed?
AA: There is always a need for additional funding to individual artists. It’d be great to have artists be recognized –and compensated–, as working people who contribute greatly to society. There is also a great need for affordable health insurance for independent artists and I’d like to see more wide-ranging art programs in public schools.
NYFA: What is your workspace like?
AA: My studio is around 400 sq. feet, on a 5th floor, I’m lucky to have 2 sets of large bay windows that allow the light to come in all through the day (I paint mostly with natural light) and to have an open view of the sky.
A section of the studio is set up with an easel, and I have 3 large tables for table-top work. Art supplies are stored under these tables. Walls are white and I have finished pieces –the series I’m working on at the time–, hanging on the walls.) I also have several easels to display work, sketches, photographs, etc. I have a separate room to do administrative work, which contains my computer station, files, and reference library.
NYFA: What advice do you have for young artists working in your medium?
AA: Doing the work is the most important thing; focus on doing the best work you can. Following what’s happening in the art world is important, but don’t try to follow the art trends, finding –and honoring– your own voice is critical.
When you are ready, approach opportunities in a professional manner. Believe in yourself, respect your peers, and keep in mind that we can always learn something from others.
NYFA: What role has the Fellowship Program played in your life?
AA: I’ve received 2 Fellowships (Sculpture and Drawing/Printmaking/Artist’s Books), they were invaluable not only in terms of the financial award, but much more so in terms of the professional acknowledgement.
I’m a self-taught artist; so receiving the Fellowships early in my career gave me the invaluable gifts of encouragement and recognition. The Fellowship has also expanded my network of peers and allowed me access to NYFA’s fantastic resources. I’m really proud to be part of the NYFA “family”!
For more information on Andrea Arroyo, visit her website.