Artist showcases Latin American women in new exhibition

The nap. | Photo courtesy of Clarissa Argueta

In an effort to pay homage to her Latin American heritage, Clarissa Argueta will be showcasing her acrylic paintings titled “Women in Colour” at Place Des Arts in Coquitlam, Oct. 13–Nov. 10.

Argueta has been drawing or painting for as long as she can remember. After completing a MFA in graphic design from the University of Illinois in Chicago, she moved to Vancouver in 2002. Originally from El Salvador, her artwork centres on celebrating her ancestral heritage and the mysticism found in Latin American idiosyncrasies, popular culture and folklore, by showcasing indigenous women in portrait style paintings.

“My colours are very vibrant, there is a very cheerful feeling to the paintings,” says Argueta. “It’s very celebratory of my culture and I showcase indigenous women as the axis of this magical universe.”

Not only is Argueta interested in painting Latin American women, she is also fascinated by the ancient textiles woven by indigenous communities and the intriguing symbolism that lie within them.

“To me, painting the women who create them [the textiles] is like a tribute to their craftsmanship and it’s a privilege to be able to participate in this heritage. This is very important to me as a Latin American,” says Argueta.

Textile symbolism

Girl with shroud. | Photo courtesy of Clarissa Argueta

The textiles that Argueta speaks of include garments such as traditional blouses, skirts, waistbands as well as shrouds or blankets that are usually woven from natural materials such as cotton or wool. The material is also dyed with natural dyes. The craftsmanship of each garment, says Argueta, represents the honour and pride of the people who created them and each design is unique and requires pre-planning before the weaving process can begin. Each garment can take weeks to months to create.

“All symbols chosen are pre-planned and try to communicate an idea,” she says. “A young woman might create a traditional blouse, or huipil, to communicate what village she comes from, her marital status and the rank she holds in her community. The bottom line is to show the pride of the weaver and how good they are.”

Argueta explains that the indigenous communities try to keep their weaving traditions alive and the skills are passed on from one generation to the next, as they have been doing for thousands of years.

“It’s like a whole story when they wear these garments and you can tell who they are and where they belong, just by looking at their huipil,” she says.

The exhibition

Clarissa Argueta, artist from El Salvador | Photo courtesy of Clarissa Argueta

Argueta describes her paintings as minimalistic, in an effort to focus on the beauty of the women and their garments while illustrating their resilience and efforts in keeping their traditions alive.

“Now that I live abroad, I’m not exposed to this rich and colourful visual stimuli [textiles] anymore. You could say I long for that and these and many other ancient traditions that remain very close to my heart,” says Argueta.

For her upcoming exhibition, Argueta will also be showcasing some artwork with a Day of the Dead theme.

“It’s a very fascinating concept to me, and all the mysticism and symbolism behind life and death as a transition and not an ending. Therefore, the equal importance of celebrating and paying tribute to both events,” says Argueta.

Argueta, who also works as a visual artist and visual arts instructor, is eager to share her Hispanic roots with the Canadian community through her artwork.

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