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Artist Favianna Rodriguez makes bold, sparkling works that light up a room even as they reveal dark cul­tural inequities.

She is known for her activism and polit­ical posters addressing issues such as racism, women’s rights, dis­place­ment, and cli­mate change. Now, for the first time, her abstract prints—multilayered col­lages of vibrant colors and rever­ber­ating shapes—are on dis­play: 27 of them line the walls in Northeastern’s Gallery 360 in an exhibit called “The Mul­ti­verse of Iden­tity” as she begins her week­long stint at North­eastern as artist in res­i­dence. The exhibit opened ear­lier this month and runs through mid-​​December.

Rodriguez will be talking about her vision of art as both an agent of social change and indi­vidual nar­ra­tive on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m., in Blackman Auditorium.

Her aim

Rodriguez’s goal is to open minds to the power of art to reflect people and soci­etal causes in all their complexity.

“I love the idea that art dis­rupts ideas and iden­ti­ties,” says Rodriguez, 36, whose par­ents emi­grated in the late 1960s from Peru to Oak­land, Cal­i­fornia, where she was influ­enced by the street art cul­ture of the 1980s and ’90s: hip-​​hop, graf­fiti, fem­i­nism. “It offers ways to reframe who you are.”

“I want to offer the viewer the choice to explore the spec­trum of what cre­ativity can be.”

Her inspi­ra­tion


Her own spec­trum is expan­sive. As an ado­les­cent, she attended school in Mexico City, where she soaked up the rich­ness of Mayan colors and the palette of Mex­ican mural­ists. Through high school she excelled in not just art but also sci­ence and math (she almost became an engi­neer). She counts both Henri Matisse’s shape-​​shifting exhibit “The Cut-​​Outs” and the TV show “Cosmos: A Space­time Odyssey,” hosted by astro­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson, among the inspi­ra­tions for her Gallery 360 show.

“A lot of the pieces con­cern ecosys­tems and inter­con­nect­ed­ness,” Rodriguez says. “What I’m trying to say is that everything—we, the planet, the galaxies—is inter­con­nected. We need to use our shared humanity as a starting point to solve prob­lems like the wealth gap and cli­mate change.”

She offers an example of the latter. “We forget about our rela­tion­ship to the nat­ural world, for instance, that we rely on plants for our oxygen,” she explains. “I want to remind people about that inter­de­pen­dence, not just focus on carbon monoxide in the air.”

Bree Edwards, director of the North­eastern Center for the Arts, notes how that focus reflects Northeastern’s ded­i­ca­tion to bringing dis­parate dis­ci­plines together.

“Favianna is one of the visionary artists of our time,” says Edwards. “She is a cre­ative cit­izen, an artist, orga­nizer, entre­pre­neur, a change agent. We are hon­ored that she is the first artist in res­i­dence of the year at the North­eastern Center for the Arts, because she shows us how art, advo­cacy, and tech­nology can inspire social change, and these are themes that we are pas­sionate about in the Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design.”

Her process

Rodriguez’s process for making her abstract works—intaglio printing, using an etching plate—is “very, very elab­o­rate.” Each piece takes months. To start, she applies ink to create tex­ture on mul­tiple sheets of Japanese paper, pro­ducing a “library of colors.” “I think of the prac­tice as cre­ating the con­tainer in which I’m going to play,” she says. She then cuts the paper into shapes—now spikey, now undulating—and arranges them in a “playful way.” “The arranging—repeating shapes, refining them—is what gives each piece its own char­acter,” she says.

The colors smack you in the face. “For me, color is about pos­si­bility,” she says. It char­ac­ter­izes both her art and her com­mit­ment to breaking apart assumptions—for her­self, for all of us. “I don’t like when people put me in the woman box or the Latina box or the polit­ical artist box,” she says. “That limits who I am as an indi­vidual. I want to instead embrace the pos­si­bility of who I can be. That’s where ulti­mate freedom is.”

“The Mul­ti­verse of Iden­tity” is infused with that sense of freedom. “I want to encourage people to go back to a place of humanity, a place of beauty,” she says. “My hope is that people feel good and peaceful when they look at the exhibit, and that we can con­nect based on our humanity, our resilience, and the things that we love and enjoy.”

Favianna Rodriguez will be talking about her vision of art as both an agent of social change and indi­vidual nar­ra­tive on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m., in Blackman Audi­to­rium. During her week­long res­i­dency on campus, she will par­tic­i­pate in var­ious courses, including Intro­duc­tion to Women’s Studies and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Inclu­sion, and con­duct a work­shop on art as a change agent for both stu­dents and mem­bers of the community.

Read the original story at news@Northeastern