The exhibition celebrates feminity in many ways, from a portrait of artist Frida Kahlo in "Pasional y soñadora (Mi Frida)" to many representations of the female form.
The exhibition celebrates feminity in many ways, from a portrait of artist Frida Kahlo in "Pasional y soñadora (Mi Frida)" to many representations of the female form. Credit: Andrea Kurth for the San Antonio Report

A new exhibition celebrating International Women’s Day opened on Thursday at the San Antonio campus of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Hemisfair Park. The exhibition, Female Freedom, features the works of 18 women artists – 17 Mexicans and one Cuban – and celebrates the artistry of women and their freedom in creativity.

After the success last year of a similar exhibition featuring many of the same artists at UNAM’s Chicago campus, the university asked curator Alejandro Dorantes to exhibit at the San Antonio campus in 2017. Female Freedom is part of a rotating crop of exhibitions at UNAM, which showcases different works of visual and performing arts featuring Mexican and local artists each month.

The artists in Female Freedom expressed the equality and capacity of the female gender, Dorantes said. The 18 works, mostly oil and mixed media on canvas, depict the theme of woman as creator – of children, nature, and artistic expression. Although the artists were constrained by the size of the canvas, they had freedom in expressing femininity through their artwork in their own particular way, Dorantes said.

The colorful canvases measuring 3 ft. x 2 ft. line the walls of the school’s foyer, each expressing a different take on femininity. Although the subject matter of each painting varies, the female form – from shadowy silhouettes to feminine faces – presents itself in many of the works. The paintings also pay tribute to women’s many relationships – as mothers to their children, as keepers of the natural world, and as those who commune with the spiritual world.

“We’ve taken this opportunity to show what the women of Mexico have to offer in the world of art,” said Jake Pacheco, who coordinates the art events at UNAM every month.

The university serves as an educational and social diffusion center for Mexican culture, and Dorantes envisioned using the exhibit as an outlet to present the work from Mexico City artists who don’t have the resources to exhibit in big galleries in the United States, Pacheco said.

“We have the feeling of crossing the wall that sometimes people want to put between us,” Dorantes said about transmitting Mexican culture to Texas.

In addition to the curator, five of the exhibitors traveled from Mexico for the event and spoke about their works and their participation in the show.

“Where women get the strength to make art is an enigma,” said Pilar Maza, who exhibited her work entitled “Enigma.” “Many times we are strong against adversity, and I think now is the right time to be strong – especially for women.”

“My position here is very important,” said Marisol Gonzalez Valenzuela, the only Cuban artist exhibitor at the show. She said that although she is Cuban by heritage, she feels Mexican in many ways. Gonzalez created her work “Symbiosis” to represent the cooperation needed between women in order to improve the world, she said.

“I wanted to demonstrate that Mexican women are valiant,” she said. “And the women of the whole world – we are important. We can say beautiful things. We can transmit beautiful sentiments. My work ‘Symbiosis’ signifies that we all need each other. One country to another, one person to another, we all cooperate to make a better life.”

Female Freedom will be on display at UNAM until April 1. Other exhibitions planned at the school for this spring include a show featuring portraits of women from each Mexican state, as well as an exhibition for UNAM’s children’s festival that features San Antonio artists Momo and Pompa, whose colorful sculptures are a mainstay of the city’s art scene.

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Andrea Kurth

Andrea Kurth moved to San Antonio as a young child, and spent most of her life exploring the suburbs of the city. She graduated from UT in 2014 with degrees in journalism and economics. Since then, she...