From a young age Andrea Arroyo was an independent and curious child, who always had an interest in the visual arts. When she was 20 years old she made a bold decision and moved to New York City with plans to study with avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham for 6 months. She remembers falling in love with the diversity and energy of the city, and she never left.
Her work “Viva la Vida,” a homage to Frida Kahlo, will be available to view at the New York Botanical Gardens until November 1, 2015. Here are some highlights from our interview with Andrea.
You were originally a professional dancer. How did you make the move to visual art?
Even while I was a professional dancer, I was always interested in the visual arts. When I visited the British Museum, I was moved to tears while marveling at the ancient sculptures of Assyria. Back in New York City I created my first body of work and became a professional artist almost immediately.
The transition from dance to the visual arts felt organic. Although I have been a full-time visual artist for many years, my background as a dancer informs all my work.
In the past, you were asked to create work for the Clinton Global Initiative. What was it like working with this team?
Working with the Clinton Global Initiative team was wonderful. I was provided with the most important elements of an art project – support and creative freedom. These kinds of high-profile projects give me a larger platform and an opportunity to reach a worldwide audience.
Major themes in your work seem to be women and their stories. What draws you to this?
I have always been interested in the stories and issues that affect women around the world. I believe that women have always been warriors; they are also poets and visionaries whose strength inspires me.
In my work I also honor the female body and strength of mind, as well as the collective power of sisterhood.
What can you tell us about your piece, “Viva la Vida”?
“Viva la Vida” is a site-specific installation that includes a reproduction of the pyramid from Frida Kahlo’s house in Coyoacán, Mexico. The piece is a contemporary take on traditional Day of the Dead altars from Mexico and is a celebration of women’s resilience.
The piece is inspired by Frida’s artistic vision and personal determination, and the title is taken from Kahlo’s farewell signature in one of her paintings.
What’s your advice to young girls who are afraid to share their art?
My advice to young women is to always speak your mind. We all have something to contribute and art is a wonderful way to build community, tackle important issues, and bring beauty to the world.
Never be afraid to speak out, we need to have our voices heard. We also need to listen and support each other as we navigate the challenges of our lives today.
Learn more about Andrea and her work here.