A young woman gazes with forlorn resignation, bound by the grasp of a strong hand that is unmistakably masculine.
“That’s my father.” said Victoria Aguila, artist and subject of this telling self-portrait. ”He hates this picture.”
As one of the eight featured visual artists of last week’s L’image des Femmes, Aguila had the opportunity to showcase her art at El Barrio Workshop Art Space in Miami. The event, organized and hosted by Miami-based activist group R.Y.P.E. (Reclaim Your Power & Equality), was designed to celebrate the images of real, powerful women in Miami.
And celebrate, it did.
Accented with powerful performances by the likes of Phantasman and Good People, the art on display provided a striking perspective of feminine expression: resolved, misunderstood, quietly powerful and exquisitely raw. Endowed by the camaraderie exuded by the members of R.Y.P.E., free drinks at the bar (attended by the radiant co-host Elizabeth Marie Taveras), and a summer’s night to burn, spirits were high — but the message was not lost.
“You’re confused about what it means to be a woman?” asked Marisabel Lavastida, satirizing the role of corporate media in defining a woman’s place in society. ”We’ll tell you what it means.”
Unless R.Y.P.E. has something to do with it, that is.
Upon inspecting R.Y.P.E.’s facebook page, one finds a group dedicated not only to women’s empowerment, but to what it describes as the “radical notion” that men and women are equal. When half-jokingly asked if this writer, a twenty-something male, could join the ranks, Lavastida replied with a resolute “Yes”, expressing the organization’s devotion to promoting gender equality in all manners.
In fact, not all of the artists featured at the Miami event were female. Janmicheal Sanin’s art was displayed prominently in the front room, shared by the beautifully designed jewelry of Yokasta Nicolette Rodriguez Pagán, and photographer Donnie Danger’s work was projected throughout the night alongside the musical acts.
But it was clear that the women didn’t need much help in putting on a show. Among the featured art pieces was Susy Raffo’s “Chained Feminist”. Pictured below standing astride her main piece for the R.Y.P.E. event, Raffo described the work as depicting a “woman, chained by a patriarchal society. She defies the male-centered model of perfection and rejects norms.”
“Here is the body of a multi-racial woman,” Raffo continues “sold by religion as the Madonna, while also turned into an object for sexual gratification and procreation, a body for political agendas … She is oppressed, but she is more than a victim: her third eye is open, she is aware of her reality, and she confronts the viewer directly, compelling us to acknowledge her.”
As the evening drew to a close, the R.Y.P.E. women retired to a side room partitioned off from the rest of the gallery. A sense of relief filled the air. After weeks of hard work, this handful of strong, impassioned individuals had pulled together a highly successful event showcasing and empowering the feminine spirit. With the musicians packing their gear and the last few guests slowly trickling out into the warm Miami night, these dedicated women finally had a chance to get some well-deserved rest.
Something tells me that they won’t be resting long.
To learn more about the R.Y.P.E. organization and the women that comprise it, check them out at: