Sunday, February 03, 2013

Woman Rising: Women Painting in Community

Guest Post by Sonia Gutierrez

The work is enormous. Woman Rising, originally a 20' X 20' mural, visited the Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego, California, from November 13, 2012, to January 5, 2013, coinciding with the Centro’s exhibit Misticismo y Espiritualidad (Mysticism and Spirituality), curated by artists, Marisol de las Casas and Rogelio Casas.

Stephanie Cecilia Cervantes
Woman Rising, a collaborative mural, by four local San Diego artists—Patricia Aguayo, Berenice Badillo, Stephanie Cecilia Cervantes, and Zerina Zermeño aka Poezia Mia—left onlookers visiting the Centro breathless and with a deeper understanding of our connectedness to this sacred Earth. The piece depicts a female nude rising looking upward to the skies, ascending from the elements—water, fire, wind, and earth.

Once Aguayo, Badillo, Cervantes, and Zermeño, shared the same vision, these mujeres divided the work into five sections and worked diligently to complete the mural. Cervantes and Badillo sketched the woman and from then on—all the artists worked on her body. On the bottom left-hand side, Zermeño painted hues of luscious blues that formed water. Juxtaposed to the water, next to the woman’s feet, three dimensional fire, painted by Aguayo and Badillo, reached out from the mural. (At the Centro, when the artists discovered Woman Rising did not fit on the Centro’s 18' wall, they made adjustments to the bottom half of the mural, by creating three-dimensional flames.) At the top right, Aguayo focused on the representation of the Earth, narrowing her symbols to corn, a brown round mass of clay, and prickly pencas de nopales and a tuna.

“I had never painted nopales,” confessed Aguayo on a January 5, 2013, when she unmounted Woman Rising. Aguayo painted the very prickly cacti—the type that when cut require brave and patient hands. On the top left hand side, Cervantes adds the element of wind, where the winds cloak the Earth with cumulonimbus clouds and rich red-violet clouds. Cervantes also depicts a pyramid and tree being pulled back withstanding the force of tempestuous winds.

Woman Rising’s medium was inspired by the teachings of Professor Michael Schnorr, a Chicano muralist, who passed away on June 29, 2012. Schnorr taught Berenice Badillo when she was attending Southwestern College. “When I met my mentor, Michael Schnorr, he told me that if I was willing to work hard anything could be done, and sure enough he would create enormous installations using Oops house paint, duct tape and rosin roofing paper,” recalls Badillo who assisted Schnorr on installations funded by various well known entities, such as the Rockefeller Foundation. In gratitude, these women artists honored the teachings of Michael Schnorr, an innovative and highly heralded professor.
Berenice Badillo
All four women artists were visionaries for this project. Their goal was to complete Woman Rising for Chicana: Una Decisión Consciente/Chicana: A Concious Choice event, founded by Patricia Aguayo and Zerina Zermeño, for The Spot Art Gallery, located in Barrio Logan, California, on September 15, 2012. At the event, Woman Rising received the admiration of a community of Chican@s eager to come together, drawing hundreds of visitors. That Saturday, even with an encroaching summer heat, the Calpulli Mexihca danzantes took their place in front of Woman Rising and opened the much awaited event, followed by a mariachi band and a poetry reading. Among the women artists and social activists of the Chicano Movement included Consuelo Manríquez, Bertha Gutiérrez, Irene Mena, María Nieto Senour, Leticia Gómez Franco, among twenty six more women artists, activists, educators, and healers.

After Woman Rising’s debut presentation at The Spot, a conversation about the piece, amongst Aguayo, Zermeño, Marisol de las Casas, and Bertha Gutiérrez, became the catalyst that brought the mural to the Centro.

Woman Rising visiting the Centro Cultural de la Raza also overlapped with El Sexto Sol and Idle No More unfurling revolutionary foresight by bringing awareness to the vulnerable state of our home dwelling. Rooted in indigenismo, Aguayo, Badillo, Cervantes and Zermeño’s Woman Rising allows viewers to reevaluate and reclaim what rightfully belongs to the Earth. Woman Rising serves as, literally, a moving symbol that art is a spirit eager to be heard—if we listen to women and art.

Any art curator interested in bringing Woman Rising to their gallery or venue, please contact Patricia Aguayo at

What follow are five questions for the artists:

GUTIÉRREZ: Why was it important for you to be a part of Woman Rising?

AGUAYO: There were many commitments that needed to get done during this project. I knew that no matter how tired I was—with all that was going on—I could not miss out on the birth of Woman Rising. There was strong, passionate female energy present, and there was no way I was going to miss out on such an awesome collaboration.

CERVANTES: It was of great importance for me to partake in the gestation of Woman Rising because it is now, after many years of meddling with my own creative power, that I feel powerful enough to foster and actively participate in the rise of the feminine spirit through my artwork. 

ZERMEÑO: Woman Rising was a calling to me. It was something I had inadvertently prepared myself for. When Patricia Aguayo shared her vision and asked for my support, I agreed to embark on this manifestation of this beautiful Muxer that all four of us gave Birth to. Woman Rising was an experience I will never forget and hold close to my heart because I, as well as the other muxeres, put our blood sweat and tears until we created her and brought her here—in the name of the powerful women we know in our community.
Stephanie Cecilia Cervantes

GUTIÉRREZ: Why was Woman Rising important for you to create?

AGUAYO: She represents all that we are as Chicana women. The balance of the four directions: spirituality, rebirth, strength, and beauty. She overflows with energy and consumes viewers.

After Schnorr’s suicide last June, I wanted to honor the gift he gave me to continue the belief that anything is possible. It was my honor to teach Schnorr’s techniques to these three talented and amazing women.

CERVANTES: It has always been important for me to create vital pathways through my subjects; for this reason, I was compelled to create her. Woman Rising is one of these vital pathways. Her birthing is a requiem for the shift that is taking place right now in the Awakening of the Feminine. She is the nurturing one; the one who is going to save the world with her love. The suppression of her essence has resulted in the raping of the Earth’s precious elements, as well as the toxicity of a half-forgotten culture. As she melts the matrix, her rein back into power means the end of corporate greed and the beginning of yet another Golden Era. As of this day and age, the transferring of the power from the masculine to the feminine soul has begun.

ZERMEÑO: Woman Rising was important for me so that others could visually see and acknowledge a Muxer rising raw, naked, and powerful with all the elements surrounding her to remind us of her connectedness to Mother Earth, in essence reminding us where we come from and to acknowledge that a community is nothing without her strength.

GUTIÉRREZ: Where did the artists work?

AGUAYO: The artist worked at The Spot as well as at home. Once the pieces were divided, the mural was a lot more manageable.

GUTIÉRREZ: Where would you like to see Woman Rising?

AGUAYO: I would love to see Woman Rising in a permanent home, such as a university or college, where Women’s Studies/Chican@ Studies are present.

CERVANTES: I would like to push the boundaries and install Woman Rising somewhere where she is not completely welcomed. Somewhere like the off ramp to a freeway!

GUTIÉRREZ: After completing Woman Rising, what did you learn?

AGUAYO: Endless lessons: a new medium introduced by Berenice Badillo, which she learned from her mentor Michael Schnorr, new friends, camaraderie and collaboration among beautiful strong Chicana women, who are amazing artists. After the completion of Woman Rising, I now look back and realize that I can manifest absolutely anything I want. That is a priceless lesson for any artist—a confirmation that I am on the right path. Freedom really is a state of mind.

The artists:  Berenice Badillo, Stephanie Cecilia Cervantes, Zerina Zermeno. and Patricia Aguayo
 CERVANTES: I learned how to make my first nomadic mural—one that can be economically installed, removed and then relocated to different cities and different worlds. Props to Berenice Badillo and her beloved mentor for the birth of this mural’s upcoming expedition. Best of all, I found Chicana-Companionship. Thanks to Patricia Aguayo for putting all this together. Patricia Aguayo has the heart and will of a bull. And a special thanks to Poezia who fully supported her comadre’s dream. Give Rise!

ZERMEÑO: One of many lessons was working with all of the beautiful women of strong nature collaboratively, still being a student and a listener so that I could embrace this journey. It was my honor to work with these muxeres who became my comrades. I felt embraced all along this colorful journey and learned from so much, especially Berenice Badillo who was an amazing mentor as I can imagine her professor Michael Schnorr was before his passing. Woman Rising taught me not to be shifted or lose sight of a beautiful purpose and to always be open. We must remove all boundaries and know that something with so much love can be manifested. 

GUTIÉRREZ: Mujeres, thank you for allowing me to write and share your vision. Patricia Aguayo, Berenice Badillo, Stephanie Cecilia Cervantes, and Zerina Zermeño, congratulations to all of you for your mural collaboration—Woman Rising.

Thank you so much for your wonderful guest post, Sonia!  NEXT WEEK:  Olga Garcia will be returning to La Bloga to share writing duties with me every other Sunday.  Stay tuned for Olga's post next Sunday.  Bienvenida Olga!  And again, gracias to Sonia.  ---Amelia M.L. Montes


msedano said...

I love the idea of a nomadic mural."Woman Rising" could come to Pasadena or L.A.

Fabulous news about Olga Garcia!

Francisco Alarcon said...

Congratulations to all involved in this wonderful project--Francisco