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Exhibit Celebrates Taino-Inspired Art of Arroyo Rivas

Oct. 12. 2007 — A large crowd of St. Croix's art lovers came to Strand Street's Caribbean Museum Center in Frederiksted Friday evening to see the opening of "Impressions of Taino Mythology," an exhibition of paintings and mixed media works by Puerto Rican artist Arroyo Rivas.
The large, elegant old colonial stone-and-brick building was packed with well-dressed well wishers moving about from work to work, discussing the paintings while sipping wine, nibbling on grapes and hors d'oeuvres and chatting with acquaintances old and new.
Rivas' works in the exhibition all have a relationship to Taino culture and mythology. Some of the paintings are her visual interpretations of particular Taino myths. Rivas interprets stories explaining the origins of important aspects of the natural world. Her paintings' subjects include the story of the creation of the sun and moon, of woman, of the sea and of hurricanes. If many of the stories had not been written down in the 15th century by Friar Ramon Pane at the behest of Christopher Columbus, most of them would not have survived the subsequent European genocide of most Taino peoples.
Beside each myth-inspired painting, Rivas has a synopsis of the original story.
"One day the men were bathing in the water as it rained heavy," the story for "Origin of Woman" begins. "And they were desirous of being with a woman. That day they saw a kind of human form falling from the foliage of the trees. The forms were neither man nor woman. The men approached them but they escaped like a slippery eel. When they managed to hold onto the slippery forms, a council was held to determine how to convert them into women. A bird called inrir who pecks holes into trees was called. This bird, thinking the forms to be wood, began its accustomed labor of pecking. It pecked in the place where ordinarily the feminine sex is found. And this is how the forms were transformed into women."
Some paintings are not tied directly to particular myths, but incorporate elements and symbolism from Taino culture. "She Who Knows," a work of acrylic on canvas, shows a wizened old Taino woman, dressed in the ancient native manner, smile lines deep in her face. Encircling both her arms are bands of bright green leaves, matching the green foliage all around her. And in between her cradling hands floats a bright star of light.
"She is like a casica, the Taino name for a chieftess," Rivas said. "She is wearing a beaded cemi on her waist, a sacred object Taino wore to honor gods and ancestors."
"Powerful" was the first word on many tongues Friday night when patrons were asked for their first impression.
"Her paintings are powerful," said Tami Navarro, a graduate student working on her doctoral dissertation. "Having grown up on St. Croix, I think it's awesome that we have such an active museum center here doing great programs like this, with art celebrating and inspired by part of our heritage."
Onaje Jackson, an alternative-energy entrepreneur on St. Croix, said he particularly liked the painting "Origin of Woman."
"They are very powerful works," he said. "I love that we get to see them as a body of work, too. Some artists you have to see the body of work to get a proper feel for what they are doing. And Ms. Arroyo's work is a great example of that. It's a beautiful tribute to the Taino people and culture."
Steven Schawl, an interior designer, moved to Frederiksted a few months ago.
"I'm glad to see art is alive and well in St. Croix," he said. "This is my first dabble in art since I've been here, and it's great to see such an active life. Her paintings are powerful, very striking."
Along with Rivas' art, the museum is displaying a selection of Taino pottery shards and other artifacts on loan from the St. Croix Archaeological Society.
Rivas will be an artist in residence at the museum for the rest of October and part of November.
Over the course of the month, there will be class tours and public tours of the exhibition and public discussions of Taino mythology in Spanish and English. Rivas will teach four Taino pottery classes for St. Croix youth, and on Nov. 5 there will be a student artwork presentation. Rivas and the students will explore the traditional three-pointed zemis or cemis. These enigmatic abstract triangular objects are found in many Taino sites across the region, spanning centuries, and were highly developed on St. Croix. While making their own zemi to take home, the students will learn their traditional mythological significance, how they were made and their cultural context.
Arroyo Rivas was born in Puerto Rico, moving to the U.S. with her family at the age of six. A prodigy called to art at a very early age, Rivas had her first collective art exhibit when she was 10, at Connecticut's Hartford Civic Center. She studied at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and the California College of Arts and Crafts.
Her works have been show at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Mass.; Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art and Hynes Convention; Museum Fuerte Conde de Mirasol on the island of Vieques; and at St. Thomas' Virgin Council of the Arts.
For more information, call the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts at 772-2622, go to cmcarts.org or email Rivas.
Here is the schedule of events for Rivas this month:
— Exhibition class tours and Taino art project; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 17-19, 24-26, 31, and Nov. 1-2;
— Public tours of the exhibition: ($3) 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 17-19, 24-26, 31, and Nov. 1-2;
— Meet and greet with Arroyo Rivas during Sunset Jazz: Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.;
— Taino mythology discussion: 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in Spanish and 6 p.m. Oct. 25 in English (call to RSVP for dinner afterwards);
— Youth Taino Pottery Classes; Oct. 20 and 27, 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.; and
— Student artwork presentation and Taino wall-hanging dedication: Nov. 5 at 10 a.m.
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Oct. 12. 2007 -- A large crowd of St. Croix's art lovers came to Strand Street's Caribbean Museum Center in Frederiksted Friday evening to see the opening of "Impressions of Taino Mythology," an exhibition of paintings and mixed media works by Puerto Rican artist Arroyo Rivas.
The large, elegant old colonial stone-and-brick building was packed with well-dressed well wishers moving about from work to work, discussing the paintings while sipping wine, nibbling on grapes and hors d'oeuvres and chatting with acquaintances old and new.
Rivas' works in the exhibition all have a relationship to Taino culture and mythology. Some of the paintings are her visual interpretations of particular Taino myths. Rivas interprets stories explaining the origins of important aspects of the natural world. Her paintings' subjects include the story of the creation of the sun and moon, of woman, of the sea and of hurricanes. If many of the stories had not been written down in the 15th century by Friar Ramon Pane at the behest of Christopher Columbus, most of them would not have survived the subsequent European genocide of most Taino peoples.
Beside each myth-inspired painting, Rivas has a synopsis of the original story.
"One day the men were bathing in the water as it rained heavy," the story for "Origin of Woman" begins. "And they were desirous of being with a woman. That day they saw a kind of human form falling from the foliage of the trees. The forms were neither man nor woman. The men approached them but they escaped like a slippery eel. When they managed to hold onto the slippery forms, a council was held to determine how to convert them into women. A bird called inrir who pecks holes into trees was called. This bird, thinking the forms to be wood, began its accustomed labor of pecking. It pecked in the place where ordinarily the feminine sex is found. And this is how the forms were transformed into women."
Some paintings are not tied directly to particular myths, but incorporate elements and symbolism from Taino culture. "She Who Knows," a work of acrylic on canvas, shows a wizened old Taino woman, dressed in the ancient native manner, smile lines deep in her face. Encircling both her arms are bands of bright green leaves, matching the green foliage all around her. And in between her cradling hands floats a bright star of light.
"She is like a casica, the Taino name for a chieftess," Rivas said. "She is wearing a beaded cemi on her waist, a sacred object Taino wore to honor gods and ancestors."
"Powerful" was the first word on many tongues Friday night when patrons were asked for their first impression.
"Her paintings are powerful," said Tami Navarro, a graduate student working on her doctoral dissertation. "Having grown up on St. Croix, I think it's awesome that we have such an active museum center here doing great programs like this, with art celebrating and inspired by part of our heritage."
Onaje Jackson, an alternative-energy entrepreneur on St. Croix, said he particularly liked the painting "Origin of Woman."
"They are very powerful works," he said. "I love that we get to see them as a body of work, too. Some artists you have to see the body of work to get a proper feel for what they are doing. And Ms. Arroyo's work is a great example of that. It's a beautiful tribute to the Taino people and culture."
Steven Schawl, an interior designer, moved to Frederiksted a few months ago.
"I'm glad to see art is alive and well in St. Croix," he said. "This is my first dabble in art since I've been here, and it's great to see such an active life. Her paintings are powerful, very striking."
Along with Rivas' art, the museum is displaying a selection of Taino pottery shards and other artifacts on loan from the St. Croix Archaeological Society.
Rivas will be an artist in residence at the museum for the rest of October and part of November.
Over the course of the month, there will be class tours and public tours of the exhibition and public discussions of Taino mythology in Spanish and English. Rivas will teach four Taino pottery classes for St. Croix youth, and on Nov. 5 there will be a student artwork presentation. Rivas and the students will explore the traditional three-pointed zemis or cemis. These enigmatic abstract triangular objects are found in many Taino sites across the region, spanning centuries, and were highly developed on St. Croix. While making their own zemi to take home, the students will learn their traditional mythological significance, how they were made and their cultural context.
Arroyo Rivas was born in Puerto Rico, moving to the U.S. with her family at the age of six. A prodigy called to art at a very early age, Rivas had her first collective art exhibit when she was 10, at Connecticut's Hartford Civic Center. She studied at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and the California College of Arts and Crafts.
Her works have been show at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Mass.; Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art and Hynes Convention; Museum Fuerte Conde de Mirasol on the island of Vieques; and at St. Thomas' Virgin Council of the Arts.
For more information, call the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts at 772-2622, go to cmcarts.org or email Rivas.
Here is the schedule of events for Rivas this month:
-- Exhibition class tours and Taino art project; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 17-19, 24-26, 31, and Nov. 1-2;
-- Public tours of the exhibition: ($3) 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 17-19, 24-26, 31, and Nov. 1-2;
-- Meet and greet with Arroyo Rivas during Sunset Jazz: Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.;
-- Taino mythology discussion: 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in Spanish and 6 p.m. Oct. 25 in English (call to RSVP for dinner afterwards);
-- Youth Taino Pottery Classes; Oct. 20 and 27, 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.; and
-- Student artwork presentation and Taino wall-hanging dedication: Nov. 5 at 10 a.m.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.