It's not every day that you see the f-bomb prominently displayed in an art gallery, but if you're walking into the Iconography of Meaning exhibit at the Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia, you'd better prepared to see the f-word and then some.
"I'm a slut. I vote. So does everyone I sleep with. And you're about to be more f*cked than I am," reads one piece, painted by Afro-Peruvian visual artist Favianna Rodriguez. "It's my body. It's my pussy. Get over it you patriarchal f*ck head woman hater," reads another.
Inspired by famed artista Frida Kahlo and Cuban political poster artists, Rodriguez uses her art to speak out against oppressive patriarchy and racism, as well as to promote her "Pussy Power" campaign. Yeah, you read that right: Pussy Power.
Pussy Power, according to Rodriguez, is about celebrating womanhood, challenging "slut-phobia" and being open about the choices women make regarding their bodies. "I really just want to celebrate power and being bold," explains Rodriguez. "I always tell young girls that you don't have to be passive. Say what you want. Be who you want to be."
A self-confessed political agitator, Rodriguez practices what she preaches (and paints) touring the country to speak to college students about sex and immigration reform -- two issues that she believes are not mutually exclusive. "Immigration is an issue of women's equality," explains Rodriguez. "You know, often women can't get their papers unless they're married, and so here's another issue of [migrant] women having another barrier unless they get married. And when it comes to women's equality, that's not okay."
Rodriguez marries both issues -- sexism and immigration -- in her painting of a beautiful monarch butterfly, titled, "Migration is Beautiful," also on display at the Taller Puertorriqueño. Much like her "Pussy Power" series, Rodriguez's portrait of the monarch butterfly features depictions of diverse migrant women and offers a novel lens through which to view a pervasive issue. "I don't think we stop to reflect, really, on the courage that it takes to leave your home country and come to a new country, often at great physical risk.," Rodriguez explains. "I believe that art...can inspire people to think differently and to have positive associations. And that's really the goal of "Migration is Beautiful" -- to highlight the resilience and the human determination that migrants have, and also change the lens." It was with that goal in mind that Rodriguez made the monarch large enough for people to take photos of themselves in front of it, making it appear as if they don the gorgeous insect's wings.
Visitors of Philadelphia's Taller Puertorriqueño can snap pics in front of the portrait until July 26th, at which point the monarch and it's Pussy Power friends will move on to it's next locations. Until then, Rodriguez, who has previously collaborated with Pharrell on his "I Am Other" campaign, is considering her next project: a traveling Pussy Power mobile. "I was thinking about doing a huge 'Pussy Power' mobile that goes to different cities, where young women and college students can talk about things like, what do I like? What pleasures me? How do I define that? How do I talk about that? " shares Rodriguez. Well, more power to her!
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