Anabel Vázquez Rodríguez is well-known in the Boston area for her curatorial projects and individual works in photography, installation, and more recently, performance. Atenea (2001), her mural-sized collage now on view at the Mobius Gallery, masterfully unites the themes of self-portraiture, storytelling, migration, and femininity that have come to define her current body of work. It is as if Vázquez Rodríguez gave expression to these ideas many years ago in a sudden, chaotic burst of energy that has taken time to percolate through her creative practice. The collage it is an honest and complex portrayal of an artist’s internal and external travails—brilliantly executed at an early stage in her career.
The work is comprised of a silver gelatin print mounted on canvas and elaborated with acrylic, oil, and cut-paper. It takes its name from the Greek goddess of strength, strategy, inspiration, and the arts, Athena. Vázquez Rodríguez stands firm in the center of the composition in the titular role, right foot submerged in a bowl of water, hands clenching a film reel, and neck decorated with snakes. A bleak winter background with pomegranate trees blend with objects in the artist’s studio. All around the scene, images of ancient fertility goddesses share the space with contemporary feminist role models such as artist Carolee Schneemann, forming a kind of protective frame of feminine strength around the artist.
From 2002-2005, Atenea could often be glimpsed, half-hidden on the back of the stage, watching over a band or scrutinizing an experimental performance at the shows she helped organized as part of her collective, Esprit de Corps ("The Spirit of the Body"). Until recently, the piece has been hanging in the artist’s home, on one side of a narrow, poorly-lit hallway—still observing from the shadows. With last week’s opening of Esprit de Corps Killed the Body! A History of a Boston Art Collective, a show that reunites almost all of the members of the original group, this important work by Vázquez Rodríguez finally gets a proper place in the spotlight, majestically greeting visitors to the gallery as they enter.
Atenea by Anabel Vázquez Rodríguez, Curator in Residence at Mobius gallery in Central Square, will be on view through July 14th. For more information, visit the event page on Facebook here.