Interview with Aixa Oliveras
Alquimia: Aixa Oliveras
June 1 – June 30, 2021
Presented by 33 Contemporary
Aixa Oliveras solow show features a collection of paintings centered on the ideas of rebirth and transformation. Aixa expresses this metaphorical narrative by combining color, pattern and gold leaf with the human figure.
Because your exhibit is centered on ideas of rebirth and transformation, were there any religious, mythological, or historical influences tied into these works?
It’s more of a spiritual influence rather than religious. I’ve always considered myself to be a spiritual person. I was raised in Puerto Rico, and the religion there is primarily Christian/Catholic. But it’s not so much the religion that was the influence, but the spiritual underpinnings inherent in that religion, which can be found in other religions of the world as well.
In terms of historical influence, I love the Symbolist Art movement of the late 19th century. The paintings from that time are full of mysticism and an exploration of psychology. They have this magical, otherworldly feel to them, which is something that has influenced my own work.
Was there any significance behind choosing to include a singular female, a singular male, or both in particular paintings? (did gender play a particular role?)
The male and female figures can be interpreted in two ways. On one hand, it can be seen as a commentary on gender and patriarchal roles. For example, on the painting “Those Who Cannot Speak”, the woman holds her hands to her lips, which prevents her from speaking. Yet her eyes have a look of defiance. For me, that is a commentary on how women have been conditioned to be “seen but not heard.” To be accommodating, to stay silent, to keep the peace. It’s something that I’ve experienced in my own life, and that I’m starting to unlearn. It’s the acknowledgement that women have a voice, and that it is worthy of being heard. That makes this painting one of the most personal pieces in the show for me.
On the other hand, the male and female figures can be seen as the male and female aspects of each individual person. And them coming together in the end signifies not only a reconciliation between man and woman, but also between the male and female aspect that resides within all of us. It can be interpreted in those two ways.
Do the woman and man represent different thing?
The woman and man represent the masculine and feminine sides that live within all of us. Although, not in the way that society usually defines them (for example, masculinity as strength and femininity as weakness). In a few of the paintings, I’ve chosen to depict the man in a state of vulnerability, something that is usually considered a female trait. In doing so, I’m stating that vulnerability is not reserved only for women. Men can be sensitive and vulnerable as well, and that is a strength.
Why did you choose red, gold, and blue to be the primary color palette?
I chose red and gold because for me, those colors represent vitality and life. In the past, my paintings were much more tonal, and color took a backseat. It was in grad school where I had the chance to explore color in a symbolic way, and I found that I really responded to red and gold. Red for me is passion and life, and gold is light. The blue acts as a complement to balance those colors and create a sense of harmony. Also, being from an island in the Caribbean, ocean blue was always present in my life.
Is this collection based on self-reflection or self-expression? Does it represent something about you?
I see the collection as being an act of self-expression. It represents the change and growth that I’ve undergone in the past 4 years. My life has changed dramatically since 2017, ha-ha. I moved from Puerto Rico to California to get my MFA from Laguna College of Art and Design. That alone is a drastic change. There were times when I felt like I was living in a new planet. I had to face a lot of my own defense mechanisms; things that were holding me back. Then the pandemic hit, and I was faced with changing my living situation once again. I moved from California to Florida, where I reside today. All these changes and reckonings with myself are expressed in this collection. It has all been a major learning experience. It has been challenging, to say the least. But I’ve also grown tremendously through it all.
Does this show have an overall message you’d like to convey?
For me, the overall message of the show is that even when you’re faced with strife and conflict not only from the outside world, but within yourself, you can learn from that. You have the courage to face all of it and come out stronger on the other side. Through the love you have of yourself and others, you can transform yourself and grow.
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