Empowered Women | Empower Women

A FridaFest Exhibition

Empowered. Excellent. Equal. Working and residing in the Rio Grande Valley, the local artists of the Empowered Women | Empower Women July 2018 FridaFest all-womens’ art show have come together to share our both common and diverse voice within our community. We are women. We are excellent. We are empowered. This opportunity allows for us to both represent and celebrate the strength within our voices as artists that have been strongly influenced by our supportive fellow community. When we have an opportunity to share our hopes and dreams represented within our artwork, we have a platform to share that with others. Each of us are here today to bring our diversity together as one collective.

Exhibiting in this show are Alexandria Canchola, Gabriela Gonzalez, Jesmil Maldonado, Nelly Lira-Rumfield, Iliana Salazar-Rodriguez, Fátima Laí, and Eva Marie Williamson. All women are local artists of the Rio Grande Valley. This is Eva Marie Williamson’s curatorial debut.

Collective Artist Biography

This year’s Fridafest features an all-female art exhibit featuring the art work of local RGV artist Alexandria Canchola, Gabriela Gonzalez, Jesmil Maldonado, Nelly Lira – Rumfield, Iliana Salazar – Rodriguez, and Eva Marie Williamson. Eva Marie Williamson will be making her curatorial debut.

            Gabriela Gonzalez is an artist and a Graduate Student from UTRGV, born in Miguel Aleman Tamaulipas in 1983. She currently works at Edinburg North as an art teacher. She received her BFA at the University of Texas Pan American in 2006. Her paintings express character and energy in the eyes of the muses she paints, adding a quite peculiar strong personality. Mixing the different Contemporary and Expressive styles with the outstanding Complementary hues, Gabriela creates her own inspiration and a world of imagination caught in between. Her art reflects and has been linked with Symbolism, POP Surrealism, and Idealistic Figures, and Abstract Expressionism.

            Nelly Lira – Rumfield is a mixed media artist living in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. She has a double BA in English and Art from the University of Texas at Brownsville. She has worked as an art teacher in the U.S. and Mexico for five years, but her professional experience reaches several different fields. Nelly’s artwork is inspired by her faith, family, nature, lace and the love of experimentation via mixed media and fiber arts.

            Jesmil M. Maldonado Rodriguez is Puerto Rican, raised in the small southern Puerto Rican town named Guayanilla. She is twenty-five years old, the youngest of three and the first in her family to leave the Island to pursue and continue her dreams. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Arts at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. Her artwork is mainly influenced by nature and the human interaction with it.

            Residing in Edinburg, Texas, Eva M. Williamson is a partially blind artist and in her 10th year as a full – time art teacher. She has taught in the Rio Grande Valley and has taught art and English in Taiwan. She is also a full – time graduate student who is working on her MFA in Studio Art and will be graduating in December 2018. Preferring to work in many types of mediums and never shying away from a challenge, Eva dives into her work with an open heart and open mind. Her work is often abstract, expressive, and colorful while showing an organic and meditative quality.

Alexandria FridaFest

Alexandria Canchola

Iliana FridaFest

Iliana Salazar-Rodriguez


Jesmil Maldonado

Gaby FridaFest

Gabriela Gonzalez


Fátima Laí


Eva Marie Williamson


Nelly Lira-Rumfield

About the Artists 



Combining the universal and the personal is what I do in my work. Through narrative storytelling I explore universal and often unresolved themes that have preoccupied mankind since the beginning of time, such as issues concerning our mortality, our identity, our need for survival, for love, for acceptance. I use color to document the human experience by connecting narrative and emotion. With gouache paint on paper I depict beach scenes, curious interiors, landscapes, and the daily quiet moments in life that use color as a foundation of expression.


The collection that embodies my work at the moment are direct representational pieces that would honor my lineage.


The portraits show my audience that I am proud to be Hispanic of Mexican descent which is something to be appreciated. The Mexican culture is beautiful, colorful, passionate, and strong. The women in my family have shown me what it means and what it entails when caring for and loving family. From the exaggerated greetings and family gatherings, to the expectation of eventually having family member(s) living with you to care for them in their old age.

The hardship for me as a female/wife/mother in today’s Hispanic home has been the pressure of keeping the tradition of the Hispanic female figure or following my own ambitions for my career and dreams. There must be a balance between what is expected and what we wish to attain in our home/work life and personal goals.

In emphasizing emotion through portraiture, I have been interested in the methods Chuck Close uses when using the grid. I can see how he uses portraiture, not to focus on beauty, but maybe the emotion/human gaze of the subject. I use color and extensive values in my portraiture/figurative pieces to capture the emotion of how the subject relates to how I perceive my Mexican culture.



The use of watercolor is a representation of a world of esthetic colors and positivism in which I used to live. The integration of ink is a physical representation of all the things I secluded in my mind and are now consuming my work. Repetitive organic lines and patterns are the elements that help me control the sanity within my insanity, my reality. Incorporating metamorphosis between the human body and nature is my way of presenting how I feel when I express myself and how there is beauty in death, the grotesque and the horrors of this world and how they influence our way of thinking and interpretation. It is difficult to explain what I am currently rediscovering or is it as simple as my lack of knowing what is being true to oneself feel like.

While searching for an answer to my artistic development, I have come across a few artists that contribute and inspire my artwork. Such as the work of Hans Bellmer, with his manipulation and recreation of the female boy twisting what is considered normal. Accompany by Joel Peter Witkin beauty with the dismemberment of humanity and its moral changes. Inspired by the taboo and grotesquely beautiful illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley confirming the beauty of the horrors of the human mind.

 What will they say? The question is what has haunted me for years and is starting to present itself in my artwork. Forbidden by my family and culture to express my interest in death, the supernatural, the grotesque and the combination of consumption and metamorphosis of science, humanity, and horror. The urge to express and represent these elements in my work has given me the freedom to do research and present to others the truth behind the abstract backgrounds, the convulsive repetition of patterns and lines and the union of nature and humanity.



My work reflects a great deal of images and scenarios of what goes on in my mind.  I use symbolism and surrealism to express my thoughts, ideas, and make an impact on my art visuals.  I enjoy giving personalities to each of the characters I paint.  Yet my characters have different personifications and personalities, they are similar in spirit. The protagonists/antagonists of all my art works are mysterious and powerful in essence. “The viewer can see that the characters and objects become the emphasis of the series”.   

I am also very interested in the modern world and how people view themselves and what personalities they portray to society.  People have many personalities that they’ve acquired through time. Different experiences in life and the different “personas”, is what forms my body of work.  It portrays very strong characters to refine passive personalities; having that connection with the viewer as they experience visually the essence of my figures. 

“To the mind  its content and to the heart its freedom.”



Each time I pour, I lose and find myself simultaneously.
My work revolves around the process of mixing and pouring paint onto a stretched canvas where I explore the viscosity, or flow, of various acrylic mediums.

Through this process I lose track of time, becoming aware of each thought that arises as abstract lines and puddles of paint reveal themselves and change across the canvas as they flow and interact.

This work is the result of my meditation.



Ever since I was a little girl, I remember having an interest in making art and creating things with my hands. Everything around me has impacted my aesthetic preferences, thus, in turn, influence my work. Art is a form of self-expression, a problem solver, that can make us better people while at the same time it empowers us to externalize our feelings, but perhaps the main reason I enjoy creating art is how it makes me feel and the place of peace it takes me to. My paintings are a cathartic expulsion of emotions. My work allows me to process my feelings, while at the same time enables understanding and acceptance to become a better person.

   While I use a variety of mediums, my methodology is the same. Every brush stroke gives me a sense of peace. Painting and creating is my key to my very own secret garden.  My unconscious is the undoubted director of the final product when it comes to my art. I like to use both traditional ways of painting while also using innovative techniques. I allow the paint to take me through the journey and flow and direct my brush strokes, as though it was my guide in a pathway. My paintings are mirrors, glimpses of my truth, the expulsion of unspoken words, of unresolved battles and secrets that lie deep within my core. Through the work, I seek peace and I re-explore those endless, often unresolved issues that cripple humanity, our identity, our need for love, and acceptance.

 I am interested in the movement of the color as it comes in contact with the flat surface created by natural responses while engaged with my work. I use color to express my mood which often translates through onto the surface.  I am not afraid to explore and work consistently to discover new realms of my creativity. I am drawn to the works of Paul Jenkins, Zoa wou ki, Helen Frankenthaler, and Clyfford Still, to mention some. My vision often inspired by reflections on isolation, spiritual interiority, and the ethical actualization of the self-found. I am interested in making contact with the audience through moments of empathy where a phenomenological discovery of feelings. I am interested in what engages the audience on a more intimate level in a moment of complete correlation of sentiments. In this era, people like to cover up and mask their feelings it is my goal to help others by exposing their feelings and erase the fear that grows with feeling vulnerable.