Empowered Women | Empower Women

Collective Artist Statement

Empowered. Excellent. Equal. Working and residing in the Rio Grande Valley, the local artists of the Empowered Women | Empower Women July 2019 FridaFest all-women’s’ art exhibit have come together to share both a common and diverse voice within our community. We are women. We have a voice. 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 celebrate our diversity together and as one.

As we celebrate our 6th annual FridaFest, we also celebrate influential women in our community. This year we bring back the All – Female Art exhibit featuring seven of the Valley’s most talented and brilliant artists. The featured artists this year are Virginia Contreras, Gabriela Gonzalez, Fatima Lai, Jesmil Maldonado, Angelica Rodriguez, Iliana Rodriguez, Tania Viveros, and Eva M. Williamson. This exhibit is curated by Eva M. Williamson.

De Colores is the name Angelica Rodriguez has chosen for her exhibit. The word “De Colores” has many deep meanings for her. It expresses the usage of colors in her work to the colorful history of her family. Scenes of life experiences come to life in her pieces from family settings to patron saints. She creates intimate and personal moments so the viewer may experience moments that exist in her personal space. Despite the medium she chooses to work with, the subject matter remains the same as she tries to recall the deeply beautiful and rooted Hispanic heritage that she grew up with.

The collection that embodies the work of Iliana Rodriguez at the moment is direct representational pieces that would honor her lineage. The portraits show her audience that she is proud to be Hispanic of Mexican decent, which is something to be appreciated. The Mexican culture is beautiful, colorful, passionate, and strong. The women in her family have shown her 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.

Maldonado’s artwork is inspired by the creation of patterns and the interaction of the human figure with insects, and floral organisms that represent the neglection of memories and emotions. By creating layers, she delves into the understanding of the human mind and how it fuels creativity and methods of expression. With this, Maldonado is acquiring the strength and courage to represent and confront the struggles of becoming silent when she wanted to scream or express her true feelings and thoughts. Creating artwork that serves as an expressive and coping mechanism, even do sometimes doing what she loves can be the source that produces neglection, stress, anxiety, among other things. Yet, Maldonado continues to pursue her dream, learn, and discover herself through the Arts.

The work of Virginia Contreras is based on her Mexican heritage and the experience of living in a bi-cultural community. She finds herself constantly referring to her heritage as a form to depict and at the same time, celebrate traditions inherited from her family and environment that make part of her identity and distinguish her as Mexican. Subsequently, showcasing the strongly engraved values of the Mexican community such as unity, perseverance, courage, determination, and humbleness have been some of the main intents of her work.

Nature has the potential to create a composition appealing to an audience. This phenomenon connects Tania Viveros creativity and identity by simply bringing out who she is and what she believes in.  The artist creates through the perspective of not what it is but what it can become. Tania Viveros take palm tree leaves, seeds, branches, tree trunks, corn leaves, and many organic materials that focus on texture and form. By connecting each object to other forms, she depicts the Passionate Flower. These flowers are created and recreated in various forms into each piece some more obvious than others, but in the end, everything created correlates to the context of passion. The focus of her work is to connect the viewer to a natural environment in which its senses are stimulated through creative art pieces. Through the process of creating and shaping three-dimensional forms her mind connects to the metaphoric symbolism of The Garden of Eden, thus each piece has Christian symbolism hidden within that reinforce the beginning of life which began in the garden.

Gabriela Gonzalez’ paintings express character and energy in the eyes of the muses she paints, adding a quite peculiar strong personality.  Mixing the Contemporary with the beautiful hyperrealism, Gabriela creates her own inspiration and a world of imagination caught in between.  Her art reflects Symbolism, POP Surrealism, and Idealistic Figures.

Ever since she was a little girl, Fatima Lai remembers having an interest in making art and creating things with her hands. Everything around her has impacted her aesthetic preferences, thus, in turn, influencing her work. Art is a form of self-expression, a problem solver, that can make us better people while at the same time empowering us to externalize our feelings, but perhaps the main reason she enjoys creating art is how it makes her feel and the place of peace it takes her to. Fatimas’ paintings are a cathartic expulsion of emotions. Her work allows her to process her feelings, while at the same time enables understanding and acceptance to become a better person.

Each time she pours, she loses and finds herself simultaneously. Eva M. Williamson’s work revolves around the process of mixing and pouring paint onto a variety of canvases and acrylic sheets where she explores the viscosity, or flow, of acrylic mediums. Through this process she loses track of time, becoming aware of each thought that arises as abstract lines and puddles of paint reveal themselves and change across the canvas where they flow and interact with light. Eva’s work is the result of her meditations.

Artist Imge 2.JPG

Tania Viveros

Iliana FridaFest

Iliana Salazar-Rodriguez


Jesmil Maldonado

Gaby FridaFest

Gabriela Gonzalez


Eva Marie Williamson


Angelica Rodriguez


Fátima Laí

Virginia Contreras

About the Artists 

Virginia Contreras


Virginia Contreras is an emerging multidisciplinary artist based in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. She is currently an undergraduate Fine Arts student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley with a concentration in Studio Art., Contreras’ work is mainly influenced by Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada and inspired by her Mexican culture, her search for identity, and her personal experiences of living in the borderlands.


Personal Photo_CityofEdinburg_JesmilM.MaldonadoRodriguez_2019.jpg

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.



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.



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 graduate of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, attaining her MFA in Studio Art 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.



Fátima Lai is an abstract expressionist artist living in Brownsville, Texas. She was born in New Waverly, Texas in 1983 and raised in Brownsville area close to her Grandmother, her Mother, and her older Sibling.  She completed her Bachelor of Art in Studio Art in 2007 from the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. As a qualified visual arts instructor with a Texas art certificate, she enjoys her 11th year teaching at a local school located in Brownsville, Texas and is part of the Brownsville Independent School District and an active member of the Texas Art Education Association.

Angelica Rodriguez


Angelica Rodriguez recently graduated with her Masters of Fine Arts 2D from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in May 2019.  She also acquired her certification in Mexican American Studies. She also graduated from The University of Texas Pan American with her BFA in Studio Art in May 2015. She plans to pursue a second Masters in Mexican American Studies. Angelica believes that further study into Mexican American history will benefit her when it comes to painting  about her family and issues that Hispanics face today. Angelica  plans to continue painting her family history as well as social, political issues that not only affect her but the ones she loves. She hopes to teach Mexican American history at a university level as well as teach studio art .

Iliana Rodriguez


Iliana was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley and earned her BFA in Fine Arts majoring in 2D Studio from UTPA in 2007. Since 2008, she has been employed at a local school district as a high school teaching Art I, Drawing I-IV, AP Drawing, Design AP, 3D AP. In 2018 she graduated from UTRGV’s grad program receiving her MFA in Fine Art in Studio Art with a graduate certificate in Mexican American Studies. She has exhibited her works in several shows and have won “Best of Overall Show”, “Best in 2D”, and “First Place” in juried shows. With the unconditional support of her husband and three boys, she continues to work at her home studio in Mission, Tx while balancing the duties of a working wife and mother.

Tania Viveros

Artist Imge 2.JPG

Tania Viveros was born on December 24, 1988 in Reynosa Tamaulipas Mexico, and raised in The Rio Grande Valley. She received her bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and Design in The University of Texas Pan American and is currently working in her master’s degree in Studio Art in The University of the Rio Grande Valley. As an Artist her work has been exposed in various art fairs, which have enabled her to inform and expose to the community of The Rio Grande Valley the richness of art in jewelry metal smith, found objects, and sculpture’s using palm tree leaves. Tania Viveros art pieces have been shown at The Upper Valley Art League in Mission Texas, Hands in Art Studio in Mission Texas, The Charles and Dorothy Clark Art Gallery in Edinburg Texas, and in Movement Gallery in San Antonio Texas; in addition to an installation titled Archival Evolution in The UTPA Library.

Her current work is wrapped around the idea of taking debris and recreating art in an abstract form. Tania takes palm tree leaves, seeds, branches, tree trunks, corn leaves, and many organic materials that focus on texture and form. By connecting each object to other forms, she depicts the Passionate Flower. These flowers are created and recreated in various forms of art each piece contrasts some are more obvious than others, but in the end, everything created correlates to the context of passion.