Artist Ivette Cabrera on Royalty & Women of Color

Ivette Cabrera’s art addresses how Eurocentric and post colonial mindsets make it difficult for people of color — more specifically women of color — to see themselves as regal figures. You’ll find her work in The Baker Museum, Yellowstone Art Museum, local Wynwood galleries, on the side of buildings and in commercial work–she just finished a project with John Frieda. Her art merges transformational imagery found in nature with traditional forms of royal adornment, she explained, “I’ve been using the imagery of cocoons and chrysalis. It’s all about transformation, I show how women go through a process in their lives. A monarch can be seen as in the process of becoming a Queen and in the process of becoming a butterfly”

Starting out in the world of architectural design, Cabrera quickly realized that power and self determination was something severely lacking in that industry. “They want you to basically work for free for like 3 years, I couldn’t do that. I needed to make a living.” Cabrera’s background in architecture sets her apart and informs the type of work she goes after. “The architecture world is a lot like the art world,” she points out. “It’s stressful because you’re being creative but clients want to have a lot of input. I realized that I would do better on my own with my own artistic vision.”

Her knowledge of architectural elements clearly informs the elaborate headdresses in her drawings. “What I wanted to initially represent in my art are these kinds of ornamental structures that women wear on their heads when they have some power in society. I want to show that is doesn’t matter where you come from or what kind of background you have, you are powerful. I especially wanted Black and Brown women, who are the most oppressed people in society, to see themselves represented as strong and powerful.”

I wasn’t surprised to find out that Cabreras preoccupation with empowerment was tied up in her own history of immigration, “In studying my own history of how I came to the US I found a picture of a revolutionary who was holding a gun while she was breast feeding a baby, and that’s what inspired me to be an artist.” Cabrera was born in Managua, Nicaragua but only has vague memories of her home country. Her mother fled alone with two children, crossing many borders in an attempt to leave behind the violence brought on by the Reagan administration’s proxy war, “It was a scandal during the Reagan Administration called the Iran Contra Scandal. A lot of people fled during that time. There was an embargo, cities were being bombed and finally my Mom came to Miami and established her life.” Half a million people fled the contra violence, more than 40,000 people were killed, and in 1997 The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) granted amnesty to all the refugees who had settled in the US. Cabrera’s family were among the beneficiaries of the bill.

Ivette Cabrera Artist Inspiration

Orlando Valenzuela’s Miliciana de Waswalito (1984)

Just like the thousands of other refugees forced to leave their homelands, Cabrera and her family worked hard to make the US home.Her childhood informs her hustle and non-traditional approach to fine art. In large part her “show anywhere” philosophy is responsible for her exposure. “Put your art everywhere that you can, we have to get out of our heads that it has to be a gallery environment.”

When I asked her what her advice for up and coming artists she had a lot to say, “Develop a space with other artists, start a collective and exhibit with them. Learn to collaborate with other artists because that will greatly increase your exposure. Reach out to different publications and try to get featured. And then just basic stuff like work on your website, have a business plan, use social media, and have a wide range of prices.” Cabrera’s own strength and resilience comes shining through in her artwork.

When asked what she wanted other to take away from her art, Cabrera says: “I want people to find their creativity and feel like the can accomplish their dreams.” Can’t argue with that. You can find more about her work and commissions at ivetttecabrera.com and you can see what she’s up to day-to-day on her IG here.

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