Artist, educator, and administrator, Imna Arroyo focuses on visualizing her identity. As a woman of African, Hispanic and Taino descent, she has traveled to Africa and the Caribbean in order to better inform her teaching and her own work. Her earlier explorations of the Goddess spoke to her identity as a woman. Her latest artwork explores the Middle Passage and the spirit of her ancestors, while other works of hers have explored the essence of the Santeria; Orishas who guide her work today. Imna Arroyo is always able to extrude the heraldic aspects of her identity to create visualizations that challenge the viewer.
Her art has also taken printmaking to a new level. In an age of mechanical reproduction, she replicates images on paper, silk or wax to create installations. She invites the viewer, turned participant, to experience the joys and the issues of heritage and identity. Whatever she pursues she becomes a role model and conveys a spirit, which she then visualizes in her art.
Gail Gelburd, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History
Eastern Connecticut State University
“Imna Arroyo is an original artist. I mean original in the way that my good friend and Maestro Jose Antonio Martinó define originality. He says that to be original you must go back to your origins, explore them and learn from them. And Imna Arroyo has done this in a magisterial way, learning and teaching what she learns transforming it into art. Her whole persona is emblematic of that journey to the past in order to live that present and show a way to the future. It is not by chance that wood, paper, clay and fabric are intertwined in her mature work, living, throbbing trails of history and transcendence illuminating with radiant colors a collective destiny as much as an individual one.”
Puerto Rican painter, graphic artist, writer
Artist in Residence University of Puerto Rico, Cayey, PR
“A multifaceted artist, Imna Arroyo has explored several mediums and found excellence in the field of printmaking and multimedia art installations. Her work has focused on relevant social issues, highlighting the role of women in society, the presence and participation of Latinos in mainstream America and lately on her connection as a black Puerto Rica woman artist with her Caribbean and African roots. He seriousness of purpose has taken Ms. Arroyo to research in depth about the history of the people and events she recreates in her art. Several trips to Africa and the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico and Cuba, have contributed to a body of work that is significant because is based on solid academic research, a perfect understanding of the history and issues at hand, and an artistic aesthetic that always as beautiful, pleasing and poetic as it is current and authentic.”
Commisaire d´exposition / Curator
ARS ATELIER, Paris, France
“Mrs. Arroyo’s work explores popular Afro-Caribbean cultures and religions with respect and admiration for they are spiritual expressions that have endured centuries of misrepresentation, repression and persecution in the mane od civilization and modernity. The exploration is specially stimulating and intriguing in visual terms because Afro-Caribbean religions are aniconic (no image), and they have adopted many visual forms from Western imagery is through the process called “Transculturation,” Mrs. Arroyo, therefore, engages in a dialogue with a multilayered reality, which translates into a rich and ever-expanding visual vocabulary.Mrs., Arroyo’s art making process potentiates her teaching practices as it requires her involvement with highly sophisticated cultural expressions (including camouflage and ambivalence) that nurture every day life in the Caribbean and elsewhere. For Mrs. Arroyo this means not only an active and critical approach to her own cultural heritage, but also the possibility of incorporating new visual riches to it. The combination of techniques such as printmaking, painting, ceramics, installation and video, underscores Mrs. Arroyo’s versatile skills, and metaphorically mirror the diversity inherent to her spiritual and cultural identity.”
El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY
2009 Installation Lyman Allen Museum, New London, CT
“Ancestral Passage”, focused on the ancestors of the Middle Passage, those who had been on slave ships going from Africa to the Caribbean who did not survive. Around the walls of the gallery was a continues mural of large scale black and white prints referring to those people in dark images that invoked them as dead spirits. But the main focus of the installation was the representation of spirits who rise from the sea. They died in the Middle Passage, but their spirits live on. The artist created each one as individual person (they were more that twenty) with a painted ceramic head. Although the eyes are strong and wide open as though they are seeing a vision, they have no hair or ears because they are spirits, an abstraction. Each bust includes the representation of specific fabric that refers to defferent African tribes, grouped in threes and fours. The two upturned hands as separate sculptures invite us to accept the gift of their offerings. These spirits all know, with out gender and they fill the sea, invoked by painted silk. The overall result of this deeply moving installation is to inspire us with the sense of survival, the spiritual legacy of the Africans who did not come all the way to the Americas to become slaves. These spirits were never enslaved.In short, Imna Arroyo as an artist, took on a highly original and difficult subject and by means of poetic use of experimental media, she successfully communicated a spiritual experience.”
Susan N. Platt, Ph.D
Art Historian and Art Critic, Seattle, WA
Renacer es irse y volver, un eterno movimiento en espiral, figura en la que el espíritu humano ha depositado - con esperanza - su deseo de permanencia. Con la seguridad de su trazo y entre líneas cruzadas en direcciones diversas, ha situado Imna Arroyo una figura, una mujer, una deidad, una fuerza, una energía - que consistente y frontal – ocupa el centro compositivo. Esas líneas certeras indican un entrecruzamiento de itinerarios visuales en profundos contrastes de blanco y negro. La expresiva sobriedad del rostro representado nos remite a la máscara, a la africana, síntesis de múltiples poderes. Una espiral la corona y supera la estatura de su imagen en un espacio que suponemos natural y misterioso. El símbolo la trasciende, prolongando su escala hacia el infinito y también la del espacio representado. La espiral escapa del cuadro y se va. El remolino en el imaginario caribeño es un torbellino cargado de potencias destructoras, un impulso devastador de fuerzas huracanadas en movimiento circular que avanza y no retrocede. Irse y volver es un trayecto. Y para los que inician el camino, Oyá espera vestida con sus siete colores en la puerta de la que es dueña. Imna nos interpela con sus temas y nos provoca. Una fuente inspiradora de honda raíz africana entabla en sus obras un diálogo con la memoria ancestral en nuestro tiempo, el de tantas inquietudes y ansiedades.
Director of Centro de Esudios del Caribe
Casa de las Americas, Havana, Cuba
Cojímar, septiembre 2010