Frances Paragon Arias

June 2, 2000

My artwork addresses personal, political and spiritual issues ranging from the unmasking of cultural stereotypes to the expression of anguish associated with multi-generational struggles with substance abuse and addiction. My earliest works were often quite literal and representational, as seen in the piece Willie Jasper Darden that pays tribute to a victim of injustice. Later pieces, which honor particular family members, employ a greater degree of abstraction and symbolic language, such as hojas wrapped as prayer bundles, pre-Columbian motifs and images from lotería cards. The most abstract and gestural series to date are those associated with Sundance and sweatlodge ceremonies. In these pieces I aim to convey the sense of tranquility and spiritual nourishment that I feel through participation in these sacred rituals. For example, in the piece Dancers Past and Present there are a number of red bars placed against a gold multi-layered background. The red bars can represent both the prayer sticks used in the Sundance ceremony and the dancers. The lower area represents the Sundance ancestors who have passed over. This piece expresses a sense of peaceful order and rhythm found amidst the daily turmoil of life.

My work ranges in scale from intimate small prints to large mixed-media altar installations and collaboration done with other artists and communities. Making at is an integral part of my life and involvement with my community. Working with “at-risk” youth and passing on to them the joys and freedom found through self-expression brings my life full circle. As we reclaim our histories and identities we can find the inner strength and well of compassion to lead us to a more just and peaceful world.

Prayers, Knowledge and Wisdom, 1992

Prayers, Knowledge and Wisdom is an altar dedicate to my children Xiomara and Naiche. Set on a golden rectangle emerging from a dark fractured ground are a series of prayer bundles rising above images representing a darker side of life. This piece is a physical prayer for the protection and guidance of Xiomara and Naiche. May their paths in life lead them to knowledge and wisdom.





Afterworld Path, 1989

Afterworld Path symbolizes the soul’s journey upon death of the physical form. It is inspired by the Pre-Columbian belief that life in this world is a dream from which we awaken after death. Small horizontal bars intersect a series of vertical bars representing the nine levels through which the soul is said to travel on its way to the “true” life. Sparks of gold and the vivid red of the bars represent the celebratory beginning of this “true” life. The dark hues of the background symbolize the “dream” life with its seemingly real yet translucent layers of memories and experiences.