Denver art exhibit celebrates powerful women

“Women Behaving Badly” highlights women in history

Six minutes west of campus, located off Irving and Colfax, sits the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library. It’s a small, fairly new library that holds books and resources for the inhabitants of the West Colfax neighborhood but also currently holds an exhibit depicting colorful paintings portraying women in history.

“Women Behaving Badly” is the name of the small travelling art installation and has been on display at the Corky Gonzales Library, the Central Presbyterian Church, Coffee at The Point in Denver, and the GLBT Center off of Colfax—and that’s just within the past year alone.

There’s one painting of Malala Yousafzai that was started a few years ago. The image shows realistic watercolor school girls learning and reading—something Yousafzai has advocated for since she was young. The main focus is Yousafzai herself in a bright red and gold hijab, her cheeks pulled into a slight smile. But at the lower left-hand corner, three-dimensional GI figures are placed with guns aimed at Malala to represent when the Taliban tried to have her killed. All of the installation’s paintings are like this: a mix of beautiful media that shows a lot of thought for not only the composition but for the subject matter herself.

The artist, Adri Norris, publishes her artwork in her own name, but along with creating the paintings, she also displays them along with merchandise on her website Afro Triangle. While Norris has somewhat of an artistic presence in the Denver-Metro Area, she isn’t a native. According to an interview she did with Helikon Gallery and Studios, Norris was born in Barbados, moved to New York, and then settled in New Mexico by the time she was 12. She only first came to Colorado to attend the Art Institute of Colorado, graduating in 2008. About a year later she set up her website Afro Triangle and has been consistently showing her art across the city.

Norris not only incorporates watercolor in a way that often has her viewers asking, “How did you do that?” but she also uses three-dimensional aspects to bring dimension to her pieces as well as draw the viewer into her works. The amount of time and hard work she spends on her art pieces really shows, so it’s no wonder that some of them sell for over $1500.

In her blog post entitled “Putting the Story Back in History,” Norris writes, “In my series, Women Behaving Badly, I seek to answer three questions about the women I depict: Who is She? What did She do? Why does She matter?” and Norris has a point. The title of her exhibit comes from the quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and the portfolio really amplifies that.

From pieces dedicated to Sally Ride, the first woman in space, to Josephine Baker, a jazz entertainer and French Resistance Agent during World War II, Norris’ paintings offer great praise to the women who’ve shaped history by behaving outside of the cultural norms of their time. She represents women of color and highlights trans women of the drag scene that took a step forward in LGBTQ+ rights during the Stonewall Riots.

The exhibit isn’t elaborate in its set-up; it’s actually sort of out of the way, but it provides more insight to the powerful women of history in a unique way. Norris works hard, and notably so. Her work highlights the resilience and tenacity of powerful women with inspired composition.

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library

Exhibit open until May 31

1498 Irving St.

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