Providence mural artist AGONZA leaves her mark across the city

Angela Gonzalez is used to rejection.

She was told that women don’t make art. She was told she wasn’t ready for this. And he was told his work was too controversial.

“Before, when I applied for murals, nobody wanted to hire me,” Gonzalez recalls. “They thought my art was too politically scary, or my art was too urban, or wasn’t visually appealing because I didn’t achieve the aesthetic that was requested.”

Like González, also known as AGONZAReflecting on her past, she stood in front of a larger-than-life mural splattered on the side of Providence Lillian Feinstein Senior Center.

Artist Angela

Inspired by monarch butterflies

The wall is awash with monarch butterflies, three smiling faces, and the word “united” in English and Spanish.

The post is inspired by the annual migration of monarch butterflies, when they huddle on trees in warmer climates during the winter months, stacked on top of each other. Alone, one of the winged creatures weighs about the same as a dollar bill. Together they are able to bend branches.

“People don’t know that,” Gonzalez said, sporting a pair of paint-splattered pants. “People just know the caterpillar part and then the evolution. But they don’t know the impact after, and I think that’s like me. So I painted butterflies…and the evolution of myself So it’s a bit like self-reflection.

It’s one of many murals Gonzalez has painted across the city, including some she recently completed in Hartford Park as part of a residency with the Providence Housing Authority.

Angela

Lizzie Araujo, director of the city’s arts, culture and tourism department, said what draws viewers to Gonzalez’s art – which depicts a wide variety of faces ranging from adults and children to immigrants and to people of color – is their ability to identify with it.

“I think people can relate to it,” Araujo said. “I think she has an amazing way of putting real authenticity into the work she creates, and I think people are really overwhelmed seeing themselves in such a huge and beautiful way.”

Gonzalez’s path to success was anything but easy. Growing up in the Manton Projects of Providence, Gonzalez, whose father served several stints in prison, moved to live with her grandmother in the Dominican Republic when she was 9 years old.

His home in Salcedo had no running water or electricity. Animals roamed the streets. The inhabitants have survived thanks to the local cultures, which were destroyed one year when a hurricane crossed Haiti.

Two years into his stay, Gonzalez’s grandmother died, prompting him to move in with a family friend.

“I kind of had to defend myself and take care of myself,” Gonzalez recalled. “So I learned a lot of skills that wouldn’t normally be normal for other people.”

Muralist Angela

Eventually, her father, after being released from prison, arrived to live with her, setting off a pattern of violence.

“I had internal bleeding,” Gonzalez said. “My nose was cracked probably twice. There was a lot of abuse, and I know I say that lightly, but I feel like I was very sensitive about it, but… I’m actually proud to say that I got over that because it’s a great thing I could have died.

At every turn, the adults who should have protected Gonzalez let her down. Instead of finding her help, the Catholic school in Gonzalez banished her because of the scars on her arms that she tried to cover with sweaters.

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Find security and the passion to paint

At age 17, Gonzalez’s stepmother, who adopted her, took Gonzalez out of the country, bringing her to safety.

Eventually, Gonzalez continued her art studies at the University of Rhode Island where she found her passion. It started with a canvas and then spread to the walls, as Gonzalez wondered if someone would ever allow him to paint an entire wall.

Professor Bob Dilworth answered his question.

“I was painting, and he was like, ‘You’re good, Angela…we just gotta get it out of you,'” Gonzalez recalled. “And then one time he got mad because I was so scared of messing it up, and he looked at me and he was like, ‘You better go big, or you better go home. your house. And he just walked out of class. And ever since, it has stuck with me. »

Now, Gonzalez is cruising across town in a big way, though she still remembers what she thought the very first time she saw a mural in Lynn, Massachusetts:

“When I saw this, I literally sat there and thought, ‘I’m going to do this one day. “”

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