Rixy, who is 27, is a voice for women’s power. The black and brown characters painted by the Latinx artist are archetypes concocted from his own experience and that of his friends. They are like goddesses, full of their power, both creative and destructive.

“Hypnotized by the Charmer” features a woman curled up almost like a snake, her eyes fierce and her fingernails sticking out.

“There’s something about this definition of looking like a feminine person that makes us a target,” Rixy said. She recalled a man who had approached her earlier this year.

“He approaches me while I’m eating,” she said. “He’s like, ‘smile,’ and touch my face.

“I ate for maybe two more seconds,” she continued. “I lost my appetite, I left some money, and I just got out, I just cried in the car. And I was pissed off, but I didn’t act on the anger.

What if she had? “Hypnotized by the Charmer” expresses this ferocity.

Rixy, “Hypnotized by the Charmer”, 2021. Spray paint, acrylic, ink and iridescence on cardboard, with plastic chain link and brass hardware.Photo courtesy of Trustman Art Gallery

Rixy’s career is booming. She is one of Now + There’s public art agencies Accelerator Artistsa group chosen each year to create public art in Boston, and work on a mural, “Pa*Lante(or “forward”) which will debut this summer at Roxbury. She was asked by the city of Boston to paint a mural in Allston in honor of Rita Hester, a trans woman whose murder in 1998 sparked Transgender Day of Remembrance. The timing of this mural is still ongoing.

She moves between the street and the gallery, creating figures for murals and paintings like those in this exhibition on damaged cardboard, adorned with hair extensions, elastic cords and chains. Rixy calls them studio assemblies.

“She works with very unconventional materials. In some cases canvas, but canvas that has been torn or burned. In other cases, just pure cardboard, which has that kind of material memory going for it,” said gallery director Helen Popinchalk. “It’s not just a piece of cardboard that comes out of the recycling bin. This is the back of a TV that her friend gave her to be part of this painting.

Community is a big part of Rixy’s artistic practice; she is currently an artist-in-residence working with teenagers at High Thought, a nonprofit social justice organization in Lawrence. Durability is also central.

“I was a broke brunette girl growing up. Canvases are expensive and I don’t like canvases,” Rixy said. “I feel trapped.”

With pieces of cardboard, she adapts the frame to the subject, and not the other way around.

“I can put them on the floor and rearrange them,” she said. “I need the frame to complete it.”

Rixy, “2 In a Room — Giddy Up (1995)”, 2022. Spray paint, acrylic, ink, oilstick and thread on treated cardboard, with twill cord.Photo courtesy of Trustman Art Gallery

Born in Roxbury, the only child of a single mother from Honduras, Rixy grew up on the move and spent several years in Las Vegas. She maintains a deep bond with her extended family. The women in her family, she says, have always broken with societal expectations.

She cites her mother as a prime example.

“My mother is a single mother. That’s the first step, right? Because often our cultures are like that, you have to stay with your husband. It doesn’t matter how crazy marriage is. And you sit quietly and just do what he says.

The characters she paints all inhabit the same universe, called Cúcala. (The name, she said, originated from the colloquial Spanish phrase her mother used for “vagina” when she was little.) It might sound familiar as the title of a song by the Cuban-American singer. Cecilia Cruz, in which it meant, as Rixy put it, “Eureka!” Pay attention!”

“It’s this inclusive world where they can be traumatized and powerful and vulnerable,” she said. “Cúcala is like the temple in which they live.”

Rixy, “Now what kind of Knucklehead told you to go this way?” 2022. Paper, spray paint, acrylic, ink, marker, thread and fire on treated cardboard, with paracord.Photo courtesy of Trustman Art Gallery

Or not. The three lavender-haired women on a motorcycle in “Now What Kind of Knucklehead Told Y’all To Go This Way?” are looking for Cúcala, Rixy said. “They’re not there yet.”

Some characters know each other, some don’t. Some are parents. And there’s a villain, Machismento, who represents toxic masculinity. The artist has not painted it yet, and maybe not.

“It might not exist figuratively,” she said, adding that it might be more “like toxic exhaust, like fumes, or the way it infects their food or infects their minds. Like a silent plague.

For ‘Pa*Lante’, her Now + There mural, she plans to paint the world as well as the characters, and hold roundtables with other female artists. Her intention, she says, is to create a Cúcala in the community.

“We can build the real tribe,” she said.

ENTER THE CÚCALA: Paintings and Multimedia Assemblages by Rixy

At the Trustman Art Gallery, Simmons University, 300 The Fenway, through May 13. 617-521-2268, trustman.simmons.edu/exhibits/2022/enter-the-cucala/

Cate McQuaid can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.


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