For artist Kia Arriaga, there are ways in which existing is an act of resistance; Arriaga deeply identifies with her Aztek roots, and works in multiple media to, “rescue the traditional ways of the original people of Mexico.” Powerful and oppositional, Arriaga’s art has the rare capacity to offer resistance in a form so beautiful, so alluring, that it may be courted by the very institutions it seeks to disrupt.
These media include her primary work as a blacksmith, ceramics (her “new lover”), stained glass, and mural painting (her degree is in Graphic Design/Illustration)—but also extends through her practice as an Aztek Dancer and member of the Aztek group Kalpulli Tlahuikayotl. This practice, which Arriaga has pursued since the age of 13, involves not only dancing, but the transfer of knowledge about many aspects of Aztek culture, including Aztek calendar and the count of time, traditional food preparation, traditional healing, regalia-making, codex painting and interpretation, philosophy, and agriculture. “You learn to love learning, in general,” Arriaga says, and it seems to be a lesson she has learned well. Though she lacks a formal degree from either institution, she has pursued her fine art studies at both Wayne State University and College for Creative Studies since moving to the Detroit metro area in 1998. “I am probably going to be the oldest student ever,” she enthuses.