Honduran artist furthers the female perspective

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

Honduras, a Central American country south of Mexico, has a history of violence and economic instability. With minimal art school opportunities, a successful career as an artist can be hard to come by, especially for a woman. 

Alma Leiva, a visiting artist in the Department of Cinema and Photography and native Honduran, will present her visual installations with a discussion panel to follow at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Morris Library First Floor Rotunda.

She will also be showcasing her photography this week in the Cinema and Photography Gallery.


One of Leiva’s major influences is Frida Kahlo, a self-taught female painter from Mexico. Leiva said women offer a lot to the art world when it comes to perspective, and the world has been taking notice.

“In my opinion, Frida Kahlo was a better painter than Diego Rivera, her husband,” she said. “Now people are beginning to rediscover her art and really see the amount of pain and life experiences she put in her work.”

Her feminist ideals are evident in some of her work, including her current project, a display paying homage to murdered prostitutes of her hometown of San Pedro Sula, she said.

“I especially wanted to do this because it is an overlooked group,” she said. “There has been an increasing way of violence against LGBT groups… and women in general in Honduras and I wanted to create awareness.” 

Leiva broke the mold of the artistic constriction in San Pedro Sula when she moved to Miami at the age of 14.

“They don’t have the opportunities they have here in general,” Leiva said. “It’s a very poor country, so if you want to pursue a career in the arts, you had to come from a well family.” 

Because of the large Latino community in Miami, the transition was not difficult, though racial tension was present among her high school colleagues, she said. 


She said there was hostility between African Americans and Latinos, as well as tension between different races in the Latino students.

After attending Miami Jackson Senior High School, which had a reputation for behavior problems but also a reputable art program, she took a break from school for more than a decade until attending New Worlds School of the Art in Miami, where she graduated in 2007. 

She began graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., an area with a much smaller Latin American community, pursuing art and graduated in 2011.

“When I moved to VCU, to Virginia, that’s when it hit me,” she said. “That’s when I felt the culture shock at full-speed.”

Although the initial change in culture was new for her, it did not negatively effect her artwork, she said.

While her mediums range from still photography to film production, her first love was drawing, she said.

“I started getting bored drawing from reference,” she said. “I started becoming more interested in drawing from imagination and symbolism.”

Leiva still paints and draws, but gets bored with just one art form and expands her expression through different outlets, she said. 

Her most recent work is a map instillation of her hometown of San Pedro Sula titled “The Survival Map of the Foreigner.”  The map has both tourist attractions and danger zones.

“It is a little bit crazy, but it has that drawing quality that I began with,” she said.

While continually incorporating her drawing and painting into her various instillations, her resume is also bolstered by many video production projects, which primarily utilize found footage, she said. 

“I like the raw quality,” she said. “I like to work with found footage because there is something about the quality that I just like.”

She has plans to finish her current project in the SIU Cinema and Photography gallery by Wednesday, she said.

Chase Myers can be reached at [email protected]