Kathleen Granados with her fiber sculpture entitled " Straightening up"...

Kathleen Granados with her fiber sculpture entitled " Straightening up" at An art exhibit called Women in the Heights - Intersections, at the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance on Bennett Ave. and 189th street, in Washington Heights. (March, 5, 2012) Credit: Linda Rosier

For Kathleen Granados, creating her artwork -- resembling a knotted rope that hangs from the ceiling and coils on the floor -- was a "cathartic" experience, the Long Island artist says.

"It reminds me of that rope in gym that we had to climb," she said. "I never got to the top and I had an overwhelming fear of that rope."

Granados' piece, knitted from white yarn, is one of 27 works by emerging women artists on display in upper Manhattan.

The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance is honoring women who have come to the area from as far away as Peru, Russia and Cuba.

With support from the nonprofit alliance, the Washington Heights and Inwood sections of Manhattan are evolving into a new artists' colony. The group gives some 160 artists, male and female -- gallery space, grants and workshops to hone their skills and draw inspiration from one another.

The 2-year-old gallery is on the third floor of the Cornerstone Center on Bennett Street, overlooking the Hudson River and Fort Tryon Park -- a forest of century-old trees and green knolls.

"This is an opportunity for them to show the quality of their work," said exhibit curator Andrea Arroyo. "It's fantastic."

The exhibit features abstract art fashioned from woven plastic bags, quilts, knitted sculptures and mixed media installations.

Granados, 26, of Hicksville, said she is thrilled to have the alliance's support.

"It's always inspiring in upper Manhattan," she said. "It's completely diverse and away from the hustle and bustle.

"I see more clearly here with nature all around me. I grew up on Long Island beaches, so it felt right when I came here."

Her knitted artwork came naturally, she said. Growing up, "I saw how yarn is used to knit hats, gloves -- items close to the body, all elements of survival. I wanted to grab that warmth and apply it to art."

Another artist backed by the alliance, Dindga McCannon, 64, raised three children while working on her art in her Harlem apartment. She now boasts seven grandchildren.

For her, the gallery is a refuge.

"I love it. This is my backyard," she said. "It charges me up. I get excited by all the mixed media here."

McCannon's midnight-blue quilt on display memorializes trailblazing women "who inspired me to keep going."

The quilt features the faces of poet Sonya Sanchez and Queen Mother Moore -- a Harlem community activist from the 1950s.

"She helped Jackie Robinson come into his own," said McCannon, who grew up in the shadow of Moore's activism and remembers seeing her riding neighborhood buses.

The "Women in the Heights -- Intersections" exhibition runs through April 30. On Wednesday the artists will share their insights at the gallery from 6 to 8 p.m.

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