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|Chicanos and Mexican Americans|
Beginning with the Chicano Movement of the 1960s, Chicanas used art to express political and social resistance. Through different art mediums both past and contemporary, Chicana artists have continued to explore and interrogate traditional Mexican-American values and embody feminist themes through different mediums including murals, painting, photography, and more. The momentum created from the Chicano Movement spurred a Chicano Renaissance among Chicanas and Chicanos. Political art was created by poets, writers, playwrights, and artists and used to defend against their oppression and societal marginalization. During the 1970s, Chicana feminist artists differed from their Anglo-feminist counterparts in the way they collaborated. Chicana feminist artists often utilized artistic collaborations and collectives that included men, while Anglo-feminist artists generally utilized women-only participants.
The Woman's Building opened in Los Angeles, CA in 1973. In addition to housing women-owned businesses, the center held multiple art galleries and studio spaces. Women of color, including Chicanas, historically experienced racism and discrimination within the building from white feminists. Not many Chicana artists were allowed to participate in the Woman's Building's exhibitions or shows. Chicana artists Olivia Sanchez and Rosalyn Mesquite were among the few included. Additionally, the group Las Chicanas exhibited Venas de la Mujer in 1976.
In 1976, co-founders Judy Baca (the only Chicana), Christina Schlesinger, and Donna Deitch established the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). It consisted of studio and workshop spaces for artists. SPARC functioned as an art gallery and also kept records of murals. SPARC is still active and encourages a space for Chicana/o community collaboration in cultural and artistic campaigns.
Las Chicanas members were women only and included artists Judy Baca, Judithe Hernández, Olga Muñiz, and Josefina Quesada. In 1976, the group exhibited Venas de la Mujer in the Woman's Building.
Muralist Judithe Hernández joined the all-male art collective in 1974 as its fifth member. The group already included Frank Romero, Beto de la Rocha, Gilbert Luján, and Carlos Almaráz. The collective was active in the 1970s through early 1980s.
Murals were the preferred medium of street art used by Chicana artists during the Chicano Movement. Judy Baca led the large-scalecale project for SPARC, The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It took five summers to complete the 700 meter long mural. The mural was completed by Baca, Judithe Hernández, Olga Muñiz, Isabel Castro, Yreina Cervántez, and Patssi Valdez in addition to over 400 more artists and community youth. Located in Tujunga Flood Control Channel in the Valley Glen area of the San Fernando Valley, the mural depicts California’s erased history of marginalized people of color and minorities.
In 1989, Yreina Cervántez along with assistants Claudia Escobedes, Erick Montenegro, Vladimir Morales, and Sonia Ramos began the mural, La Ofrenda, located in downtown Los Angeles. The mural, a tribute to Latina and Latino farm workers, features Dolores Huerta at the center with two women arched the history of Los Angeles and met with historians as she originally planned out the mural. The mural was halted after Carrasco refused alterations demanded from City Hall due to her depictions of formerly enslaved entrepreneur and philanthropist Biddy Mason, the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II, and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots.
Performance art was not as popularly utilized among Chicana artists but it still had its supporters. Patssi Valdez was a member of the performance group Asco from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. Asco’s art spoke about the problems that arise from Chicanas/os unique experience residing at the intersection of racial, gender, and sexual oppression.
Laura Aguilar, known for her "compassionate photography," which often involved using herself as the subject of her work but also individuals who lacked representation in the mainstream: Chicanas, the LBGTQ community, and women of different body types. During the 1990s, Aguilar photographed the patrons of an Eastside Los Angeles lesbian bar. Aguilar utilized her body in the desert as the subject of her photographs wherein she manipulated it to look sculpted from the landscape. In 1990, Aguilar created Three Eagles Flying, a three-panel photograph featuring herself half nude in the center panel with the flag of Mexico and the United States of opposite sides as her body is tied up by the rope and her face covered. The triptych represents the imprisonment felt by the two cultures she belongs to.
Though the Chicano movement has passed, Chicanas continue to use art as a way to uplift their perspectives and celebrate Chicana voices. New art forms have risen as technology has begun to play a more vital role in daily life as artists like Guadalupe Rosales use platforms like Instagram as a part of their work. Rosales uses her role as an artist and an archivist to artfully collect photos and magazines of Chicanas from the 1990s. She portrayed her own understanding of growing up Chicana in East Los Angeles, a predominantly Latino area. On her account Veteranas y Rucas, her photos depict men in baggy pants and women with teased hair making their way through a time of anti-immigrant sentiments and gang violence. What started as a way for Rosales' family to connect over their shared culture through posting images of Chicana/o history and nostalgia soon grew to an archive dedicated to not only ’90 Chicana/o youth culture but also as far back as the 1940s. Additionally, Rosales has created art installations to display the archive away from its original digital format and exhibited solo shows Echoes of a Collective Memory and Legends Never Die, A Collective Memory. Rosales is the recipient of a 2019 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship. She was the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s first Instagram artist in residence in 2017. Others like poet Felicia “Fe” Montes have gained popularity for their work in Chicana art for still other forms. Montes uses spoken word and slam traditions among other mediums to relate with her Latina following about identity. She reads her poetry in unconventional places and questions women’s historically subservient and lower-serving roles than men. As she writes, she keeps the Chicano culture in Los Angeles in mind, through women's collectives like Mujeres de Maiz.
Over the years, la Virgen de Guadalupe has been used by Chicana artists to explore themes of repression and feminine strength. She has become a symbol through which artists have attempted to eradicate the stigmas facing women’s place in society and ownership of their bodies. Alma López, Margarita “Mita” Cuaron, Yolanda López and Ester Hernandez are two Chicana feminist artists who used reinterpretations of La Virgen de Guadalupe to empower Chicanas. La Virgen as a symbol of the challenges Chicanas face as a result of the unique oppression they experience religiously, culturally, and through their gender.
The idea of sharing the erased history of Chicanas/os has been popular among Chicana artists beginning in the 1970s until present day. Judy Baca and Judithe Hernández have both utilized the theme or correcting history in reference to their mural works. In contemporary art, Guadalupe Rosales uses the theme of collective memory to share Chicana/o history and nostalgia.