Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art: Artists, Work, Culture and Education
Volume I and II
Published by Bi-Lingual Press, Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University
Principal Authors: Gary D. Keller, Mary Erickson, Kaytie Johnson, Joaquin Alvarado
Contributors: Arturo J. Aldama, Pat Villeneuve, Henry Quintero, Gema Ledesma
Photographers: Craig Smith, Marilyn Szabo
The result of years of careful preparation, this two-volume work covers the artistic production and biographies of nearly 200 individual artists from across the United States as well as Chicano/a artists residing in Mexico and elsewhere. This unique work was published as a full-color coffee-table-quality set of books (featuring over 600 artworks in full color) with an accompanying Web site that provides bibliography, artists’ statements, and other updated information. Produced with the support of the Center for Latino Initiatives of The Smithsonian Institution, the Inter-University Program for Latino Research, and numerous art organizations around the nation, this book represents a major advance in understanding, appreciation, and dissemination of Chicano/a art.
My artworks revolves around my dial experiences as a woman and a Chicana living in the late twentieth century and studying the ancient indigenous traditions of Mexico and the Americas. I have worked to discover woman in her modern and ancient place as a source of strength, love, and integrity. I believe that all women are a part of the earth and can be inspired by a relationship with and through nature.
It is my firm belief that woman is the symbol of the earth, and that each woman can learn aspects of loyalty, integrity, honor, generosity, and courage directly from the earth.
Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art
Vol. 2, 2002
Bi-Lingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe
Hispanic Research Center
Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Linda Vallejo’s childhood provided her with two lasting influences on her life and career: a large and loving family and a peripatetic existence of the child of an armed-forces career parent. Born in Los Angeles, she lived there with her family until her father graduated from college. When he joined the U.S. Air Force as an officer, the family moved to Germany for a time, then back to the United States, where her father was stationed variously in Missouri, Arizona, Texas, California, and Alabama. In later years Vallejo has retained vivid memories of Alabama in the early 1960’s, during the period of civil rights unrest, and of long road trips to visit extended family in Los Angeles. During her teen years the family returned to Europe, and she finished high school in Spain. There she learned Spanish and studied and was deeply impressed by the works of Dali and Picasso. She also traveled throughout Europe to study other artists, feeding her interest in art developed in early childhood (she remembers painting at the age of four). Returning to the United States, she relocated to California and enrolled in Whittier College, earning her B.F.A. in 1973. This was followed by further study at California State University, Long Beach, where she received her M.F.A. in 1978. She became an artist in residence with the California Arts Council, simultaneously continuing to produce her personal art, and then became a gallery owner with the opening of Galeria Las Americas in Los Angeles.
Vallejo’s significant impact originates in her distinctive ability to reconcile diverse influences of indigenous pre-Hispanic culture with a well-grounded art historical exposure. Her work exhibits a confidence and passion engaging the viewer in a rumination that is directed without depending on polemics. Works from her Death of Urban Humanity series are powerful as much for their personal plea as for their striking imagery. Vallejo’s subjects move beyond mundane rhetoric with a stylistic maturity that undermines the reason of the political. Tangible and inevitable, the work of this artist sacrifices the abstract notion for the specific struggle, effectively replacing debate with responsibility. This is achieved by the successful orientation of the viewer in an erudite consideration of urbanism in decline and the imperiled position of those in its wake. For a population of Chicanos increasingly situated in the cityscapes of America, Vallejo’s work is an expansive statement on the real threats challenging her community.
The Death of Urban Humanity: A world without Soul is an urgent social action. An apocalyptic yellow infects a decaying skyline. A looming skull dominates the field, still burdened by the lingering flesh of its corporeality A suffocated sun hangs betrayed by this decaying presence. This work speaks loudly to the decapitated existence of the urban centers of the United States in the new millennium. Addressing social and environmental issues equally, Vallejo rejects solipsistic condemnation and forwards the viewer a skeleton key to the meaning. Always present is the potential for regeneration. Drawing ambitiously on her advanced knowledge of Mesoamerican religion, Vallejo’s skull is both cautionary and constructive. The cyclical understanding of life and death applied here inherently suggests a repressed vitality capable of self-preservation and endurance. The throbbing atmosphere is emblematic of a tension that is as capable of sprouting flowers as it is headstones.
Tonantzin is exemplary of Vallejo’s immersion in the native social and religious structures of the Western Hemisphere. A totem of asserted continuity, Tonantzin returns the pre-Hispanic deity to the contemporary milieu of Chicano iconography. The Aztec earth goddess of life and death, Tonantzin was abducted by the Spanish conquest and Catholicism. As in the case of many of the indigenous deities and rituals, a synchronism occurred between the emerging Catholic culture and the social systems of native peoples of the Americas. Vallejo is carefully advancing this process in this work. Crafted in the dimensions of the popular santos (saints), sculptures prevalent in Mexican and Chicano homes, Tonantzin takes its proper place alongside other important religious icons. The fleshy masses bursting from the figure’s trunk reference the debt to the earth recognized by indigenous cultures. A refined figure rises in handmade silver paper, a critical connecting point for the celestial and the terrestrial. The potential of Tonantzin exists in its promise to reveal the historical endurance of a religious belief system that has suffered not from extinction, but an anonymous translation.