Remembering Yolanda Lopez, the Chicana artist who redefined Latinas in the visual arts


Almost forty years later Frida kahlo Reappropriating the typically Mexican iconography in her self-portraits, Yolanda Lopez has taken the identity of the Chicana woman to a whole new level.

Painter, printmaker, educator, and film producer Chicana was known for her mastery of transforming the experiences of Mexican-American women through iconography, often challenging ethnic stereotypes Kahlo had popularized decades earlier.

The art world and the Hispanic community in the United States said goodbye to this war on September 3, 2021, when She died in San Francisco, Calif., at 78.

Yolanda López was born in 1942 in San Diego, California to a Chicano family with three generations in the country. His grand-parents emigrated from Mexico to the United States, crossing the Rio Grande by boat while avoiding the fire of the Texas Rangers.

Lopez was educated at San Francisco State University, where she became involved in social movements, realizing the ethnic reality experienced by Chicanos in the late 1960s in the United States.

Lopez also participated in the Third World Liberation Front, who staged a strike in 1968 at what was then San Francisco State College in an ultimately successful effort to force the school to establish a ethnic studies program.

“I heard the men and women who led this Third World strike talk, and I understood at that time how my position was part of this long legacy of being part of the oppressed people, just like the Blacks, ”Lopez told the website. Shaping San Francisco years later.

In 1969, Yolanda López helped publicize the Los Siete de la Raza case, in which seven young Latin American men were accused of killing a police officer. She designed the “Free Los Siete” poster, which juxtaposes incarcerated Latin Americans with the ideals of the United States. As part of Lopez’s efforts in the Los Siete Defense Committee, this poster helped garner great community support and an eventual acquittal.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

During the 1970s, Lopez returned to San Diego and enrolled at San Diego State University in 1971, where he graduated in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in painting and drawing. She enrolled at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where she obtained a Masters of Fine Arts in 1979.

Beginning in the 1970s, her work focused on empowering the Latino community and describing the true experiences of Hispanic women.

“There were no public images of Mexican Americans or Latinos in the mainstream culture who represented us in the broad spectrum of our humanity,” she told the newspaper. Salt Lake Tribune in 1995. “What existed mainly were sleeping Mexicans, Spanish señoritas, images of banditos…. Nothing at all reflected the fact that we had families, children, that we were working, that we were creative or that we were engaged in daily activities.

Her best-known series of paintings, begun in the late 1970s, would be the Guadalupe series of 1978, where Yolanda Lopez subverted the traditional image of Our Lady of Guadalupe into a triptych in which she represents herself, her mother and her. grandmother in place of the Virgin.

In the self-portrait, López walks towards the viewer in running shoes with a snake in his hand, one muscular leg appearing to protrude from the paint, the cloak rippling behind her like a cape.

She “springs from the traditional flaming mandorla of the Virgin, throws down her starry cloak and rushes straight towards us, beaming, into the future”, New York Times Holland Cotter art critic wrote in 1999.

“The fusion of the past in the future is the object of this painting. There are countless more transformative visions of where this came from – the unleashed imagination of women. “

In the second image of the triptych, Lopez’s mother works at a sewing machine, mending the blue fabric with her expert hands. In the third, his grandmother is seated at the top of the mantle, holding a blade in one hand and the skin of a snake in the other.

Yolanda Lopez Guadalupe Series
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

As the Washington post recalls, Yolanda Lopez continued to work in this vein, also presenting the Virgin Mary as a pre-Columbian goddess and a Mexican American girl today.

“Because I feel that living and breathing women also deserve the respect and love lavished on Guadalupe, I chose to transform the image,” she once said, according to the Museum of Contemporary Art. from San Diego, where his first solo presentation in a museum, an exhibition titled “Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist,” is scheduled to open in October.

Yolanda Lopez, who struggled for much of her career to support herself financially, is now considered one of the most important Latin artists of her time. This year, she received the Latinx Artist Fellowship, a $ 50,000 award funded by the Andrew W. Mellon and Ford Foundations.

His self-portrait, according to the San Diego Museum, is “one of the most iconic works of art to emerge from the Chicano movement and one of the most widely reproduced images of the time,” one that “challenges the colonial and patriarchal origins of Guadeloupe. iconography, transforming the symbol into that of radical feminist optimism.


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