Alicia Gaspar de Alba
| MFA from University of California Irvine|
Our Lady, 1999
Heaven 2, 2000
La Llorona Desperately Seeking Coyolxauhqui, 2003
Coyolxauhqui Returns Disguised as Our Lady of Guadalupe Defending the Rights of Las Chicanas, 2004
Alma López is a Mexican-born Queer Chicana artist. Her art often portrays historical and cultural Mexican figures, such as the Virgin of Guadalupe and La Llorona, filtered through a radical Chicana feminist lesbian lens. Her art work is meant to empower women and indigenous Mexicans by the reappropriation of symbols of Mexica history when women played a more prominent role. The medium of digital art allows her to mix different elements from Catholicism and juxtapose it to indigenous art, women, and issues such as rape, gender violence, sexual marginalization and racism. This juxtaposition allows her to explore the representation of women and indigenous Mexicans and their histories that have been lost or fragmented since colonization. Her work is often seen as controversial. Currently, she is a lecturer at the University of California Los Angeles in the Department of Chicana/o Studies.
Alma López Wikipedia
Our Lady depicts a young Latina woman confidently staring back at the viewer, wearing a bikini of roses. The roses allude to the Virgin of Guadalupe's origin myth, though her posture and eye contact defies the traditional version of the Virgin. Her cloak is covered in images of Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec moon goddess. The juxtaposition of Catholicism iconography and indigenous goddess reference the suppression of indigenous female goddess by Catholicism and Our Lady is contemporary Chicanas re-appropriating both.
Lopez views her work as empowering to women and indigenous Mexicans. To Lopez, La Virgen de Guadalope is more than a religious symbol. She is a public figure and a symbol of her culture, community and family. La Virgen also served as symbols in art work for the Chicano Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico which Lopez cites as further support that La Virgen is not only a religious symbol.
The women photographed for the piece was motivated to model for it to reclaim her body and heal after being raped. She practices an indigenous spirituality that considers La Virgen de Guadalope to be Tonantzin, or mother earth.
In 2001 Our Lady was included in an exhibit called Cyber Arte: Tradition Meets Technology at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Controversy ensued. The New Mexico Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan referred to Lopez’s Virgin as a “tart or streetwomen.”
In response to this protest Lopez said that Our Lady is not about sex or sexuality, but instead about showing strong women and the real lives of Chicanas. The curator of the exhibit and Lopez received verbal and physical threats. Some of the responses to the work were homophobic, stating that the image of La Virgen did not belong to a queer feminist like Lopez. Lopez collected and posted the content of many of the threatening and supporting emails at her website.
Following the controversy and the protest at many showings of Our Lady, Lopez wrote a book entitled Our Lady of Controversy: Irreverent Apparition.
Heaven 2 was a mural displayed outside Galería de la Raza from November 2000 to January 2001. It portrays a woman on her deathbed thinking of herself and her lover holding hands on the moon. It was defaced with Bible verses and the gallery staff received homophobic threats and a gunshot through their window.
This piece is part of a 2003 series using similar titles and the same model. It depicts a close up of a young woman staring straight at the viewer and crying, alluding to La Llorona. Behind her is the silhouette of La Virgen with arms raised and her back to the young woman. People have suggested that La Virgen has turned her back on the young woman or is pleading for a female goddess or mourning a violated young women—alluding to La Llorona. Tattooed on the young woman's shoulder is the severed head of Coyolxauhqui and Coatlicue's fangs are stenciled over the young woman's face.
The title of this piece refers to Ester Hernandez's 1976 sketch of a karate Lady of Guadalupe entitled La Virgen de Guadalupe Defending the Rights of the Xicanos. Lopez's choice to use Las Chicanas instead of Hernandez's Los Xicanos conveys her focus on Mexican women. The subject of the painting is a middle-age, pregnant, indigenous women holding up one hand and a sword in her other hand. A halo on her head represents both La Virgen and Coyolxauhqui. Her hand held up suggests she is trying to stop an injustice. The sword pointing downward suggests she prefers peaceful discussion over violence, but like Coyolxauhqui and La Llorona, she will use violence to protect women.
She was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa and is married to novelist and poet Alicia Gaspar de Alba.2013 Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship, Metropolitan State University, Denver, Colorado
2013 UCLA Diversity Program Student's Choice LGBT Outstanding Faculty Award
2012 UCLA Diversity Program for Innovative Courses in Undergraduate Education, LGBT Studies Program
2011 UCLA Diversity Program for Innovative Courses in Undergraduate Education, Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies
2009 UC Regents' Lecturer, UCLA Department of Art History and the Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies
2005 Durfee Foundation's Artist Resource Completion Grant
2005 Outstanding Community Activist, Los Angeles LGBT Center
2004 Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Visual Artist Grant
2002 Arts Funding Initiative Visual Arts Mid Career Grant, California Community Foundation
1999 Premio Pollock-Siqueiros Binacional
1998 Brody Emerging Visual Artist Grant, California Community Foundation
1998 City of Los Angeles (COLA) Individual Artist Grant