Chicano Art and its Relevance to the Modern Feminist Movement

Chicano art is the art of the people. It is passionate, it is political. The art symbolizes empowerment through embracing homeland culture, the place where Latinos come from and identify with. Beginning to come to light in the late 60’s, Chicano art responded to Second Wave feminism and drew inspiration from Civil Rights and United Farm Workers movements. However, Chicanos could not completely identify with Second Wave feminism because it mostly focused on white, middle class, cisgendered women. Because of the ideals in question, Chicano art better falls under Third Wave feminism.

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Artistic Identities in Modern Latin American Art History

A brief introduction:

The cultural value of art in the Latin American narrative changes throughout the eras. For example, art in the modern era takes on the role of a scientific image, a devotional supplement, an internal reflection, a unifying element or a political statement. Which particular role is most prominent at a given time is influenced by the historical and social context in which it lies. The role of the artist is directly correlated to the role of art in a specific period. For example, the artist’s role in society shifts from the documentarian, to the creative genius, to the social critic as rules and demands for creative expression are altered by changing historical and social contexts of the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Latin American artist narrative extends over an expansive period of time, this paper will focus specifically on the late 1800’s to the mid-1920’s.

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Redefining the Boundaries of Latin American Art

A brief introduction:

In Mari Carmen Ramirez’s essay, “Beyond the Fantastic” (1992), she begins by claiming that art exhibitions are privileged vehicles for the representation of individual and collective identities. Bringing together works produced by artists, both as individuals and members of a specific communities, allows viewers to see how the groups in question visually construct their image. Ramirez argues the current (as of 1992) curatorial model, one where only one or two curators work together to create an exhibit, is no longer sufficient. It creates too many problems, which Ramirez explains more carefully in her essay: exoticization, homogenization, distorted images created by outsiders, perpetuation of stereotypes and monolithically framed exhibits.

Curators must take the extra steps to ensure accurate narratives of Latino/a artists are portrayed. These steps include understanding and overcoming internalized and institutionalized racism that causes American curators (and the public) to see Latin American artists as requiring legitimization by the United States in order to be relevant. This will help curators to identify Latin America as an independent, pluralistic group of countries that does not need to be compared to the United States in order to be legitimized in terms of culture, art and internal structure.

In fact, some argue that the United States and Latin America are not so different in their layers of history- they both were created and structured by colonization. Difference comes about once the United States claims a colonizing role, while Latin American countries do not. When this is considered, there is no real reason the United States should be considered in any way ‘better’ or ‘more advanced’ than Latin America. The United States’s need to legitimize Latin America in relation to the U.S. is merely a result of  neo-colonial mindsets and a long standing history of racism and elitism, despite Latin America’s ability to be viable in its own respect. It is only when compared to Euro-centric ideals that Latin America’s credibility is questioned.

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Click here to read Mari Carmen Ramirez’s essay, “Beyond the Fantastic” (1992).

Frida Kahlo’s Political Agency, Often Ignored

A brief introduction to the essay you are about to read:

Frida Kahlo, a disabled revolutionary German-Mexican artist of the 20th century, married Diego Rivera in 1929, adding the label of ‘wife’ to her list of identities. For some art historians, ‘disabled’ and ‘wife’ become the focus of their study on Kahlo’s life and works. This narrow scope ignores historical and social contexts of each work and the artist herself, creating a gendered analysis. Their analyses assume personal emotion drives the motivation behind Kahlo’s work, and deny her any agency outside of the domestic sphere. While many art historians verify Kahlo participates in political debates, they do not consider how this informs her artworks. Other art historians prefer to acknowledge not only Frida’s social relationships in the private sphere, but also in the public sphere. By increasing the context of each piece, such as including historical movements and social normalities of the time, art historians gain a deeper understanding of Kahlo and her agency. The link between her engagement in social and political movements, as well as an understanding of the gendered social norms existing in Mexico at the time, adds an entirely new level to Kahlo’s works that almost always defy interpretations assuming an emotionally driven, tragedy built artist.

In this paper, I will introduce two book chapters by Sarah Lowe and Margaret Lindauer, respectively, and a journal article by Marlene Goldsmith to explore the various way historians draw conclusions about Frida Kahlo, including analyzing and contextualizing the way they inform their argument. An important part of this paper will be understanding whether or not the author uses a national or international context to support their research, as it either broadens or narrows the mindset in which we view Kahlo’s works. This vital aspect will be inform us whether the author attempts to understand how Kahlo’s identities interact with one another in society, rather than how they function solely in the domestic sphere. While authors Lowe and Lindauer view Kahlo’s works considering national historical and social context, resulting in an analysis crediting Kahlo with social and political agency, Goldsmith’s international philosophical perspective of her work enforces a one-dimensional, gendered scope, amounting Kahlo to nothing more than a wife dealing with her personal tragedies.

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