Chicana Art

The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities

Chicana Art


More about this series

Book Pages: 408 Illustrations: 90 illustrations ( incl. 73 in color) Published: August 2007

Author: Laura E. Pérez

Art and Visual Culture > Feminist Art, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Alma Lopez’s digital print Lupe & Sirena in Love (1999), two icons—the Virgin of Guadalupe and the mermaid Sirena, who often appears on Mexican lottery cards—embrace one another, symbolically claiming a place for same-sex desire within Mexican and Chicano/a religious and popular cultures. Ester Hernandez’s 1976 etching Libertad/Liberty depicts a female artist chiseling away at the Statue of Liberty, freeing from within it a regal Mayan woman and, in the process, creating a culturally composite Lady Liberty descended from indigenous and mixed bloodlines. In her painting Coyolxauhqui Last Seen in East Oakland (1993), Irene Perez reimagines as whole the body of the Aztec warrior goddess dismembered in myth. These pieces are part of the dynamic body of work presented in this pioneering, lavishly illustrated study, the first book primarily focused on Chicana visual arts.

Creating an invaluable archive, Laura E. Pérez examines the work of more than forty Chicana artists across a variety of media including painting, printmaking, sculpture, performance, photography, film and video, comics, sound recording, interactive CD-ROM, altars and other installation forms, and fiction, poetry, and plays. While key works from the 1960s and 1970s are discussed, most of the pieces considered were produced between 1985 and 2001. Providing a rich interpretive framework, Pérez describes how Chicana artists invoke a culturally hybrid spirituality to challenge racism, bigotry, patriarchy, and homophobia. They make use of, and often radically rework, pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and other non-Western notions of art and art-making, and they struggle to create liberating versions of familiar iconography such as the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Sacred Heart. Filled with representations of spirituality and allusions to non-Western visual and cultural traditions, the work of these Chicana artists is a vital contribution to a more inclusive canon of American arts.


Chicana Art is the first book of its kind that preserves a long history of outspoken Latinas using their talents to change family traditions. With their richly colorful artwork, these Chicanas successfully show the Western world who they are and why they aren’t just another Spanish-speaking minority. Perez not only examines the different stories behind many Chicana’s religious installations, but she encourages her audience to empower themselves by altering their self image and embrace the future that awaits them.” — Stephanie Nolasco, Feminist Review blog

“An invaluable contribution to Chicana/o studies, visual cultural studies, gender and women’s studies, and performance studies alike, Chicana Art provides an extensive new archive while creating an original discourse that considers the spiritual within both academic and artistic practices. In Pérez’s book, her innovative thinking and detailed and careful research, open up the work of Chicana visual artists and Chicana feminist critique in an accessible manner. Above all, the work which is the centerpiece of the book is deeply honored through rigorous analysis that invites future scholarship to take up any number of the artists discussed without dismissing the critiques and aesthetics offered through a consideration of the spiritual.” — Michelle Baron, e-misférica

“As a wide-ranging survey of a vast array of artists, media, and practices that provides greater attention to contemporary Chicana artists, Pérez’s text is a critical source for scholars of modern, contemporary, and Latin American art history. . . . [T]he book is highly relevant to courses on contemporary art; gender, race, and representation; gender, race, and religion; religion and politics; and religion and contemporary art.” — Elizabeth Adan, Feminist Formations

“Beautifully written and dynamically personal, Chicana Art allows scholars an alternate reading of not only the role of artists in society, but also the way in which demographic shifts in contemporary museums are changing experiential expectations and the fundamental character of the museum in institutional culture.” — Rachel V. Gonzalez, Museum Anthropology Review

“Pérez articulates the complex hybridity and historical ‘hauntings’ present in these artists’ work. In doing so, she self-awarely creates her own ‘altar’ to honor a previously-neglected subgenre. Her book underscores not only the variety contained within this subgenre, but also the multifaceted nature of spiritual experience itself. As an introduction to Chicana art or an interpretation of its themes for more seasoned scholars, Pérez’s work deserves consideration.” — On Campus with Women

“Pérez offers a rich analysis of a vast array of artistic works. . . . Pérez’s arguments are theoretically sound and always consistent with the organizing category of politicized spirituality. . . . Pérez’s notion of the politics of the spiritual as generative of tangible political and social effects is a critical contribution to the epistemological frameworks that inform Chicana/o studies and extends further to enrich this category’s management within art history, literary, and American studies.” — Victoria Fortuna, Aztlán

“The first book-length study of Chicana art, this long-anticipated volume surpasses expectation in breadth, depth, and presentation and begins to fill a noticeable gap in feminist scholarship. We applaud Duke University Press for having done an exceptional job in the production of this book. Beautifully designed, it is printed on heavy paper with high quality graphics and carefully chosen fonts. This high production value pays respect to the quality, depth, and diversity of the Chicana arts movement, which—as Pérez argues—encompasses a rich array of literature, essays, film, and fine arts including prints, silkscreen, painting, photography, murals, textiles, mixed media, digital art, conceptual art, and performance art.” — Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel, Signs

“This is an elegant, thoughtful book that is a foundation for more scholarship on Chicana art. Highly recommended.” — Laura Graveline, ARLIS/NA Reviews

“This is the first book with a primary focus on Chicana visual arts to come to press. Taking the academically risqué approach of exploring the spiritual in Chicana Art, Laura E. Pérez . . . examines the work of more than 40 Chicana artists across a variety of media. . . .” — Victor Cruz-Lugo, Hispanic Magazine

“With her encyclopedic study of Chicana art, Laura Pérez broadens reader’s perspectives significantly. . . . Her theoretical approach, clearly explained in her introduction, is consistently at work in every chapter, considering a rich variety of media and a multitude of artists. Chicana Art . . . is an intelligent and highly creative study that has laid the groundwork for scholars from a variety of fields and for those art aficionados who wish to enter into a rich terrain.” — Lynda Hoffman-Jeep, Woman's Art Journal

“A landmark text for understanding recurring concepts and themes of the spiritual, the political, and the aesthetic in Chicana art theories and practices.” — omás Ybarra-Frausto, independent scholar, New York City

“For Laura E. Pérez, ‘spirit’ is a twenty-first-century method of analysis. This book transforms cultural productions into portals through which academic disciplines are linked. This daring objective is achieved through Chicana and U.S. third-world feminist technologies. The work of Chicana Art makes spirit visible.” — Chela Sandoval, author of Methodology of the Oppressed

“In light of the very real difficulties of engaging the ‘spiritual’ within the largely secular Enlightenment discourses in the human sciences, Laura E. Pérez’s work on the realms of the spiritual and the political in art alters the frame of reference, of what can be seen and known.” — Rosa Linda Fregoso, author of meXicana Encounters: The Making of Social Identities on the Borderlands

“Laura E. Pérez illuminates the connections between the heterogeneous forms and themes cultivated by Chicana artists, filmmakers, and writers—connections that have been floating in the air for some time but never brought together in a concrete way until now.” — Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, author of The Wounded Heart: Writing on Cherríe Moraga


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Laura E. Pérez is Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ixx

Acknowledgments xiii

Note to the Reader xviii

Introduction: Invocation, Ofrenda 1

1. Spirit, Glyphs 17

2. Body, Dress 50

3. Altar, Alter 91

4. Tierra, Land 146

5. Book, Art 205

6. Face, Heart 257

Conclusion: Self, Other 297

Notes 309

Works Cited 347

Index 381
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3868-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3852-9
Publicity material