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In 1999, UCLA’s La Gente Newsmagazine dubbed Alma Lopez the Digital Diva for her groundbreaking photo-based digital series Lupe and Sirena. That series, and most of Lopez’s visual work, raises questions about popular Mexican icons filtered through a radical Chicana feminist lesbian lens. One of those images, titled Our Lady is the subject of the book Our Lady of Controversy: Alma López’s “Irreverent Apparition,” which López co-edited with her spouse Professor Alicia Gaspar de Alba, and published by the University of Texas Press in 2011.
In the last two decades, Lopez’s work has been exhibited in over one hundred solo and group exhibitions in Mexico City; Naples, Italy; Cork, Ireland; and throughout the United States, including UCLA Fowler Museum; Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; MexiArte Museum, Austin, Texas; and International Print Center, New York. Her work is included in collections of the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California; and McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas.
López is a recipient of two UCLA Diversity Program Awards for Innovative Courses in the Departments of Chicana/o and LGBT Studies (2011-2012), and was named UCLA Regent’s Lecturer in the Departments of Art History and Chicana/o Studies in Fall 2009. She is also the recipient of an Astraea Foundation for Justice Visual Artist Grant (2005), a California Community Foundation’s Arts Funding Initiative Visual Arts Mid Career Grant (2002), a Pollock-Siqueiros Binational Visual Arts Prize (1999), a California Community Foundation’s Brody Emerging Visual Artist Grant (1998), and the City of Los Angeles’ Individual Artist Grant (1998). She has been engaged as a muralist for the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department since 1998, with murals in South L.A.
Born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa and raised in East Los Angeles, Alma López got her MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1995. She has taught as a Visiting Artist in departments of Chicana/o Studies and LGBTQ Studies at UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, and Loyola Marymount University. Her work has been exhibited in museums and community organizations all over California and the Southwest and nationwide, as well as internationally in Mexico City, Ciudad Juárez, Naples, Italy and Cork County, Ireland. Through her work, her activism, and her popular website, López upholds her position as one of the most visible and cutting-edge Chicana feminist activist artists in the country.
Since the 1992 L.A. uprising (aka the “Rodney King Riots”), López has engaged in public art collaborations with African-American artist Noni Olabisi, which bridge the chiastic cultural and political histories of African Americans and Chicanas/os in South Los Angeles. Their collaborative murals have all been commissioned by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. In 1998 they painted Education is a Basic Human Right, which is installed at the Angeles Mesa public library branch in South L.A., and connects the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case that desegregated American schools to a similar case in California, Mendez vs. Westminster, which was brought about by a Puerto Rican/Mexican family and which helped to desegregate public schools in southern California seven years before the Brown case.
In 2009, they painted two public murals in South Los Angeles commemorating the history of Charlotta Bass, the owner and publisher of the California Eagle, the first African American newspaper in Los Angeles. Charlotta Bass was a publisher and an activist. She organized against the restrictive covenant laws of that time which limited the residence of people of African Americans within blocks of Central Avenue. She also fought against police brutality and reported fairly on the Sleepy Lagoon case and the ensuing so-called zoot suit riots that targeted young men of Mexican descent. The first mural, History in Our Hands, was installed permanently at the new City Hall Annex being built on Central Avenue to house the offices of the council member for District 9 as well as the neighborhood city office of the department of public building safety; the second mural, It Takes a Village To Raise a Child, was installed at the Gilbert Lindsay Community Center.
All of these public art projects showcase Lopez’s commitment to using her art in the service of activism. Not only do these works bridge black and brown communities in south Los Angeles, but they also forge alliances based on common struggles for human and civil rights.
Our Lady Controversy
López gained notoriety in 2001, when the Catholic Church attempted to censor her photo-based digital collage, Our Lady, which was showcased in the exhibition Cyber Arte: Technology Meets Tradition, curated by Tey Marianna Nunn at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The 9-month controversy took on local, national, and international importance, and brought questions of community representation, institutional autonomy in a public museum, and an artist’s first-amendment rights into bold relief. Lopez’s other artworks similarly raise new questions about colonial Mexican icons, including her 1999 series of digital prints, Lupe and Sirena in Love, which brought radical Chicana Lesbian issues to the fore as it manipulated canonical colonial imagery. A 2004 series of acrylic paintings, Corazon/Virgen, situates the two major emblems of Mexican Catholicism, the Sacred Heart and the Virgin of Guadalupe, within the context of ordinary lives and popular culture, through references to tattoos and graffiti.
In April 2011, the book Our Lady of Controversy: Alma López’s “Irreverent Apparition,” which López co-edited with Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba, was published by University of Texas Press. The book brings together prominent feminist scholars to comment on Alma’s art and activism and the way they intervened in New Mexico’s politics of place and religion, as well as in the broader discussions about censorship, public funding, and the arts. UCLA Art History Professor, Charlene Villaseñor-Black, comments that Our Lady of Controversy is “an exceptionally important and powerful collection of essays, opening new interpretive paths and new tools for the activist scholar student. This is the most serious consideration of the oeuvre of Alma López published to date.”
Other Public Art Projects
López has established several collaborative arts groups, such as Tongues and L.A. Coyotas, which worked on issues as immigration, race relations, labor, sexism, and sexuality. She has created a number of political posters on these topics, as well as posters for several academic conferences, and a poster for the 3rd Annual Marcha Lésbica in Mexico City in 2006. As a new manifestation of “public art,” her artwork has appeared on the covers of at least 20 publications, many of them academic books, and on numerous magazine and journal covers.
Nacida en Los Mochis, Sinaloa y criada en el Este de Los Angeles, Alma López obtuvo su maestria de artes de la Universidad de California, Irvine en 1995. Ella ha enseñado como artista invitada en los departamentos de Estudios Chicanas/os y Estudios LGBT en la Universidad de California Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA y la Universidad Loyola Marymount. Su trabajo ha sido exhibido en museos y organizaciones comunitarias a nivel nacional, así como en la ciudad de México, Ciudad Juárez, Nápoles, Italia y el condado de Cork, Irlanda. En abril de 2011, el libro de Nuestra Señora de la controversia: "Aparición irreverente" de Alma López, co-editado con la Dra. Alicia Gaspar de Alba, fue publicado por University of Texas Press. A través de su trabajo, su activismo y su sitio web popular, López defiende su posición como una de las más visibles y vanguardistas artistas Chicanas feministas.
Born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa and raised in East Los Angeles, Alma López got her MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1995. She has taught as a Visiting Artist in departments of Chicana/o Studies and LGBTQ Studies at UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, and Loyola Marymount University. Her work has been exhibited in museums and community organizations nationally, as well as in Mexico City; Ciudad Juárez; Naples, Italy and Cork County, Ireland. In April 2011, the book Our Lady of Controversy: Alma López’s “Irreverent Apparition,” which López co-edited with Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba, was published by University of Texas Press. Through her work, her activism, and her popular website, López upholds her position as one of the most visible and cutting-edge Chicana feminist activist artists.
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