The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
The essay is a brief artist statement in which Amalia Mesa-Bains recounts her beginnings as an altar-maker at the Galería de la Raza in San Francisco in the late 1970s and her subsequent transition from constructing personal altars to public installations. She discusses what this medium represents to her (personally and as an artist), and she also provides an account of the cultural significance that altar making has in Mexican cultural practices. She concludes with a description of what makes her altars unique; how she is able to bring them to a wider audience not always acquainted with altars; and how she successfully integrates aesthetic decisions into her spiritual beliefs.
Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist and cultural critic who wrote extensively on Chicano/Latino art. This essay was included in the feminist journal, Lady-unique-inclination-of-the-night, in a special issue on women’s altars that was edited by Kay Turner. She is one of the first Chicana/o artists to utilize altars (also known as ofrendas [offerings] created for the annual Dia de los Muertos [All Souls’ Day] observance) as her own artistic expression and to bring them into galleries and museums. As a result, this traditional personal art form was transformed into a public art installation. Her statement, published in 1983, is a valuable summary of her artistic journey and an important record of the development of a uniquely Chicano art form.