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In this essay, Tomas Ybarra-Frausto focuses on the heart as an important symbol in Chicano art. Divided into two sections: “Themes and Variations” and “Maintenance and Extension of Traditions,” he argues that the “moral dimension” of artistic creation has been maintained over time—including ancient indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica that used art to reveal the inherent divinity in all things; the populist art of the Mexican revolutionary period that created a shared sentiment among the masses; and the work of contemporary Chicano artists that expresses the essence of Chicano culture and enforces collective identity. The text includes color reproduction of three of the works discussed: La Despedida, a silkscreen print by Luis C. González, a member of the Sacramento, California-based art group, the Royal Chicano Air Force; a work by San Diego artist, David Avalos, Hupcap Milagro #1; and a work by Oakland artist, Calvin Barajas, Pecho Adornado. The author also discusses the paintings of Texas-born artist, Santa Barraza.


Tomás Ybarra-Frausto is an academic who has provided leadership in scholarship on Chicano art since the 1970s and has influenced subsequent generations of disciples. This essay was included in the catalogue of the group exhibition, Lo Del Corazon: Heartbeat of a Culture, at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, California, in 1986. The exhibition, which traveled nationally, and the catalogue were the first to provide a comprehensive artistic and scholarly context for the hybrid evolution of heart imagery in Chicano art. Ybarra-Frausto’s essay is a companion piece to Amalia Mesa-Bains “A Historical Essay on Heart Imagery and Expressions,” commissioned for the same catalogue (doc. no. 795630).

Tere Romo
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Courtesy of Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, New York, N.Y