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In this text, Dylan Miner revises the historiography of Chicano art by inserting the activities of Chicano artists active in Michigan (“MiChicano/a” artists) and the Midwest into established narratives of Chicano art and culture. Miner recounts in detail how scholarship on and exhibitions of Chicano art have overwhelmingly favored accounts focused almost exclusively on the activities of Chicanos in the Southwest. He chronicles efforts to counter this tendency, but concludes that it continues to dominate Chicano studies. Miner argues that Chicanos of the Southwest and Michigan share common historical and cultural experiences, especially histories shaped by class struggle and labor reform, defense of their cultural identity and urban territory, and their relationships with Mexican mural painting. He supports these arguments with in-depth description and analysis of the work and history of Nora Chapa Mendoza, as well as murals by George Vargas and Martin Moreno, especially focusing on the Detroit mural CitySpirit. Throughout his text, his readings of works and interpretations of Chicano history employ a number of different methods, which he epitomizes as “differential consciousness,” a term Miner adopted from the Chicana feminist theorist Chela Sandoval.
This text by the critic and historian Dylan Miner was published in the spring 2008 issue of Aztlán: The Journal of Chicano Studies. In addition to recounting a history of artistic production and social activism by Chicanos in Michigan, Miner denounces the canonization of Chicano studies and art history. Toward this purpose, he conducted an extensive and detailed critique of how Chicano studies have been shaped by scholars such as Jacinto Quirarte, Shifra M. Goldman, Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, and others who favor a Southwestern history of Chicano art and culture that turns around exhibitions such as CARA: Chicano Art Resistance and Affirmation (1990). Of note is Miner’s methodological approach to interpreting works of art by Michigan-based Chicano artists. Drawing on poststructuralism, Marxism, and feminism, he interprets the works of art within multiple contexts, proposing readings in which meaning is circumscribed in multiple, expanding contexts, i.e., the local, regional, and Chicano.