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The author, Susan Keller, ponders the work of Amalia Mesa-Bains within the context of the Mexican-American social empowerment movement of the 1960s and 1970s, also known as the Chicano Movement. A figurehead of her generation, Mesa-Bains looked to recover Mexican-American folk traditions that were disparaged by the American mainstream. Keller says that Mesa-Bains became particularly interested in home altars as sites where Mexican’s hybrid cultural and religious practices are manifested, worshipped, and passed on within a family by the women who display them. Mesa-Bains’s groundbreaking gesture was to present the home altar tradition as a form of installation art; Keller, the author, notes that Mesa Bains’ altars have celebrated several noteworthy Latina women such as Frida Kahlo, Sor Juan Ines de Cruz, and Rita Hayworth. Although best known for her “altars, “Mesa Bains has also created installations that mimic science laboratories and used gardens as installation sites. Keller concludes by discussing Mesa-Bain’s conflicted relationship with the feminist art movement in the United States. According to her, Mesa-Bains is critical of the dominance of Euro-American women in feminist circles and has chosen to collaborate with minority women. Paradoxically, she has consented to exhibit in mainstream feminist or women’s art exhibitions in order to raise the profile of Latina women artists in the United States.
The catalogue, The Latina Artist: The Response of the Creative Mind to Gender, Race, Class, and Identity, where this essay was published, was the end product of an interdisciplinary class taught by professors Isabel Nazario and Judith Brodsky at Rutgers University, in 1997.The teachings intermingled methodologies from art history, Latin American studies, and women studies and involved students documenting the work of seven prominent Latina artists in residence: Catalina Parra, Magdalena Campos-Pons, Analee Davis, Anaida Hernández, Yolanda López, Coco Fusco, and Amelia Mesa-Bains.This is the English version of doc. No. 842035.