Yolanda López (born 1942), Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe, 1978, oil pastel on paper, 81 x 61cm, Collection of the artist.
Yolanda López’s painting Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe presents the familiar Catholic image of the Virgin Mary that is so ubiquitous in Mexico that it has become an icon of that nation. López presents herself as young and smiling, striding, in athletic shoes and a simple dress, toward the viewer. She crushes a small putto underfoot, and strangles a snake in one hand while holding on to her billowing robe in the other. As some have suggested, this self-portrait can be associated with the ‘goddess’ subject of early-1970s feminist art, but the image is also a clear depiction of the artist as Chicana, sharing in Latino culture. Instead of rejecting it as other feminists have done, López takes on the medium of painting, shifting it away from its roots in Western patriarchy. She also reinvigorates the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, in rendering her as active and modern, and as an icon of Chicana self-determination. CM
The above text is taken from Claudia Mesch‘s new book A Small History of Art for Social Change Since 1945, which is out at the end of August. Claudia Mesch is Associate Professor at the School of Art, Arizona State University, and her other publications include Joseph Beuys: The Reader; and Modern Art at the Berlin Wall: Demarcating Culture in the Cold War Germanys. She is founding editor of the e-journal Journal of Surrealism and the Americas (jsa.asu.edu).