In 2008 artist Maya Gonzalez talks to U.C Berkeley Professor Laura E Perez about her 2007 book “Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Alterities.” One of the only books of its kind dedicated to Chicana feminist artists, Perez looks at over 40 local and national artists who challenge biased notions of gender, sexuality and politics. For example, in the work of Alma Lopez, Perez looks at how Lopez symbolically claims a place for same-sex desire within Mexican and Chicano/a religious and popular cultures. And in Ester Hernandez’s 1976 etching Libertad/Liberty Hernandez depicts a female artist chiseling away at the Statue of Liberty, freeing from within it a regal Mayan woman and, in the process, creating a culturally composite Lady Liberty descended from indigenous and mixed bloodlines.
These Chicana artists make use of, and often radically rework, pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and other non-Western notions of art and art-making, and create liberating versions of traditional iconography such as the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Sacred Heart. Filled with representations of spirituality and allusions to non-Western visual and cultural traditions, the work of these Chicana artists is a vital contribution to a more inclusive canon of American arts. Providing a rich interpretive framework, Pérez describes how Chicana artists invoke a culturally hybrid spirituality that challenges racism, bigotry, patriarchy, and homophobia.