Santa Barraza, Artist of the Borderlands
Artist of the Borderlands
Art - Mexican American Studies
10 x 9, 168 pp.
24 b&w photos., 34 color plates.
Pub Date: 04/01/2000
Rio Grande/Río Bravo: Borderlands Culture and Traditions
Price:        $40.00


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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2001 Southwest Book Award, presented by the Border Regional Library Association

Santa Barraza, Artist of the Borderlands

Artist of the Borderlands

By Santa C. Barraza
Edited by Maria Herrera-Sobek

Santa Barraza paints bold representations of Nepantla, the Land Between. Her work depicts the historical, emotional, and spiritual land between Mexico and Texas, between the familiar and the sacred, between present reality and the mythic world of the ancient Aztecs and Mayas. More than thirty of her most powerful and characteristic works are offered in full color and considered in this ground-breaking study of a nationally important Tejana artist.

Over the last twenty-five years of her career as a visual artist, Barraza has explored what it is to be a Chicana and a mestiza in this country. Utilizing a variety of media, she has embarked on an artistic journey full of family portraits, watercolor dream scenes, mixed media artist books, and murals that harken back to a pre-Columbian past. By tapping into pre-conquest symbols, personal memories, and traditional sacred art forms such as the retablo and the Codices, she incorporates the value of Mexican artistic traditions and their power to nurture and sustain cultural identity on this side of the border.

Barraza’s art, which includes public art in the form of murals and children’s workshops, has increasingly drawn on the colors and forms of Mesoamerica. Most recently, the Aztec Codices offer her a symbolic form to claim her roots and to invoke much of the cosmology of her ancestors. Within the form, however, she adapts by drawing on contemporary figures such as her own mother, or labor leader Ema Tenayucca, or Barraza’s sister with a physical heart (representing a heart transplant she had received) in place of the Virgen de Guadalupe and the Immaculate Heart.

Scholars María Herrera-Sobek, Antonia Castañeda, Shifra M. Goldman, Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, and Dori Grace Udeagbor Lemeh contribute distinctive insights to the analysis of the forces that have shaped Barraza as a Chicana artist and the images and aesthetics that characterize the corpus of her work. Their perspectives also contribute to an understanding of the Chicano/a artists (including Barraza) who began their rise to prominence during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, the text invites readers to view the Chicano/a as the “New American artist,” suggesting that the elements of Barraza’s painting are important not only to Chicanos/as, but to all Americans in our increasingly bicultural and even mestizo society.

Santa C. Barraza is a contemporary Tejana artist who teaches at Texas A&M-Kingsville and formerly taught at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been widely exhibited and has been published in a number of collections. She holds an M.F.A. in painting and drawing from the University of Texas. Her vita reflects a career replete with awards, appearances and lectures, exhibitions, and publications.María Herrera-Sobek, who edited this book and wrote the introduction, teaches Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she holds the Luis Leal Endowed Chair. Her Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures is from UCLA.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . . manifestly unique . . . a wonderful and fascinating and compelling piece combining personal and regional history.”--John Pitman Weber, Elmhurst College

“. . . manifestly unique . . . a wonderful and fascinating and compelling piece combining personal and regional history.” --John Pitman Weber, Elmhurst College

“. . . a highly creative and extremely well-documented account of the creation of an artist. Santa Barraza’s detailed account of her family and her life, the quality of the scholarly commentary on her work and the numerous beautiful plates all make this an outstanding book.” --Constance Cortez, Santa Clara University

“. . . handsomely produced book, with gorgeous color plates. . .” --CHOICE

“Thanks to an interesting autobiography included in the book, the reader learns of her motives fora particular image and the choice of colors for her painting. The beautiful color plates and pencil drawings, along with an introduction by Maria Herrera-Sobek and insightful essays by various scholars, make this book a very worthy addition to any library. Santa Barraza is an important artist, not only of the borderlands between Mexico and Texas but far beyond as well. Her contribution to the understanding of the geographical and emotional border is unique.” --Bloomsbury Review

“Maria Herrera Sobek has braided a wonderful book reflecting the art and journey of one of the most influential artists in Chicano art history. Essays by renowned scholars and Latino art critics, Shifra Goldman, Tomas Ybarra Frausto and Dori Lemeh, not only share interpretations of Santa’s work but also reflect on her travels influences and contributions in the rich dynamics of the Chicano movement to the present . . . The autobiographical essay is the silver-turquoise ring of the book.” --San Antonio Express-News

“Undoubtedly, the most intriguing and rewarding contribution is Barraza’s autobiography in which the artist not only details her life and her family’s history, but traces out her own cultural chronicle of her mestizo heritage and how she has reformulated it in her art. . . .Santa Barraza, Artist of the Borderlands comes as a necessary coda. . .as well as an important chronicle of a life interpreted through art.” --Austin American-Statesman

“Chicana artist Santa Barraza is a contemporary Mexican-American who expresses both the color and the controversy of the border that divides yet sometimes unites tow cultures. Her work has placed her in the forefront of the growing Latino art movement. It is inevitable that her work will be compared to that of Frida Kahlo for she shares the same spirit of determination and independence.” --Book Chat


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