Thursday, September 15, 2011

A&M-Kingsville's Santa Barraza has work on display in McAllen exhibit

barrazawork.JPGArt work created by Santa Barraza, art professor at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, will be featured at the library art gallery at South Texas College (STC) Pecan Campus in McAllen in an exhibit entitled Four Decades of Chicana Art and Culture in Tejas and Beyond. The exhibit begins Thursday, Sept. 15, and continues through Saturday, Dec. 10.
The exhibit will feature paintings, drawings and prints by Barraza, who is widely known as one of the country’s most significant Chicana and Tejana artists.

As part of the exhibit’s opening, Barraza will discuss her work at 11:30 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. Sept. 15, in the library’s Rainbow Room, located in Building F, 3201 W. Pecan Blvd. in McAllen. A reception will be held at 7 p.m. following the evening presentation.
 Admission to all events is free and open to the public. The gallery is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Barraza’s work embodies the heart of Chicana sociopolitical culture and references the universal existence and experience of life on Earth. She memorializes her mother, friends and family members and incorporates religious iconography and Mesoamerican mythology in her art work.

“We are thrilled and honored to showcase the work of an artist that is internationally renowned,” said Esther Garcia, STC library specialist. “Her work is very exciting and powerful. Her bold use of color and fine depiction of form build on the beauty and emotion that emanates from her work. I know its themes will resonate for our community.”
Barraza earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts from the University of Texas. She has taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and Penn State University.
For more information, call 956-872-3488.

Nancy Moyer
2011-10-19 15:32:45

With a purposeful brush, Chicana artist, Santa Barraza, rejected the European art aesthetic embraced by our nation’s art schools and found her own voice in the culture of pre-Hispanic Mexico. Her exhibit, “Four Decades of Chicana Art & Culture in Tejas and Beyond,” at STC’s Library Art Gallery, presents an overview of her personal artistic explorations.

Barraza’s paintings reflect a simplified representational style. She sees this as a break from the established European art tradition embraced by U.S. art schools. Her rejection of standard color theories was fed by the insistence on European aesthetics during graduate studies at the University of Texas. Influenced by a visit to Oaxaca, she became fascinated with Mesoamerican mythology. “I began reclaiming my identity, and de-colonizing myself,” she said.

What: “Four Decades of Chicana Art & Culture in Tejas and Beyond,” works by Santa Barraza
Where: STC Library Art Gallery, Bldg. F, 3201 W. Pecan Blvd.
When:  Through Dec. 10: weekdays 9am-10pm
Info:    956-872-3488 or

Her use of the term, “de-colonizing” is significant. “Mexican Americans and Native Americans have been colonized by the Europeans,” she explained. “When the Spaniards came, they colonized us. We lost our language. I was Karankawa and we had an indigenous culture we no longer have. My color palette is the de-colonization of the traditional European color aesthetic.”
Her work depicts the historical, emotional, and spiritual land between Mexico and Texas as it relates to her own life.

Several of the paintings in the exhibit incorporate “date boxes,” a pre-Hispanic method of representing days of the week. Barraza has taken that format and made it personal. “Codex of the Trinity” shows a trio of contemporary women. Behind them is a cross; its d├ęcor is Aztec. The central figure springs from a maguey plant, the symbol of life. Date boxes fill the bottom and right sides of the work.
The paintings pulsate with direct color, and often incorporate symbolic icons from the Mayan and Aztec codices. As with other Chicana artists, it is helpful for the viewer to have knowledge of Mexican lore.

Her concept of de-colonization is successfully seen in the painting, “La Llorona ll.” This painting is informed by a Mexican legend about the tragedy of a beautiful woman who, out of jealous anger, threw her children into the river. She died from the grief of her misdeed.
Barraza’s painting tells the story in flat, superimposed layers. Her heart exposed, an emotionless La Llorona faces us from the center of the canvas. A maguey plant grows behind her. Behind that, the turbulent water, which contains various symbolic elements from the codices. A winged child hovers in an upper corner.

“Nepantla” symbolizes the Land Between. The figure represents Malinche - the symbolic mother of Mestizos, the bronze race. The striking work combines a bold Oaxaca color palette against a traditional landscape. 
Santa Barraza teaches at Texas A&M–Kingsville. Her recent book,“Santa Barraza, Artist of the Borderlands,” edited by Maria Herrera-Sobek, is available from Texas A&M University Press.

Nancy Moyer, Professor Emerita of Art, UTPA, is an art critic for The Monitor. She may be reached at