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Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 23.1 (2002) 90-95

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Tattoo, Santa Niña de Mochis, California Fashions Slaves, and Our Lady

Alma Lopez

One the earliest digital prints I created was California Fashions Slaves. This digital print portrays my mother as a seamstress, and as a part of a working poor community racially stereotyped and vilified for allegedly draining the United States economy. Santa Niña de Mochis is dedicated to my maternal grandmother. The little girl in white was photographed during a family visit to my grandmother's graveside in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1997. Tattoo references the Virgin of Guadalupe. These are tattoos I've seen typically on men's backs. However, they are presented here on a woman's back, and the Virgin of Guadalupe is in an embrace with the mermaid of the popular Mexican game of Loteria.

Our Lady is a small digital print completed in 1999 and features two of my friends, performance artist Raquel Salinas as a contemporary Virgin dressed in roses and cultural activist Raquel Gutierrez as a nude butterfly angel. The two Raquels and I grew up in Los Angeles with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in our homes and community. Our Lady was inspired by Raquel Salinas's one-person performance titled "Heat Your Own," Raquel Gutierrez's experiences in Catholic school, and by an essay, "Guadalupe the Sex Goddess," written by Sandra Cisneros.

In "Guadalupe the Sex Goddess" Cisneros writes, "She is a face for a god without a face, an indigena for a god without ethnicity, a female deity for a god who is genderless, but I also understand that for her to approach me, for me to finally open the door and accept her, she had to be a woman like me." Later in the essay, when Cisneros wonders if the Virgin has a dark Latina vagina and nipples underneath her dress, I imagined roses. Roses were the proof of her apparition to Juan Diego. Our Lady not only wears flowers, but also the Coyolxauhqui robe of the pre-Columbian moon goddess and warrior. The butterfly angel represents a Viceroy butterfly. For survival purposes, the Viceroy [End Page 90] butterfly mimics the Monarch, which is well known for its migrations between the United States and Mexico.

When Our Lady was exhibited in Santa Fe, New Mexico, many people were offended. Although I have looked hard at other representations of the Virgin of Guadalupe by many other Chicana visual, literary, and performance artists, I fail to see what is so offensive about Our Lady. I question what the Santa Fe church leaders, Mr. Jose Villegas, Deacon Anthony Trujillo, Archbishop Michael Sheehan, and others, see when they use words like, "blasphemy, sacrilegious, the devil, a tart, and a stripper" to describe Our Lady. I am forced to wonder how they perceive women and women's bodies. I conclude that they think women's bodies are inherently sexual and perverted, and that for them portraying a woman's body as an art piece in a museum is wrong. This is ironic because we often find nudity celebrated in iconography of the Catholic Church.

California Fashions Slaves, 1997, digital print on canvas, created in Photoshop, 20" x 24" (special thanks to Macrina Lopez)

Santa Niña de Mochis, 1848 Series, 1998, Iris/Glicee on canvas, 17.50 3 140

Tattoo, Lupe & Sirena Series, 1999, Iris/Glicee on canvas, 17.50 3 140 (special thanks to Jill Aguilar)

Our Lady, Lupe & Sirena Series, 1999, Iris/Glicee on canvas, 17.59 3 140 (special thanks to Raquel Salinas and Raquel Gutierrez)


Alma Lopez is a Los Angeles-based visual and public artist whose innovative digital work recontextualizes major cultural icons, bringing issues of race, gender, and sexuality into relationship with transnationalist myth, border culture, and the urban environment. She earned a B.A. from University of California, Santa Barbara and a M.F.A. from University of California, Irvine. She has received numerous awards for her work and exhibits extensively. She has been...


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