Interview With Alma Lopez

Yeah, I thought I'd start featuring interesting artists on this website, so here's another one...

JJ: What inspired you to create the Virgen in this manner in the first place ?

Alma: I was inspired to create "Our Lady" digital print because I grew up with the Virgen in my home and community in Los Angeles and Mexico, Raquel Salina's performance, and Raquel Gutierrez's catholic school experiences. I was also creating it with the acknowledgment that I am not doing anything new. There is an entire tradition of Chicanas/Latinas who have revisioned the Virgen in personal and female empowering perspective since the 1970's(to my knowledge) and still do. Catholic or not, as Chicanas/Latinas/Hispanas, we all grew up with the ever-present image of the Virgen de Guadalupe. As an artist, I feel entitled to express my relationship to her in a way revelant to my own experiences. In doing so, I join many other visual, literary and performance artists, such as Yolanda Lopez, Ester Hernandez, Santa Barraza, Delilah Montoya, Yreina Cervantez, Sandra Cisneros and Raquel Salinas, all of whom have shared their personal experiences in their works of the Virgen de Guadalupe. More than 20 years ago, artists Yolanda Lopez and Ester Hernandez were threatened and attacked for portraying the Virgen in a feminist and liberating perspective. In 1978 Yolanda Lopez received bomb threats for her portrayal of the Virgen wearing low-heeled shoes. In this image the Virgen walks with her head bowed, hands clasped wearing a dress below the knee. I think that people were upset because the Virgen was able to walk away, especially if she didn't care to listen to someone's prayers. Currently at LACMA, a Catholic organization is protesting the work of Yolanda Lopez in the exhibition Road To Atzlan.

JJ:Have you been receiving a lot of support from other artists?

Alma:Yes. Artists have been very understanding and supportive. Many have written emails/letters, and are defending me on the web and community. At the opening in Santa Fe, there was an exhibition in support of my work. My artists neighbors are looking out for my safety, and have provided me with keys to their homes in case I need a safe place to sleep.

JJ: What other galleries have challenged your art ?

Alma:No where have I received this strong reaction. However, I did receive some reaction from an exhibition at Casa de Souza in Olvera Street for exhibiting the series "Lupe & Sirena " and one of my digital murals were tagged with Biblical quotes at the Galeria de la Raza in the Mission District in San Francisco.

JJ: What are your future projects ?

Alma: I just want to do more visual work. I have plenty of ideas and lots of friends who are eager to pose for imagery.

JJ:Can you offer any advice to other striving artists ?

Alma: Be true to yourself. It is difficult sometimes to present ourselves honestly because we become vulnerable to criticism, but it is the most rewarding to walk in our own truths. The lesson I've learned recently is that as an artist I may have an intented meaning in the work, but how it is perceived by an audience depends on their experiences and their hearts. It is not even about me and my work, so I am careful since I have been threatened but I try not to take it personal.