Artist: Alma Lopez
Exhibition Dates: November 11, 2000 – January 19, 2001
Love is heaven. Yet, growing up, we are told that when we participate in acts which have been labeled perverted, deviant, or sinful, we are going to hell. In Heaven a young woman rejects the institutionalized religious patriarchal system and gazes at her lover’s image in the golden heart brought to her by an angel. This image was created in the tradition of a retablo or ex-voto, which is a Mexican prayer painting typically done on tin. The retablo lends itself to an intimacy portraying personal themes that are important and sacred.
THERE WAS A PRINCESS AND A PRINCESA...
According to the Aztec legend, Popocapetl wanted to marry the Princess Ixtaccihuatl but to do so he had to earn his warrior feathers in battle. Upon his triumphant return, he finds that Ixta, believing he had died in battle, killed herself. Grieving, he takes her lifeless body in his arms to the highest mountains in Mexico so that the snowflakes would wake her. But she never wakes up and they both remained frozen, forming the now two famous snow-covered volcanoes in Mexico. Growing up in El Sereno, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, I would see this image of Popo & Ixta on murals, lowrider cars, and Low Rider magazine. Every December, the local bakery or restaurant would give our family at least one calendar with the image of this Mexican Romeo & Juliet myth. As an artist, I asked my two friends Cristina Serna and Mirna Tapia to help me recreate this familiar myth however, the two princesas are on the US / Mexico border.
AND THE STORY CONTINUES…
Even as I attempted to return to previous work such as my original project of 1848, images such as Lupe & Sirena in Love persisted. After some thought, I realized that these images were important to me in that they address and challenge images that I grew up with in my neighborhood. I am "re-imagining" these cultural icons from my own worldview as a Chicana Lesbian. For example, Ixta is a re-interpretation of the sexy Ixta draped over strong Popo’s arms as seen in murals or calendars. Tattoo refers to the tattooed men that have the image of the Virgin on their bodies. Mexican votive paintings inspired Retablo and Heaven. Old photographs of married couples are included in Pix. Diego, December 12, and Our Lady touch upon the myth of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego.
My life is special because it is shared with beautiful family and friends. This work was possible with the love and encouragement of so many friends, especially those beautiful beings who shared their body-image and a little soul-spirit: Jill A. Aguilar (Tattoo); Raquel Gutierrez & Raquel Salinas (Our Lady); Cristina Serna & Mirna Tapia (Ixta); Claudia Rodriguez & Stacy Macias (Heaven); Rigo Maldonado (Diego); and Noni Olabisi (Pix). Super special thanks to Raquel Gutierrez who posed for me for hours in the beginning when I was figuring things out. Special thanks to my dear friends and editors, Maria Elena Fernandez and Reina A. Prado, and my printer Pedro Rios Martinez. The Lupe & Sirena series was funded by a C.O.L.A. (City of Los Angeles) Individual Artist grant from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the California Community Foundation’s Brody Visual Artist Fellowship, and a California Arts Council Artist in Residency.