Yolanda Lopez

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Yolanda M. López
Born 1942
Nationality American
Education San Diego State University,
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
Movement Bay Area Chicano Art Movement

Yolanda M. López (born 1942) is an American painter, printmaker, educator and film producer living in San Francisco, California. She is known for her work that focuses on the experience of Mexican American women and often challenges ethnic stereotypes associated with them.


Yolanda López is a third-generation Chicana.[1] López and her two younger siblings were raised by her mother and her maternal grandparents in San Diego, California.[2]

After graduating from high school in Logan Heights, she moved to San Francisco and became involved in the student movement that shut down San Francisco State University in a 1968 strike called the "Third World Strike". She also became active in the arts.[1] During this time period, López became aware of her position within the community as she is quoted saying, "I did not become aware of our own history until 1968 when there was a call for a strike at San Francisco State, a strike for ethnic studies. I heard the men and women that led that Third World Strike speak and I understood at that point what my position was being part of this long legacy of being part of the oppressed people, just like Black people."[1]

During the 1970s, López returned to San Diego. She enrolled at San Diego State University in 1971, graduating in 1975 with a B.A. in painting and drawing. She enrolled at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), receiving with a Master of Fine Arts in 1979.[3][4] While at the University of California, San Diego, her professors Allan Sekula and Martha Rosler encouraged her to focus on conceptual practice with social, political, and educational impact.[5]

Artist René Yañez married Yolanda M. Lopez in the late 1970s, they lived together in San Francisco's Mission district and they had a child, artist Río Yañez (born 1980).[1] They eventually divorced a few years later but Yolanda moved into the apartment next door and they maintained a professional relationship.[1] After 40 years of living in her home, in 2014, she and her family faced eviction through the Ellis Act. In response, she created a series of "eviction garage sales" to comment on issues of gentrification and cultural heritage in San Francisco. [6]


López obtained international celebrity for her Virgen de Guadalupe series of drawings, prints, collage, assemblage, and paintings. The series, which depicted "ordinary" Mexican women (including her grandmother and López herself) with Guadalupan attributes (usually the mandorla), attracted praise for "sanctifying" average Mexican women, who were depicted performing domestic and other labor. The 1978 triptych oil pastel drawings depict herself and her family members as Virgin de Guadalupe-esque figures, where López depicts herself clutching a snake while stepping on an angel, a symbol of the patriarchy.[7] Critics, particularly devotees of the Virgin, objected to the series, which they viewed as a sacrilegious debasement of a holy image.[citation needed]

Woman's Work is Never Done is another set of prints. One of the series prints collection, one of which, "The Nanny", attempted to study some problems faced by immigrant women of Hispanic descent in the United States. The work was featured at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.[5]

Her famous political poster titled Who's the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim? features an angry young man in an Aztec headdress and traditional jewelry holding a crumpled-up paper titled "Immigration Plans." This 1978 poster was created during a period of political debate in the U.S. which resulted in the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1978, which limited immigration from a single country to 20,000 people per year with a total cap of 290,000.[8] With this poster, she claims that the modern descendants of the Aztecs and their neighbors have a fundamental right to immigrate freely to the United States of America and Canada because Spain claimed much of the western portion of North America as its colonial territory.[citation needed]

López has also curated exhibitions, including "Cactus Hearts/Barb Wired Dreams", which featured works of art concerning immigration to the United States. The exhibition debuted at the Galería de la Raza and subsequently toured nationwide as part of an exhibition called "La Frontera/The Border: Art About the Mexico/United States Border Experience".[citation needed]

López has produced two films, Images of Mexicans in the Media and When you Think of Mexico, which challenge the way the mass media depicts Mexicans and other Latin Americans.[citation needed]

She served as director of education at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco, and has taught at University of California, Berkeley, Mills College, and Stanford University.[5]

According to López, "It is important for us to be visually literate; it is a survival skill. The media is what passes for culture in contemporary U.S. society, and it is extremely powerful. It is crucial that we systematically explore the cultural mis-definition of Mexicans and Latin Americans that is presented in the media."[9]


1993 - "La Frontera / The Border: Art about the Mexico/United States Border Experience," Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

1997 - "Mirror, Mirror... Gender Roles and the Historical Significance of Beauty," San Jose Museum of Art.

2008 - "A Declaration of Immigration," National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago.

2008 - "Yolanda López," Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, San Francisco.

2011 - "Mex/L.A.: "Mexican" Modernisms in Los Angeles, 1930-1985," Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach.

2017 - 2018 - "Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985," Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and Brooklyn Museum, New York.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Shaping San Francisco". Shaping SF. 2014. Retrieved 2015-04-21. 
  2. ^ Ruiz, Vicki L. (1998). From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth Century America. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513099-5. 
  3. ^ Frock, Christian. "Mission artist Yolanda López puts eviction on display". www.sfgate.com. SFGate. 
  4. ^ LaDuke, Betty (1992). Women Artists Multi-Cultural Visions. New Jersey: The Red Sea Press, Inc. pp. 103–112. ISBN 0-932415-78-4. 
  5. ^ a b c Radical women : Latin American art, 1960-1985. Fajardo-Hill, Cecilia,, Giunta, Andrea,, Alonso, Rodrigo,, Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center,, Brooklyn Museum,, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (Project). Los Angeles. ISBN 9783791356808. OCLC 982089637. 
  6. ^ "Mission artist Yolanda López puts eviction on display". SFGate. Retrieved 2018-03-09. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Carlos Francisco (2009). Chicana and Chicano Art: ProtestArte. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. p. 117. ISBN 9780816526475. 
  8. ^ "Immigration Statistics: A Story of Neglect". books.nap.edu. 1985. p. 20. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  9. ^ "Yolanda Lopez". UCSB Library. 2011-08-19. Retrieved 2018-03-09. 

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