Yreina Cervantez

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Yreina Cervantez
Born1952 (age 69–70)
EducationUniversity of California, Santa Cruz, University of California, Los Angeles
Notable work
La Ofrenda

Yreina Cervantez (born 1952) is an American artist and Chicana activist who is known for her multimedia painting,[1] murals, and printmaking. She has exhibited nationally and internationally,[2] and her work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum,[3] The Mexican Museum,[4] the Los Angeles County Museum, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.[5]


Cervantez was born in Garden City, Kansas[5] and raised in Mount Palomar, California.[6] Cervantez's mother was creative and served as an artistic inspiration to her daughter.[7] Her childhood was spent in culturally segregated, rural areas and exposure to the conservative attitude of these neighborhoods inspired Cervantez to later join the Chicana/o movement.[7] Later her family moved to Orange County.[7]

During high school, she focused on her watercolor skills.[7] Cervantez received a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz and in 1989 graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with an MFA.[6] A founding member of the Los Angeles art collective Self Help Graphics, Cervantez spent six years working for this non-profit dedicated to supporting community artwork.[5][7] In 1987, Cervantez's work was shown in Chicago at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum.[8] Her work was also part of the CARA project and traveling exhibition which opened in 1983 and had its final venue in 1994.[9] Cervantez was a cast member of the feminist film, Define (1988), by O.Funmilayo Makarah.[10] Between 1990 and 1993, she worked as a coordinator at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.[5] Cervantez is currently a professor emerita of Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge.[5]


Cervantez's work often includes a rich visual vocabulary that draws inspiration from pre-Columbian history, Central American politics, the urban landscape of Los Angeles and sometimes herself, as a viewer of what she is painting.[11] She overlaps two different "worlds," one of the present and another of the past, creating a visual space where ideologies are explored and examined.[11] She uses the visual language of Aztlan to create a new artistic vocabulary.[12]

Growing up, Cervantez did not see many Latina images in popular culture and because of this, her portraits of Latina women and her self-portraits became an important part of her work.[13] Cervantez's self-portraits show an artist that is at once whole and fragmented, experiencing nepantla.[11] Cervantes often uses the self-portrait technique in order to explore cultural identity.[14] In many of her self-portraits, she continues to blend contemporary culture with Aztec and mesoamerican imagery.[6] Cervantez uses much of this type of iconography of the past in order to update the symbols and create a modern feminist perspective.[15] Her female figures are often described as "inspiring representations of female agency."[12] Cervantez's art is also concerned with helping the viewer recognize that Chicanos are already in their own "ancestral homelands" and are actually not "immigrants" to the United States.[1]

Cervantez has also created many large-scale murals in Los Angeles[16] and is considered a pioneer of the Chicana mural movement.[6] She was involved with designing and painting part of The Great Wall of Los Angeles, which is thought to be the longest mural in the world.[17] Cervantez has been a major influence on artist Favianna Rodriguez, who was so impressed with a printmaking class she took with Cervantez that she quit school to become a full-time artist.[18]


  1. ^ a b Pérez, Laura E. (9 August 2007). "Legacies of Im/migration: Yreina Cervantez's Tierra Firme and La Ruta Turquesa". Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities. Duke University Press Books. ISBN 978-0822338680.
  2. ^ "Guest Artists". Public Art in LA. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Estrella of the Dawn, from the National Chicano Screenprint Taller, 1988–1989". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  4. ^ "The Mexican Museum Introduces Additions to Its Arts & Letters Council". Yahoo! Finance. 2 August 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Barraza, Santa (4 September 2012). "Exhibit Features Work by Chicana Artist Yreina Cervantez". Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Freese, Lauren M. (2013). "Frida Kahlo and Chicana Self-Portraiture: Maya Gonzalez, Yreina D. Cervantez, and Cecilia Alvarez". Iowa Research Online. University of Iowa. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Ho, Christopher (7 November 2011). "CSUN Professor Paints her Way Through Male-Dominated Art Industry". The Sundial. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  8. ^ Quirarte, Jacinto (1991). "Exhibitions of Chicano Art: 1965 to the Present". In Castillo, Richard Griswold Del; McKenna, Teresa; Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne (eds.). Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965–1985. Los Angeles: Wight Art Gallery. p. 174. ISBN 0943739152.
  9. ^ "Companeros and Partners: The CARA Project". Americans for the Arts. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  10. ^ McMahon, Kevin. "Define". UCLA Film & Television Archive. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Barnet-Sánchez, Holly (2001). "Where are the Chicana Printmakers?". Just Another Poster? Chicano Graphic Arts in California (in English and Spanish). Santa Barbara, California: University Art Museum, University of California. pp. 117–149. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  12. ^ a b Braysmith, Hilary A. (13 September 2013). "Constructing Athletic Agents in the Chicano/a Culture of Los Angeles". In Wood, David; Johnson, P. Louise (eds.). Sporting Cultures: Hispanic Perspectives on Sport, Text and the Body. Routledge. p. 45. ISBN 9781317991328.
  13. ^ Garcia, B (11 April 2011). "Events: 'Selected Works in Paper' by Yreina D. Cervantez". The Monitor. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  14. ^ Keller, Gary D. (2004). Chicano Art for Our Millennium. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press. p. 86. ISBN 1931010250.
  15. ^ McCaughan, Edward J. (28 March 2012). Art and Social Movements: Cultural Politics in Mexico and Aztlan. Duke University Press Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-0822351825.
  16. ^ Goldman, Shifra M. (1994). Dimensions of the Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin America and the. ISBN 9780226301242.
  17. ^ Tannenbaum, Barbara (26 May 2002). "Where Miles of Murals Preach a People's Gospel". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Favianna and the New Print Revolution". East Bay Express. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015.

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