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Artist and Activist

September 28, 2021

Yolanda López died September 3, 2021. She was 78. Six weeks after her death the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego opens a previously scheduled exhibit of her work. The museum calls Lopez “one of the most important Chicano/a/x artists who worked in California over the past five decades.”

As an artist she is best known for her 1978 painting “Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe.” She created many versions of the Virgin of Guadalupe that celebrated working-class Chicanas of different ages and body types. Images included a version of her heavyset mother mending the Virgin’s mantle at a sewing table. Another has her grandmother seated on top of the piled fabric as if it’s a throne, casually holding a knife and a snakeskin.

A dedicated feminist and activist in the Chicano movement, López also made explicitly political work. In 1978, she created a poster for the Committee on Chicano Rights that finds hypocrisy in much anti-immigration sentiment by showing a man in an Aztec headdress pointing to the viewer like Uncle Sam with the message “Who’s the illegal alien, PILGRIM?” Her artistry reflected her passion for social justice.