Surrealist and magical-realist painter Frida Kahlo might be the leading Latina artist in history, and, not unwarranted, her legacy has lived on for years. Born in Coyoacán, Mexico, in 1907, Frida’s work is well known for being inspired by Mexico’s popular culture.
Just as it occurs in any discipline, art history has been written by people who consciously decide to leave certain groups out of the frame, especially women and Latin American folks. As Dr. Tickner states in her review of The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work, “women’s relations to culture in patriarchal societies, is neither new nor resolved.”
Then, it is not surprising that the most widely recognized Latin American female painter is Kahlo. And her global support, admiration, and character as an identity staple further prove that “virtually,” there were no other female painters.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Latin American women have been tirelessly painting, creating, singing, and advocating for equality and social justice. In fact, The Hammer Museum had a special exhibition and digital archive with the works of 120 Latin American women artists and collectives.
Here are five Latina Artists that deserve just as much recognition as Kahlo:
Cuban-born painter, photographer, performance artist, sculptor, and video artist, Mendieta left Havana when she was 13 years old in 1961. Her life inspired her work, and it developed as a study on displacement, its effects on a person’s soul, feminism, violence, life, death, identity, place, and belonging. Her legacy was befogged by her sudden and tragic death in 1985. The New York Times, in a 2018 published obituary, read, “Mendieta’s art, sometimes violent, often unapologetically feminist and usually raw, left an indelible mark before her life was cut short.”
Cuban-American visual artist and abstract and minimalist painter, Herrera’s work was not recognized until the age of 89 when she began selling her first paintings. The artist had to pause her architectural studies at the University of Havana due to the Castro Revolution. Having settled in New York, her paintings are crisp, clean works of abstract geometrical minimalism that are yet lined with warmth, intellect, strength, and life. Last month, she passed away at 106 years of age.
Venezuelan-born American painter based in California; Hurtado first became interested in art after concentrating on the subject in high school. Hurtado’s work dives into themes of feminism and environmentalism, influenced by an array of art movements. After nearly eight decades of effort and keeping her work as an “independent pursuit,” the painter ultimately started receiving the recognition she deserved for her pieces. In 2019, Hurtado was listed in TIME 100’s most influential people and received the Americans for the Arts Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award. Hurtado passed away in August 2020.
Tarsila do Amaral
Born in 1886 in São Paulo, Brazil, Amaral was a painter, draftswoman, and translator. She is considered one of the leading Latin American modernist artists, often deemed as the painter who best achieved Brazilian aspirations for nationalistic expression in a modern style. Abaporu, one her most influential works, combines two words from the language of the Tupi-Guarani Indians: aba (“man”) and poru (“who eats human flesh”).
Chicana visual artist, López was born in 1942 in San Francisco, California. As an American painter, printmaker, educator, and film producer, López is widely recognized for her series of paintings that re-imagined the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, which incorporates appropriation (the act of borrowing known ideas or images and transmuting them in form or context to interrogate their presumed meaning). Passing away in September 2021 at 78, she has established her legacy as the Chicana artist who redefined Latinas in visual arts.
If history has taught women anything, it is that we must review it. Carefully, critically, and thoroughly to ensure we are included and represented. It is terribly reductive to lessen the impact of female painters in Latin America to a single figure. The fact that this still occurs today only confirms the incredible obstacles and challenges that women have had to fight to get recognized in the artistic sphere.