Considered one of the most important Chicana artists and activists in California over the last half-century, the late Yolanda López was best known for her 1978 painting Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe, a self-portrait that depicts her as the Virgin Mary running in white sneakers and holding a rattlesnake in her hand.
On September 3, López died at the age of 79, never having had a solo exhibition in her career. That will change on October 16, 2021, when the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will host Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist, a retrospective of some of the work she created in the 1970s and 1980s.
The exhibition, which will include 50 works, “examines López’s profound influence as a feminist artist and activist whose works are characterized by their analysis, indelible imagery and wit.”
According to Alessandra Moctezuma, professor of fine art and Chicana studies at San Diego Mesa College, López’s most famous painting was a “symbol of Chicana women’s liberation” and a “rebellious adaptation” of a beloved figure in Mexican religion and culture.
“This work captured the rise of feminism, women who challenged patriarchal tradition to march at the beat of their own drum,” Moctezuma said. “López forged a balance between being artist, mother, activist; her personal life and art were intertwined with the struggles of her community. In her running shoes and adorned with a divine halo, she paved the way for us.”
Other works that will be displayed during Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist include Grandmother, from the series Tres Mujeres/Three Generations and Runner: On My Own! from the series ¿A Dónde Vas, Chicana?
Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist will be on view from October 16, 2021, to April 24, 2022.