Visualizing what it means to be a person of color…
By Marianne McGrath
What an honor to interview artist Linda Vallejo! This interview is part of a series of interviews organized by the WCA Art Writers Group to highlight past leaders of Women’s Caucus for Art in celebration of our 50th Anniversary. Linda is one of the recipients of the 2022 Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. The Award recognizes the contributions of women to the arts and their profound effect on society. It honors the recipient’s work, their vision, and their commitment.
Linda Vallejo creates work that investigates contemporary cultural and political issues, visualizing what it means to be a person of color in the United States. Linda says that these works reflect what she calls her “brown intellectual property” — the experiences, knowledge, and feelings gathered over more than four decades of study of Latino, Chicano, and American indigenous culture and communities.
As the daughter of an Air Force officer, Linda moved many times during her childhood. From Los Angeles, where she was born, to Germany, Sacramento, and eventually to Montgomery, Alabama where she began high school “in an era defined by segregation, the Selma marches, and the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” She says, “it was then that I began to realize that skin color was a defining factor in how the world judges you and fixes your place in it.”
After a few years her family relocated again to Madrid, Spain, where she completed high school and she had the opportunity to explore art and architecture, as well as other modes of creative expression. Linda says, “I delighted in family visits to ancient Roman sites and Europe’s great museums. I was in pursuit of a language that could express universal equality, acceptance, and appreciation.” In 1969 Linda returned to Los Angeles to attend Whittier College, where she received her bachelor’s degree. She went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking at California State University, Long Beach.
Over the course of her long and prolific career,Linda’s work has been included in more than 100 group exhibitions, twenty solo exhibitions and can be found in the permanent collections of several Museums. Her solo exhibitions include LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes; Kean University: Karl & Helen Burger Gallery, Union, New Jersey; Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA; bG Gallery, Santa Monica; Texas A&M University Reynolds Gallery; Bert Green Fine Art, Chicago Il; UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Los Angeles, CA; Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA; the Soto Clemente Velez Cultural Center, New York; George Lawson Gallery, Los Angeles; University Art Gallery of New Mexico State University; Arte Americas in collaboration with the Fresno Art Museum and Central California Museum of Art Advisory Committee; and California State University, San Bernardino, Fullerton Museum of Art.
Linda’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, CA; the Museum of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA; Museo del Barrio, New York, NY; East Los Angeles College Vincent Price Museum, Los Angeles CA; National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago Il; Carnegie Art Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA; UC Santa Barbara, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA), Santa Barbara, CA; UCLA Chicano Study Research Center (CSRC), Los Angeles, CA; the California Digital Library; and the Arizona State University Library Archives.
Her most recent solo exhibition Brown Belongings was featured in the New York Times “Visualizing Latino Populations Through Art” by Jill Cowan, New York, NY (November 26, 2019) and in The Los Angeles Times “Linda Vallejo and a decade of art that unapologetically embraces brownness” by Matt Stromberg (June 20, 2019).Upcoming 2022 shows include University of British Colombia Museum of Anthropology and the National Hispanic Cultural Center in New Mexico where Make ‘Em All Mexican and The Brown Dot Project will be featured.
bell hooks entered my life when I was considering leaving Los Angeles and taking a break from acting. I had just guest-starred on the CBS network’s Judging Amy, in a role that was emotionally taxing and left me wondering what next? During my time on the show, which employed a fair amount of women at the time, placed in the presence of strong veteran women actresses. Many of whom spoke to me about seeing beyond my current role in the moment, but discovering what I wanted to represent in each moment of my life going forward. They saw something in me that caused me to stop and reevaluate my course. For the membership of the Women’s Caucus for Art, I’m sure the conversations surrounding what brought us here are similar–identity, representation, racism, and the genderless patriarchy. These are just a few of the intersecting ideologies that hooks both deconstructs and repudiates in her theories.
hook’s Remembered Rapture, a thoughtful book of essays on her life and writing practice, made it into my apartment one day and changed the trajectory of my life. It was her words from Ain’t I A Woman that resonated with me, and made me question how I wanted to show up in the world. hooks’ ideas and generosity with them, shone a light onto the deeply repressed memories of when I dared to be anything I wanted to be.
bell hooks’ words provided a light for our path, and the wisdom to recognize the societal gridlocks of oppression, especially found in images. Images that model for us a sense of place, that may or may not speak to us as women. However, in many ways the most profound insights she left of us with centered around radical love and controlling our own narrative.
If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it has taught us about seizing the moment, and making an impact. This year the Women’s Caucus for Art is celebrating 50 years of women in the arts. The theme for this year’s conference is Occupy the Moment: Embracing Our History, Enhancing Our Impact. The work of establishing new narratives, while evoking our own liberation, exists outside of the conditions of the male gaze. This is a radical act of self-love.
The upcoming winter 2022 issue of Artlinesexplores many of hooks’ poweful intersectional themes that were made famous within her scholarship, while inviting feminist artists to utilize their collective power to form community. Especially, as conduits for intergenerational and global connectivity within the arts, and on social landscapes. Therefore, in honor of bell hooks’ legacy, and the WCAs mission of supporting women, I encourage you to make radical love part of your activism.
Ruth Weisberg is a prolific multidisciplinary artist whose work traverses the genres of painting, drawing, and mural-sized installation. She has an avid interest in Jewish heritage and Feminist subject matter that oftentimes incorporates the female figure. Ruth is a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California and is the Former Dean of USC’s Roski School of Art and Design. She has received several awards for her work, such as the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award, a Printmaker Emeritus Award from the Southern Graphic Council International, and the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s 50th Anniversary Cultural Achievement Award. Professor Weisberg has also received such honors as Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College, and the College Art Association Distinguished Teaching of Art Award. Professor Weisberg received her BFA and MFA degrees from the University of Michigan, and a Laurea from the Accademia Di Belli Arte of Perugia, Italy. Her work is held in the permanent collections of over sixty museums nationally and internationally.