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Slice of Mexicana

Cultural center to showcase work of renowned Chicana artist, classic retablos

Carmen Lomas Garza, an internationally acclaimed artist whose work echoed the pride and ownership associated with the 1960s Chicano Movement, will present an impressive retrospective this weekend at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

The exhibition titled Carmen Lomas Garza: A Retrospective will open Saturday complete with many of Lomas Garza's best-known pieces that have become icons. Her work took on a more political tone because it was among the first in the United States to chronicle the daily life of Mexican-American families who had largely been ignored.

The San Jose Museum of Art organized the exhibit that provides a comprehensive look at the artist's work and will include 30 paintings, papel picado - or traditional Mexican paper cutouts - and a large Day of the Dead altar. The work will be on display at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 Fourth St. SW, through July 28.

Lomas Garza, who now lives in San Francisco, was raised in a Mexican-American community in Kingsville, Texas. She became an artist naturally, making her own loter°a, or Mexican bingo, cards and working on other craft projects with her mother and grandmother.

The artist earned a master's degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's degree in art from San Francisco State University. Her work, which was simple and honest in chronicling birthday parties, religious celebrations, family relationships and basic daily life was not always well-received in academic settings, but Lomas Garza ignored her critics and continued to develop her style.

Lomas Garza is now known for profoundly recognizing the beauty in chronicling a slice of Americana that had long been overlooked. Her activism and role in the Chicano movement centered more on a push for cultural understanding and political awareness rather than more radical reform.

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"We have been doing Chicano art not only for Chicanos but also for others to see who we are as people," Lomas Garza said in a Hispanic Cultural Center statement. "If you see my heart and humanity through my art then hopefully you will not exclude me from participating directly in this society."

Lomas Garza will deliver a slide lecture Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a book signing at 3:30 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Auditorium.

Saturday the cultural center also will unveil another major traveling exhibition, El Favor de los Santos, which includes 180 of the most significant Mexican retablos in the New Mexico State University collection. The exhibit also includes objects from Mexican and U.S. museums that place the retablo tradition in a better context.

Retablos are two-dimensional images of saints, holy figures or spiritual symbols that function as icons. They generally are not intended to be worshipped as objects, but rather function as mediators between humans and the divine.

The painted holy images are meant to inspire faith and devotion to the divine figures depicted, while acting as models of virtue.

Saints and holy figures popular in New Mexico, such as Santa Librada, Nuestra Se§ora de Refugio, San Ysidro Labrador and Santo Ni§o de Atocha appear in many of the retablos featured in the exhibition. El Favor de los Santos runs through August 18.

The art museum at the National Hispanic Cultural Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for senior citizens and free for people ages 16 and under. For more information, call 246-2261.

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