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Thinking about Migration through latinx art

Wednesday 3 November, 5pm
The Yusuf Hamied Theatre
, Christ’s College (in-person lecture)

  • Prof. Charlene Villaseñor Black
  • UCLA Department of Art History
  • César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies
  • Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art, Oxford University (2021-22)


Can art effect political change, and if so, how? Can it move us to action, empathy, and hope? I consider these questions as I investigate Chicanx (Mexican American) artists’ responses to global migration, in particular, Los Angeles artist Sandy Rodriguez (born 1975). Her 2019 installation, You Will Not Be Forgotten, comprised of twenty works, was created with traditional Indigenous materials and techniques. Featuring an unusual series of portraits, it commemorates seven Central American child migrants who died in US Customs and Border Protection during 2018 and 2019. The portraits are unusual in Rodriguez’s artistic production and within the larger history of Chicanx art. I consider the process of the portraits’ creation, then place them in the context of practices of memorialization, both contemporary and historical, secular and sacred. What haunting ghosts rise to visibility? How is Rodriguez’s engagement with the past visible here? To deepen our understanding, I turn to theoretical considerations of memory, hospitality, trauma, and hope. Why talk about art in the face of such heart-wrenching injustice?


Charlene Villaseñor Blackis Professor of Art History and Chicana/o Studies and Central American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Associate Director of the Chicano Studies Research Center, editor of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, and founding editor-in-chief of Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture (LALVC, UC Press). She publishes on a range of topics related to the early modern Iberian world, Chicanx studies, and contemporary Latinx art. To date, she has won six awards for her editing work, including most recently, two awards recognizing LALVC as outstanding new journal. Her most recent book, with Dr. Mari-Tere Álvarez of the Getty Museum, is Renaissance Futurities: Art, Science, Invention, published in 2019. She recently co-edited the new Chicano Studies Reader (2020); Autobiography Without Apology: The Personal Essay in Latino Studies (2020); and Knowledge for Justice: An Ethnic Studies Reader (2019); in addition to editing Shifra M. Goldman’s final book, Tradition and Transformation: Chicana/o Art from the 1970s to the 1990s (2015). Her monograph on colonial saints, tentatively entitled Transforming Saints: Women, Art, and Conversion in Spain and Mexico, 1521-1800 is forthcoming from Vanderbilt University Press in early 2022. Her 2006 book, Creating the Cult of St. Joseph: Art and Gender in the Spanish Empire won the College Art Association’s Millard Meiss award. In 2016 she was awarded UCLA’s Gold Shield Faculty Prize for Academic Excellence, bestowed annually on one faculty member in recognition of exceptional teaching, innovative research, and strong commitment to university service. She has held grants from the Fulbright, Mellon, Borchard, and Woodrow Wilson Foundations, the NEH, the ACLS, and the Getty. Currently, she is PI of “Critical Mission Studies at California’s Crossroads,” a $1.03 million dollar grant from the University of California’s Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives; in addition to serving as PI of “Verdant Worlds: Exploration and Sustainability across the Cosmos,” funded through the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time initiative, Art x Science x LA. She will be at Oxford University this academic year as the Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art.

Figure: Sandy Rodriguez, Portrait of Jakelin Amei Rosemary Caal Maquin (age 7), natural pigments on amate paper, 2019, from You Will Not Be Forgotten, Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón