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Cecilia Concepción

Alvarez
(1950- )
Biography
Cecilia Alvarez was born in 1950 to Cuban Jorge Guillermo Alvarez and
Mexican Cecilia Alejandra Diego de Alvarez in National City, California.
She grew up in both San Diego, California and Ensenada, Baja California,
Mexico - this cultural and political ménage as well as her Cuban-Mexican
heritage is what has been the main influence to most of her work (Alvarez,
2008). According to Alvarez, where she grew up “there was another
aspect of ourselves that we cultivated, how we fit into the universe, telling
jokes, music, laying tile, whatever it was that evolved that whole ability to
think of our humanity” (Jenna, 2006) While attending San Diego State
University in pursuit of a sociology degree, she had to drop out in order to
support her family at the age of twenty-three. It was not until Alverez
moved to Canada that she was able to think freely - this distance between
her and the Chicano community provided her with the necessary space to
organize and “see racism in a different light and to grow as an individual”
(Ruiz and Korrol, 2006). Currently, Alvarez lives in Seattle, Washington
with her husband and two children.
Alvarez’s Work
 Alvarez’s focus is on the family and the “feminine” as
a metaphor in general life and society - “the literal
meaning of gender to portray the aspects of life that
are considered inferior or less important in…society.
Female perspectives on the symbolic things people
give up to survive, such as culture and earth” (Ruiz
and Korrol, 2006). Alvarez’s work is a dialogue on
reality as well as human progression within specific
communities. She redefines the “feminine,” beauty,
power and prominence within societal schemas.
Main Idea
 The majority of her work has an underlying theme of the
commoditization of culture and family that occurs within the
Chicano community, particularly within the border society she
grew up with in San Diego. Alvarez found that recent immigrants
sacrifice these two very important aspects of life in order to
survive in a very turbulent political atmosphere and new culture.
She takes this theme and focuses on sending the message of
preserving culture and family - not sacrificing it as many do. Her
artwork has “culture, often depicted as family figures or
indigenous figures, and the Earth, represented by flowers or
animals. The use of family figures and the Earth is an important
aspect of her ideas on the preservations of culture and
community” (Ruiz and Korrol, 2006).
In Focus
 Many claim that her strength within this discourse is to
“incorporate the observer into a dialogue of current social
issues within the context of culture” (Ruiz and Korrol, 2006).
The next few slides will be analyses of several pieces of her
work that exemplifies this as well as forces the viewer to
think inward about their place in society, how these certain
social issues affect them, and how they react to these
issues when presented to them in real life.
Si Te Puede Pasar a Ti, EL SIDA,
1992
 Originally intended as an installation piece, El SIDA can
also be viewed as a painting and is just as effective. As
mentioned earlier, Alvarez uses the image of a woman
to depict the idea of the feminine. This piece does
contain the underlying theme of family, as it is a mother
and child, but that is not the main point she is
portraying. Both the woman and child are half fully
fleshed and half skeletal - demonstrating the
inescapability and inevitability of death. Simultaneous
to this bold statement is the idea of control over death:
the woman is holding out a condom. Which has many
connotations of STI’s as well as abortion. The condom
is a symbol of power, ability to prevent the spread of
infections as well as preventing pregnancy - control
over life, sickness, and death.
La Tierra Santa, 1986
In La Tierra Santa, there is the familiar figure of a woman
in a defensive stance holding out her hand, palm-up, as if
to say, “STOP!” The picture to the right shows the Earth
teeming full of different beasts huddling underneath their
protector. The Earth and the moon are known to be
feminine objects in many cultures. The moon in this piece
acts like a type of halo, sanctifying the feminine. This
piece in particular is about the mother protecting her own.
She is holding a child, showing that hurting the Earth is to
hurt your children, the next generation. Finally, there are
three indigenous figures peeking out from her sides as she
protects them as well. The message of this piece says that
the people of the Earth are just as sacred; to kill the
animals and the people is to kill your children and the land
itself.
Other Works

Above: Las Quatas Diego, 1979


Left: La Malinche Tiene sus Rasones
Links
 Artist’s Website: http://ceciliaalvarez.com/
 Short Video Lecture Given by Alvarez
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl7mUJSGLOM&eurl=http
Bibliography
Alvarez, Cecilia C. (2003-2008). Cecilia Alvarez. Retrieved
November 26, 2008, from Chicana Artist: Cecilia Alvarez Web
site: http://ceciliaalvarez.com/

Jenna (2006, Oct. 18). The Art of Cecilia Alvarez. Retrieved


November 26, 2008, from Brown Bag Lecture Series Web site:
http://www.edcc.edu/afterwords/?p=120

Ruiz, V, & Korrol, V (2006). Latinas in the United States: A


Historical Encyclopedia.Indiana University Press.

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