Yolanda Lopez’s Grandmother

Well known Chicana artist Yolanda Lopez died recently, bringing her unapologetically political art back into view.  One of her most famous works is a triptych of herself, her mother, and her grandmother as contemporary versions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.  She applied iconic elements of the Virgin’s image—the radiating light beams and starry cloak—to ordinary women.  In an interview Lopez said, “I feel living, breathing women deserve the respect and love that is lavished on Guadalupe.  It is time to see these hardworking women as the heroines of our daily lives.” (Feminist Studies, Spring 1994, p. 121).

Lopez’s grandmother, Victoria Franco, was the household manager of the family.  She cooked, cleaned, and maintained a large vegetable garden while her own daughter earned money as a maid and garment worker. These portraits show a tired older woman in very plain cotton house dresses, pinned at the neck with modest jewelry.  Her hair is pulled back into a bun and she wears old fashioned eyeglasses. There is nothing romanticized about these portraits, almost the opposite of the cheerful granny image that permeated American advertising. Nonetheless, they clearly radiate strength.  It is easy to see Franco as a heroine of daily life.

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