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When I think of Juana Alicia, one image keeps coming into clearer focus. Juana Alicia standing in front of her mural at the Mime Troupe Building, posing for a photo, wearing a black skirt, black-heeled boots, and a soft yellow blouse. Click. At that moment she leaned back on the mural and, not knowing what to do with her hands she rested them flat on it. I became awed at the smallness of her hands, there on the massive wall, her labor, her creation, her art. . . .
Juana Alicia's art being effective in opening itself to the viewer, one has no recourse but to focus visually, mentally and emotionally. As viewer, I become involved in and with the art.
Reflective art, the art of reflecting day-to-day life, the experience becoming the passion of the artist, the heat spilling onto the canvas then given back to the viewer as something familiar. This quality engages us in Juana Alicia's work . . .
When I look at these portraits individually, each one tells its own story and develops its own character in the art piece. When these works are placed in the same exhibit I cannot help but look at their commonality as well as their distinctiveness. Again, the choice of color is so similar, many pinks, blues, shades of red blending into lavenders and purples. The color scheme creating a strong depth of mood and tone without the pinks working themselves into a girlish effect. Womanhood then, is addressed without the subject minimizing the theme to frilly femininity. Each portrait being its own self and each portrait being one of many selves. . . .
Juana Alicia is the most prolific muralist in San Francisco . . . [her] mural work addresses the most important audience, the community. The community expanding outside the traditional gallery exhibit into the Mission District of the City, extending into college and cultural centers in Sonoma and San Mateo counties, Gilroy (which borders the Salinas farm valley), and across national borders into Nicaragua. Expansion means diversifying the audience. The mural, always inviting the immediate community to pick up the brush and spin the scaffolding into the sky. Juana Alicia's murals, vivid with vibrant tropical colors, from Las Lechugeras to Cultura Sin Fronteras.
Las Lechugeras, on York Street at 24th, migrant fieldworking women, focal character stooping in the harvest we see a fetus inside her belly as cropper planes spray pesticides on the fields. . . . Color and form have attracted us to this art, made us take a step forward to examine closely and pushed us back to see the totality of Juana Alicia's work. Taking a step back we can see symbols and themes of time, life, culture, gender, contemplation, death and the urgent struggle for survival. Woman as a character in Juana's art becomes a metaphor for life and not just a portrayal of woman's condition. Juana Alicia's passion for life exudes onto her work, her concern for humanity urges us, the viewers, to reflect on our personal quest for justice.
Juana Alicia, her color is Russian Jewish Mexican Chicana, Detroit growing up tones and Salinas farmworker labor earthtones. Justino's mom. Daniel's hermana. Emmanuel's companera. Artist. Muralist. Hot vermillion heart. Passion. Juana's vision rises above the personal and as one woman gazing at her mural, New World Tree at the Mission Pool said, "Gives me hope for humanity."
--Margarita Luna Robles, poet writer in residence at Platano Flats Jazz Conservatory, Iowa City, Iowa.
Pinturaltura, Vermillion Blues Spilling and spinning the scaffolding from the poem Califas Norte: Juanalicia Finishing Her Mural at the SF Mime Troupe's Headquarters (the old Fantasy Records Bldg.), 1985, by Juan Felipe Herrera.
copyright 1988, Galeria de la Raza/Studio 24
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