Linda Vallejo Bends Race and Represents Mexicans in an Anglo-Saxon Context

“Make ‘Em All Mexican” is a collection of mixed-media artwork by Linda Vallejo. The collection consists of Western and American icons–such as the Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe, and the goddess Venus–reimagined as Mexican.

On the Artist Statement Section of her website, Vallejo explains that she created these pieces of art in order to represent contemporary images through a Chicano lens. By taking a famous image of Marilyn Monroe, giving her a Mexican appearance, and renaming her “Marielena,” Vallejo blurs the lines between race differences and  reappropriates American culture as Mexican. Opting away from subtlety and towards irony, Vallejo injects existing iconic images with a racially charged quality, making race impossible to ignore while, paradoxically, shattering racial implications on social status and cultural connections.

Vallejo’s artwork receives varying reactions. “The Make ‘Em All Mexican series carries a strong electric charge,” Vallejo writes. “To some viewers, the images are hyper-political; for others, they are emotional portals to a past remembered and sometimes forgotten; and for another group, they are just down right hilarious.

Two particular pieces–a brown Statue of Liberty and a piece titled “Little Fourth of July Princess”–make us question whether or not Chicanos could be “All-American” and whether that implies a rejection or exaltation of our Mexican culture. On a different level, these two revolutionary pieces make Mexicans feel included in a country which has a history of rejecting us, deporting us back, and keeping us out.

“Make ‘Em All Mexican leads you down an ironic path to find yourself confronted by some of the most difficult questions of our time,” Vallejo explains.

The artistic statement on her website recognizes these questions:  “‘Do race, color, and class define our status in the world?’ ‘Is it possible to be a part of and earnestly contribute to multiple cultures simultaneously?’  ‘Does color and class define our understanding and appreciation of culture?’”

Vallejo shatters the American and Mexican border–physically and figuratively. She reimagines a world where Western culture and Mexican culture are one, and where Mexicans have a place in a global world.

Her artwork is currently on display at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center (144 Haines Hall) until Friday, March 20th.

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