Alma Lopez is a Mexican-born Chicana: she was born in Mexico and raised in the United States. Her family moved from Los Mochis, Mexico to Los Angeles when she was young, and they would make frequent trips back to Mexico. Like many Latinos, Lopez’s childhood traversed the US/Mexico border and exposed her to the rich and complex imagery of both cultures, Mexican and Chicana(o). As a result, she became very influenced by Latina(o)/Chicana(o) muralists, specifically by Chicana feminist artists.
Alma Lopez had been creating art throughout her childhood and didn’t stop creating when she graduated high school. In college, the decision to follow the path to become an artist was difficult because like many first generation college students, she felt an impulse to be profitable and useful for herself, her family and her community. From this perspective, a career in the fine arts did not seem like the most sensible choice for giving back.
When I looked around I thought, I don’t know if this art thing is going to be the best choice…perhaps I should be a doctor or a lawyer, but I know that I just had a, it wasn’t just like a want, it was more like a desire and a need to do art and create images… and so I remember speaking with my mom about it…and my mom never had the opportunity to go on to university or anything like that…so her advice was…”Mija, you know, do whatever you want because it’s your life…but you need to take care of yourself” – Alma Lopez
Inherent in the need to be an artist lies the need to see, visualize and Inherent in the need to be an artist lies the need to see, visualize and express oneself as a part of one’s community. According to Alma Lopez, artists hold a responsibility to learn about who they are, the culture they come from and how those ideas can be positioned and expressed in contemporary culture. Her need to create and “do” stems from this desire to know herself and her community. For this reason Alma Lopez chose to be an artist: to represent her culture.
La Briosa y La Medusa
Alma Lopez, like many Chicanas, grew up watching Lucha Libre with iconic, masked wrestlers like El Blue Demon and El Santo. She noticed early on that while men have ruled over sports throughout history, women have had a presence of their own, even in Lucha Libre. Inspired, Lopez began researching into the Mexican female masked wrestlers of the 1970s and 1980s. La Briosa y La Medusa is intended to mimic a traditional 1970s wrestling event poster with a focus on one of these female masked wrestlers, La Medusa. La Medusa was a woman born in 1958 in Coahuila de Zaragoza, her name was Alicia Muñoz Alvarado. At 17, Alvarado’s mother introduced her to live Lucha Libre matches after her family moved to Monterrey, Nuevo León. After witnessing a match between Chabela Romero and Toña La Tapatia vs. Irma Gonzalez and Lupita Lara, Alvarado was inspired to become a Luchadora herself. Without her parent’s permission, she began training with Bulldog Villegas. Wanting to keep her identity a secret during fights, she created her own Lucha mask, La Medusa, for her first match in 1977. On May 27th, 1979, Alicia Muñoz Alvarado lost her mask to La Briosa.
La Briosa y La Medusa is inspired by the Luchadora story of Alicia Muñoz Alvarado: upon witnessing another individual like herself flourish by following her dream, Alvarado became inspired to take a chance to follow her own. Alma Lopez chose to place a “selfie” of her nieces in the background of La Briosa y La Medusa because their gaze brought to mind that experience that was fundamental to Alicia Muñoz Alvarado’s success. Watching a person succeed is essential to the growth of a young person because they witness the possibility of pursuing a passion that might not have been considered a possibility before.
According to Alma Lopez, there is still a great lack of proper education for young people in the contemporary world, especially regarding the inclusion of women in the greatest movements in history. Women have been present throughout every revolution and have played crucial roles as revolutionaries and activists. Like Lucha Libre matches, the public is often unaware of women’s participation in these “masculine” events and activities. Alma Lopez believes it is important to highlight this information to young women, and even to young boys so they are aware that they have counterparts who have been historically influential in effecting change as well. By educating, inspiring and encouraging children to discover and pursue their own passions, we can realize a more creative and diverse world for future generations.Written by: Natalie Villarreal February 10th, 2015
For more information on Alma Lopez, visit almalopez.net or watch her speak of her life and work through her Serie Project Artist in Residence interview:
The Serie Project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department, by the Texas Commission on the Arts, and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Art Works.