Celia Alvarez Muñoz collected many images for inspiration on her print Quince: traditional quinceañera tiaras, contemporary tattoos, and graffiti books. She calls this “visual shopping” and keeps the clippings around her home and her studio to constantly aid her image development. “You have to allow the work to tell you what it wants to be,” says Muñoz of her creative process.
In her artwork, the word “quince” is curved into an arch to mimic the shape of a tiara, while the gradation of color within the letters is like the unveiling or presentation of la quinceañera at her celebration. Scroll designs decorate the Helvetica font in the same way young women decorate themselves with cosmetics and fancy clothing for their quinceañeras. Scrolls also prevent the letters from appearing dull, for Muñoz realizes that artists “are always entertaining the eye as well.” The red rose, a traditional tattoo image, is symbolic of coming-of-age. It carries sweet and sexual innuendos such as the rose opening from a small bud or the deflowering of a young woman, both paralleling a quinceañera’s development. The scrolling vines mimic the elaborate decorations on tiaras. Also, according to Muñoz, vines grow and attach themselves to new things the same way a young woman will step outside of her family to form new roots. The blue bird represents fertility, as birds help spread seeds. To Muñoz, getting a tattoo and celebrating one’s fifteenth birthday are both rights of passage. She placed the tattoo on the lower back because “it’s really sexy and…that’s what that age is about…sexual awakening.”
Celia Alvarez Muñoz, a pioneer in the Chicano Art Movement of the 1960s and 70s, was born in El Paso, TX. She received her B.A. from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1964 and her M.F.A. in 1982 from the University of North Texas. Muñoz participated in Serie V, creating the print Tolido. And no, she does not have any tattoos of her own.