About Carmen Lomas Garza's
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTWORK
REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction is different
from the original artwork?
This is a digitized image, the original work is a gouache painting 15
inches high X 20 inches wide. The original belongs to Gilberto Cárdenas
and Deanna Rodríguez in Austin, TX. A reproduction of Cascarones
can also be found in a book written and illustrated by Carmen Lomas Garza
titled En Mi Familia/In My Family, Children's Books Press, San Francisco,
CONDITION: What can I determine about the condition of the artwork?
The work is in excellent condition.
SUBJECT MATTER: What can I determine about what the artwork depicts,
This painting illustrates the artist as a child decorating cascarones--Easter
eggs filled with confetti with her family around a large table. She sits
next to her mother and puts confetti into the eggshells. Carmen Lomas Garza,
as an adolescent, sits almost in the center of the painting. She wears
a red dress with tiny white flower pattern. Her eyes look down and are
focused on the confetti and turquoise egg that she holds in her hand.
Her mother wears glasses with white frames. She is the largest figure
in the composition. She wears a pastel pink dress with decorative black
patterned flowers. Her mother holds a yellow egg that she is decorating
with red designs. With a pleased expression, Carmen's mother gazes out
at the children. The other children assist in painting the eggs and cutting
the paper confetti. Next to her mother is Carmen's brother, avidly at work
painting designs on the dyed blue egg. He wears a long sleeve white tailored
shirt, blue jeans, and black sneakers.
Across from Carmen, is her sister who cuts the funny papers transforming
them into confetti. She has short black hair and wears a bright blue dress
with pink hibiscus-type flowers. A little bit of red confetti has fallen
onto the next to her black shoes. She faces Carmen. At the other end of
the table sits Carmen's other sister. She attentively paints a yellow egg,
decorating it with polka dots. She wears a red dress with a dark line-crossed
pattern. Carmen's brother is asleep next to her and rests his head on the
table. He wears a blue tee-shirt.
The family sits around a rectangular table covered with a white cloth.
On the table are red, green, blue, yellow, and orange crayons/pencils.
There are also two opened egg cartons with a few spaces yet to be filled.
There are two boxes filled with confetti, one box catches the clippings
of Carmen's sister and the other is used by Carmen. In front of Carmen's
mother is a pan used for dying the eggs, with a utensil sticking out of
the pan. Also on the table are the colored newspapers, some dyed eggs waiting
to be decorated, some decorated eggs waiting to be filled with confetti,
and also some patches used to cover the eggs.
There are pictures hung on the walls. On the left side of the painting
hangs a red calendar with a large pink flower against a yellow background.
On the right side of the painting hangs a framed picture of a scenic church.
A black and white cat sleeps under the table on an almost spotless wood
Directly behind Carmen, her brother, and her mother, is a large window
with a screen. On the inside of the window hangs white curtains decorated
with purple flowers and green stems. Above their heads loom two windows
that lead to the dark outside. Through the window, a tree's branches with
long leaves can be seen. The interior space is brightly lit.
TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can I learn about how the artwork
The artwork was painted with gouache. Gouache is a water-based paint
like tempera paint (poster paint) which dries quickly. A gouache painting
has a matte, rather than shiny, surface. When gouache dries, its color
has a tendency to dry lighter than when it was first painted.
Sensory Lesson Index
SENSORY ELEMENTS: What visual elements do I see?
Light is evenly distributed throughout the painting with few shadows.
Colors used in this painting are clear, bright, and vibrant. Shapes are
formed by various intricate patterns, such as in the Easter eggs, dresses,
and wood floor. Patterns are made using lines and color. The painting has
a smooth texture.
FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together?
The composition centers around the activities on the table. Carmen's
mother is the largest figure. Carmen is in the middle, right to left, and
slightly above center, top to bottom. The overlapping images create the
illusion of depth. The figures' dark hair and shoes facilitate visual movement
through the bright space. Rhythm is created by the numerous patterns such
as in the curtains and other textiles. The light of the interior is contrasted
with the dark heavy windows that lead to the outside night.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTMAKER
Carmen Lomas Garza was born in Kingsville, Texas in 1948. Her family
emigrated to the U.S. in order to escape the tribulations of the Mexican
Revolution early in this century. She is the second child of five children.
At a very early age she wanted to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
Her family supported her endeavors. Her mother, who inspired Lomas Garza,
was also an artist. Lomas Garza received her M.A. from San Francisco State
University. Much of Lomas Garza's work focuses on the traditions and daily
activities in Mexican-American culture.
"I was thirteen years old when I decided to become an artist. I
taught myself to draw by practicing every day. I drew whatever was in front
of me--books, cats, my left hand, my sisters and brothers, chairs, chilies,
paper bags, flowers--anything or anybody that would stay still for a few
minutes. . . . I have three college degrees. When I was in high school
I could hardly wait to graduate so I could go to college and study art.
. . ." En Mi Familia/In My Family, Carmen Lomas Garza, Children's
Books Press, San Francisco, Ca, 1996.
Lomas Garza has exhibited across the U.S. and other countries in both
galleries and museums. Her work is both in private and public collections
such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian Institution
in Washington, D.C.
FUNCTIONAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about how the artwork was used?
This painting documents a private activity from Carmen Lomas Garza's
childhood memories. The image can also be found in a children's book written
and illustrated by Lomas Garza. This is her second book for children. The
book is composed of Lomas Garza's writings and paintings of childhood memories
and family activities. The book functions as a nostalgic confirmation of
Chicana/o family traditions.
CULTURAL CONTEXT: What can I determine about what people thought, believed,
or did in the culture in which the artwork was made?
Carmen Lomas Garza paints a childhood memory of a family activity. The
family is an important component in Chicano culture. Religious beliefs
and activities function to build and reinforce family bonds. In her books
Lomas Garza presents a variety of Chicana/o family traditions and values.
The writing which accompanies the painting in her book is as follows:
"This is my parent's dining room. My mother and brothers and sisters
and I are gathered around a table decorating eggshells, cascarones,
for Easter Sunday. We would fill them with confetti, which we made by cutting
up newspapers and magazines.
On Easter Sunday, after church, we would go swimming. After swimming,
we'd eat, and after eating, we'd bring out the cascarones. We would
sneak up on our brothers or sisters or friends, break the cascarones
on their heads, and rub the confetti into their hair. Sometimes my brothers
would put flour into the eggshells, so that when they broke them on your
wet head, the flour would turn to paste. That's how sneaky my brothers
were sometimes." En Mi Familia/In My Family, Carmen Lomas Garza,
Children's Book Press, San Francisco, CA, 1996.
ARTWORLD CONTEXT: What can I learn about the art ideas, beliefs, and
activities that were important in the culture in which the artwork was
"To understand the aesthetic production of Chicanas, we must place
their cultural development in its historical framework. The twenty-five
years following the mid-1960s were an era in which all Chicanos sought
to define themselves and to understand the sources of their identity. The
sense of alienation and struggle that marked the discrimination experienced
by Chicanos also fueled the resistance so characteristic of Chicana/o art.
During the Chicano movement, the resistance of Chicanas to the cultural
oppression of the majority was matched by their resistance to the intra-cultural
roles through which males dominated many aspects of family life and the
arts community. Chicana artists focused on their cultural identity using
the female lenses of narrative, domestic space, social critique, and ceremony,
which filtered these nutrient experiences, contradictory roles, and community
structures." Amalia Mesa-Bains, 1991, "El Mundo Femenino: Chicana
Artists of the Movement--A Commentary on Development and Production,"
in C.A.R.A. Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, University
of California, Los Angeles, Wight Art Gallery, p.131.
VIEWPOINTS FOR INTERPRETATION
MAKER'S INTENTION: What can I learn about why the maker wanted the artwork
to look the way it does?
Carmen Lomas Garza focuses much of her work on the importance of family
interactions from her childhood recollections. Lomas Garza found support
and nurturing within her family at a time and place where racism was/is
prevalent. The solace of family life inspired her documentation of family
ritual activities. Focused on family and heritage, Lomas Garza completed
a series called Monitos (small figures). Through visual narrative,
Lomas Garza's Monitos series uses memory to record history.
"Most of my images are recollections of my childhood in South Texas.
Relatives and friends are depicted as remembered in everyday activities
or in unusual events such as a session with a faith healer or a fight."
Carmen Lomas Garza Website
"Every time I paint, it serves a purpose--to bring about pride
in our Mexican American culture. When I was growing up, a lot of us were
punished for speaking Spanish. We were punished for being who we were,
and we were made to feel ashamed of our culture. That was very wrong. My
art is a way of healing these wounds, like the sávila plant
(aloe vera) heals burns and scrapes when applied by a loving parent or
grandparent." En Mi Familia/In My Family, Carmen Lomas Garza,
Children's Book Press, San Francisco, CA, 1996.
Viewer Lesson Index
UNDERSTANDING: What can I determine about how the viewer, patron, or user
understood the artwork?
Amalia Mesa-Bains, a prominent writer about Chicana art and artists,
describes Carmen Lomas Garza's painting this way: "The details of
Lomas Garza's narratives signify the collective memories that make up an
important regional Chicano experience." She goes on to write that:
"Lomas Garza's device of flattening the figures is often perceived
to be part of an unconscious, naive folk style. It is instead, a deliberate
technique that reduces the external, formal elements that might distract
from the story telling itself." Amalia Mesa-Bains, 1991, "El
Mundo Femenino: Chicana Artists of the Movement--A Commentary on Development and Production," in C.A.R.A. Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation,
University of California, Los Angeles, Wight Art Gallery, pp. 135-136
The reviewer quoted on the back sleeve of In My Family/En Mi Familia
writes: "An authentic glimpse of Hispanic culture in the Southwest:
a beautiful book distinguished by the clean, crisp style and bright harmonious
colors of its art." Kirkus Reviews.
Another writer quoted on the book sleeve, a reviewer for the School
Library Journal , calls Lomas Garza's work "An inspired celebration
0f American cultural diversity . . . from the exquisite cut-paper images
on the text pages, to the brilliant paintings, to the strong family bonds
expressed in the text In My Family/En Mi Familia, is a visual feast,
and a aural delight."
CULTURAL IMPACT: What can I learn about how the artwork was understood
within culture in which it was made?
Cascarones illustrates a traditional Easter activity--the family
oriented decoration of the eggs. Viewers familiar with this activity, would
be reminded of their own familial memories. The importance of this painting,
based on cultural tradition and value, introduces Garza's social concerns
in a public realm.
"The telling of family tales and the recording of daily events
through recuerdos (memories), diaries, letters, and home altars call upon
women to remember the details of a personal and familial reality. Since
their roles center on relationships, women are entrusted with teaching
values through the oral traditions of storytelling, sayings, songs, and
family histories. These are the sources of the cultural narration found
in the work of many Chicana artists." Amalia Mesa-Bains, 1991, "El
Mundo Femenino: Chicana Artists of the Movement--A Commentary on Development
and Production," in C.A.R.A. Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation,
University of California, Los Angeles, Wight Art Gallery, p.132).
CONNECTIONS AMONG ARTWORKS
STYLE: How does the artwork look like other artworks?
Carmen Lomas Garza's style draws upon naive styles employed by non-Western
painting, children, and/or self-taught artists such as Horace Pippin and
Grandma Moses. Other self taught traditions include Early American itinerant
painters who traveled throughout colonial New England. Lomas Garza paints
in a direct style. Imagery is clearly depicted. Lomas Garza pays special
attention to the minute details in her painting, such as the cat's whiskers,
shoelaces, and confetti.
INFLUENCE: What can I learn about how earlier artworks influenced this
artwork or about whether this artwork influenced later artworks?
Traditional Mexican Folk art such as papel picado/paper-cuts
and folk paintings such as retablos are influences in Carmen Lomas Garza's
work. The large flat areas of color that form the imagery in Lomas Garza's
paintings are reminiscent of paper-cuts used for fiestas. A uniform light
source, minute details, and visual narrative found in her work parallel
the small personal retablo devotional paintings. Brilliant colors
also reflect cultural traditions.
The influence of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, or other traditional
Renaissance depictions of that subject, are also evident in the
painting. Shared features include, for example, the one-point perspective,
the triangular central figure, and the symmetrical placement of table before
window. Paintings of the last supper commemorate an historical event a
few days before Easter Sunday. Decorating of eggs, or cascarones, also
takes place prior to that religious holiday.
THEMES: What general ideas connect this artwork to other artworks?
The role of family plays an important part in Chicano and Mexican culture.
The family is a source of stability and constancy throughout life. The
family is the source of cultural history which provides meaning in both
public and private realms. Rituals in Carmen Lomas Garza's work connect
her to past cultural traditions. Painting the narratives of her childhood
not only recount her activities and celebrations, but also establish value
and assurance of their continued importance and impact. Artists such as
Francisco Goya and Alice Neel also are known to depict various families.
Faith Ringold is a contemporary artist who draws upon her own heritage
and childhood memories as foundations for her story based quilts.
The feminist theme of empowerment through art found in Lomas Garza's
work is shared also with other artists such as Yolanda
Baca, and Ana
Laura de la Garza.