About Carmen Lomas Garza's



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, CA, 1996.

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, if anything?

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 floor.

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 was made?

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.


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 made?

"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.


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

ARTWORLD VIEWER 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).


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 López, Judith Baca, and Ana Laura de la Garza.