Cristina Cárdenas

Many of the pieces selected for inclusion in this text are autobiographical. They are images that reflect a certain nostalgia for my childhood or country, Mexico. Throughout my career I have used the images of women to depict the struggles, triumphs and betrayals of history and the powers that be. It is my hope that these images and depictions can continue to give voice and strength to those who fight for survival, rights, and many times life in this country.

, 1999
Gouache and collage on paper

Angelitas is autobiographical in nature; it depicts memories of my childhood growing up in a conservative Mexican family. As the second in a family of seven children, born and raised in Guadalajara, MX, I experienced many of the traditional festivities that go on throughout Mexican and many Southwestern neighborhoods and communities during the year. This image reflects on my particular memories of the posadas that take place during Christmas time. I have memories of my mother dressing my sisters and me in handmade costumes as angelitas or pastorcitas for the annual pageant. My father, ever proud of his children (six daughters and one son), would photograph us in our special dresses and costumes. This image was inspired by those old photographs. The painting recounts the bonds between my sister and me as we are linked by our dresses and hearts or spirits to the traditions and memories of our family.

La Guadalupana

Women have always been the central focus of my work. Through the images of women I try to put forth the strength and fortitude that I have witnessed. She is an image to empower and inspire people and causes, that for me has come to symbolize the strength of women throughout various stages. The image also harks to a religious practice that is made of myth and magic as well as faith. The image of the Virgen is my homeland, it is part of being Mexican and so in venerating her, I also pay my respects to the land, Indigenous people, and the place.


Yo Soy
, Lithograph

The text in the background of this image is taken from the Spanish writer, Camilo Jose Cela. "…flota en el aire, como un pesar que se va clavando en los corazones." These words help to draw the viewer into the world of this little girl who sits in the seat of her country's colors and history. She turns her face away and confidently holds her artist's brushes, her implements of portrayal. I choose to include text in my images as a way of harking back to and remembering the colonial practices of conversion. The power of the images to help impose a new way of seeing the world was augmented by the inclusion of words and text. By extension, I hope that the viewer enters into the world of these characters and is touched enough to be open to new perspectives and ways of seeing.


La Virgen de los Pescados, 1993. Serigraph

La Virgen de los Pescados sits among the colors and flora of Mexico. She was created after a trip to Oaxaca and for me symbolizes mestizaje, with its inherent struggles. She is a mediator between churches and pyramids. Surrounded by the flowers of Juchitán, she is a depiction of beauty and yet her gaze is direct. While the Virgen has become a trope of Mexican and Chicano imagery for nationalism, I also see her as an assertion of the strength and power of women throughout the regions of Mexico. This Virgen, a proud contemporary mestiza, is an icon of the women of Oaxaca.