About: An Introduction to Juana Alicia
I am a muralist, printmaker, educator, activist and painter who loves to draw. I have been teaching for thirty years, working in many areas of education, from community organizing to migrant and bilingual education to arts education, from kindergarten to graduate school levels. Currently I am full-time faculty at Berkeley City College, where I direct a public art program called True Colors.
I feel that it is my responsibility as an artist to be an activist for social justice, human rights and environmental health, and I see the work of parenting and teaching akin to being an artist. I began working as an artist in my teens, coming of age in the human rights movements that included the United Farm Workers and that protested the war in Vietnam.
I work in many forms and traditions, with a particular dedication to the fresco buono, an ancient painting technique that, practiced all over the world, has endured many centuries. The majority of my public works are in the Bay Area, but I have also painted murals in other parts of the world, including Managua, Nicaragua. Some of my works are individual and others are collaborative.
I make murals with groups because of the learning that process provides me. It forces me to think and see from other minds and eyes, and to stretch my emotional capacities and communication skills. I also learn new techniques from other muralists and artisans. Naturally, a group or collaborative process allows one to take on a more monumental work and lightens the burden that the individual artist would also have to bear, vis a vis community relations, administration, documentation and the actual execution of the work. No matter whether the work is solo or collaborative, it gives me great joy to contribute to the urban environments in an effort to humanize our public spaces.
Media coverage of Juana Alicia
JUSTICE FOR POLITICAL PRISONERS: MUMIA ABU-JAMAL SPEAKS FROM DEATH ROW, preparatory sketch for mural. Mixed media: conté crayon, prismacolor pencil and pastel on cotton rag paper. 23″ x 52 1/2″, Juana Alicia ©2006.
Redwood Justice Fund, PrisonRadio.org, 2/19/06
“JuanaAlicia: As sort of a preamble to the questions, I have a 29 year old son and a 13 year old daughter who is the one who really rides my bumper and she says to me a lot, since she is an artist, “Mama, does it all have to be so grim? Where are the people feeling good about things as a change?” And sometimes, you know, we deal with very grim realities and sometimes that takes over. So my preamble is, can we include joy, humor, wit, and your musica that I hear sometimes coming through you?
Mumia: We can. Of course we can, but the problem, of course is that art especially as taught to many of us here in this culture, is a commodity….” (to outside link)
“She walks up and down the riverbank, wailing, mourning the children who she murdered out of spite. You probably know the story: La Llorona, the weeping woman. There are many versions of the tale, but one of the oldest tells of a native Mexican woman (variously “la Malinche” or “Maria”) seduced by a Spanish conquistador who fathers her children and then leaves for other conquests. Crazed with anguish and jealousy, she drowns her children in the river, then, as a spirit haunting the riverbanks, weeps for eternity.
Now re-imagine the story. Turn this story of sorrow — and many say, female weakness — on its head. Imagine La Llorona not as a victim, but as a resilient heroine, a woman determined to rescue her children from conquest and victimization.
San Francisco artist Juana Alicia lives for this type of re-imagining. In her art, she revisits the stories, folklore, and the actors of our cultures, searching for threads of deeper truth. Her art never simply repeats these stories; it reinterprets, relives, and reconnects stories from the past to the struggles of the present….” (to outside link)
by Richard Brenneman, Berkeley Daily Planet
“The colorful, vivid imagery born in the West Berkeley studio of artist Juana Alicia that graces buildings across the nation may soon appear on the walls of a five-story building on University Avenue. Recognized as one of the nation’s finest muralists, Alicia was taught by two students of perhaps the greatest North America master of the form, Diego Rivera, whose vibrant forms and hues are reflected in her work….” (to outside link)
KQED Public Radio, 2002
“Juana Alicia works in a variety of media as a muralist, illustrator, printmaker and painter. She has a large body of public work in San Francisco, and has also painted in Central America….” (to outside link)
by Paul Karlstrom, Berkeley, California, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, May 8, 2000.
“You know, the day that Martin Luther King died was probably one of the most significant moments in my childhood. Everyone was actually out there wailing in the streets, you know. My mother was very active in the farmworker movement stuff. Both my parents were interested in the arts. Music was very much a part of our lives. I met Paul Robeson when I was very young when he was visiting our next door neighbors and came over….” (to outside link)