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Author Archives:

Juana Alicia

Encantada Gallery Show Extended


Juana Alicia
Pinturas * Paintings
June 30th to July 31st – Extended til August 5!

Gallery hours:
Tues – Sun, 12 – 6 pm
Fri – Sat, 12 to 8 pm

Public parking 21st @Bartlett Street and Valencia @20th Street
For more information/Para mayor información:
Contact Juana Alicia or

Images: “Broken Promise…”raku fired ceramic sculpture, 16” tall, Phoebe Ackley ©2005
“Milagro: Mano y Corazon”, handmade ceramic tile, 1’ x1’, Juana Alicia ©2005

Photos of UCSF Medical Center Project in Progress

Juana Alicia’s new suite of four bas relief ceramic tile murals and a 67′ long sidewalk, entitled “SANARTE: Diversity’s Pathway”, located at the Ambulatory Care Clinic of UCSF Medical Center at 400 Parnassus Avenue, has recently been installed by Rocket Science. The images below are details of the work in progress, installation and finished work.

Detail of Traditions Mural previous to installation

Map of Traditions Mural for Installation

Left to Right: Karen Knewhouse of UCSF EOP, JW Nickel of Rocket Science and Michael Adams of UCSF EOP and the Diversity Art Committee in front of Ollin Mural.

JW Nickel of Rocket Science Inc., grouting the Ollin Mural

The Process of Making La Llorona

Juana Alicia Thanks Her Community

Juana Alicia wishes to thank the following individuals for assisting her with the project in many ways:

San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Marine Andoh-Alle, Claudia Avila, Marta Ayala, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Mario Chabl??, Bruni Davila, Tony Deifell, Monica Enriquez, Brooke Estin, Susana Gallardo and her students, Jami Gazzaniga, Miguel Gonzalez, Tirso Gonzalez, Harmony of Pop’s Bar, Leticia Hernandez, Sarah Hussain, Ann Leimer, Eliana Kaya, Barbara Lekisch, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Teresa Mejia, Mayahuel Montoya, Alma Mu??oz, Mardie Oakes, Brooke Oliver, Jeffrey Palacios, Panaderia La Mexicana, Carolina Ponce de Leon, Enrique Ramirez, Regina Ramos, Justin Lee Regnier, Diana Ritchie, Elba Rivera, Odilia Galvan Rodriguez, Rachel Rosen, Patricia Velazquez, Esperanza Verdin, John and Valerie Watson, Nathan Zackheim and all my relations.

Leticia Hernández Interview with Juana Alicia

Llorona mural, Chalchi

Detail of Chalchihuitlicue, Juana Alicia© 2004

Juana Alicia’s journey as a muralist begins at the intersection of her activism and her art. Her pencil began dancing on the pages of political posters, and later traced her path through the educational system and to the walls of the San Francisco Bay Area. One of Juana Alicia’s first big mural projects, Las Lechugueras, depicts female workers and their battles against working conditions and pesticide poisoning in California. Her experiences as a farm worker and organizer for the United Farm Workers (UFW) informs the mural’s creation as much as her painting style and her research do. Las Lechugueras (The Women Lettuce Workers), went up in 1983 on the corner of York and 24th Streets in San Francisco’s barrio, the Mission. Three years ago, the artist was given a 90-day warning that the mural would be destroyed because of water damage to the wall. Ironically, a focus on water and damage would be the mural’s next evolution. Starting from scratch, versus painting from who I am now? Juana Alicia insists that she must create in the living moment. And this moment is one where women are leading environmental struggles and carrying the weight of poverty on their backs and in their bodies, which are made mainly of water, Juana Alicia reminds us.


LAS LECHUGUERAS (THE WOMEN LETTTUCE WORKERS), Juana Alicia©1983 1500 square foot Politec acrylic mural, at York and 24th Streets, San Francisco Mission District. A commission from the Mayor’s Office of Community Development and the San Francisco Arts Commission


La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), Juana Alicia’s latest mural project, picks up where Las Lechugueras left off. This time Juana Alicia takes a look at environmental struggles involving women around the world. The new mural takes its title from the much-debated Mexican myth of the woman who allegedly drowned her children and is damned to weep for them. La Llorona weaves the stories of women in Bolivia, India, and at the U.S. Border together. It highlights Bolivians in Cochabamba who have fought to keep Bechtel Corporation from buying the water rights in their country; Indian farm workers in the Narmada Valley protesting in the flooded waters of their homes against their government’s irresponsible dam projects; and the women in black protesting the unsolved murders of women in Juarez, in the shadow of the Rio Bravo and the maquiladoras (sweatshops).

Juana Alicia believes that globalization is not inherently bad, but when it takes the form of corporate forces trying to sell people their own water, or when it begins to spread poverty through women, then she must raise her brush in protest. Collaborative mural projects, such as Maestrapeace and Si Se Puede, demonstrate how Juana Alicia participates in a communal and politicized artistic praxis. Seven muralists researched, designed, and painted, Maestrapeace, the mural that colors the sides of the Women’s Building. The artists completed the year long project with 100 other volunteers from the community, and from this effort, which began in 1993, sprang an artists’ collective, Maestrapeace Art Works. Many of the muralists who formed this collective around the motto that art is a catalyst for social change are also educators have presented lectures about the process behind and the history reflected in the mural. In just one section of the wall, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu holds Yoruba and Aztec deities in her hands, and her face can be seen shining above many buildings in the city. With this project, the artists colored outside the lines of who can be an artist and what history lessons get told. In 1995, together with local artists such as Susan Kelk Cervantes, Juana Alicia collaborated, on Si Se Puede, the mural on the front of Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Francisco. For this project, the school community participated in the planning process and youth from the surrounding community lent hands while together they painted life into its walls.

With her eye turned towards the international connections between peoples’ and women’s struggle, Juana licia continues to ask the question of what the tangible results of her art are. Making murals, especially in groups, enables participants to gain valuable research and technical skills and enhances their abilities in communication and team work . Certainly it is not only the participants that gain, but residents often experience a heightened self-consciousness to the environment that promotes pride and ownership of their neighborhoods, and perhaps even of themselves. As she admits the difficulty of making a case for the tangible results in movement politics, she credits hip hop as the model. The hip hop generation gets it. True that. This generation is making art political and politics artistic in a way that previous generations have not been able to, and this is one of many sources of inspiration for Juana Alicia.

Painter says to writer,
spoken word is the vital water of revolution.
hip hop artists know
spoken word is the vital water
of revolution.

Writer says to painter
your informed images of the past
brought to us in a bold bright palette
are the vital waters
of poetry.

Perhaps, the immediate effects of her long list of mural projects are not easily measured, but they certainly have an impact. Many of those painted walls, such as Las Lechugueras and Cease Fire/Alto Al Fuego have been published as movement text, in films, and have defended ideas, as part of the new vocabulary that forms arguments for change. Juana Alicia sees a dialectic between her art and the language for change. The language to name ourselves, our movement, our goals, is a deep source of power. The education and altered reflection that her murals offer certainly participate in the construction of this visual language. A pedestrian learns a history lesson by walking into a painted building, a protester in the street passes the faces and images behind her cause, a child knows from the get-go who Rigoberta Menchu and Cesar Chavez are–art makes a difference, no doubt.

This is my Guernica. If Picasso’s testimony to war challenges the heroic and victorious concept of war, then Juana Alicia’s La Llorona challenges the idea that women cannot be heroic or victorious. Chalchiuhtlicue, Mexica goddess of lakes and streams who wears a skirt of jade, towers in the center of the mostly transparent blues of the mural. La llorona, a big woman whose limbs are drawn in strong lines, holds a child and her tears are not sad, but seem to nourish and comfort. La pintora limited her palette to shades of blue under a red sky in the interests of preservation. The mural’s color scheme is also part of the transparency and liquidity that characterizes Juana Alicia’s painting technique–transparent colors that emphasize layers. Water, her element of choice, has always provided the spring from which she sees and paints. She uses transparency to show the invisible woman or man, to paint what is underneath the surface of things.

Juana Alicia is not just a painter, but an investigator, so as a researcher and our teacher, she uses paint as the medium for communicating a critical perspective, a revised interpretation, of what she sees in this case, the state of the world’s ecology. Yemaya, the spirit of a woman, holds the weight of middle passage in the folds of her skirt, Oshun, the spirit of a woman, washes our skin, residue from the fingertips of restless dead leaving faint tattoos. The spirit of a woman, la Sirena’s currents guide desperate rafts leaving El Caribe and ghost ships that sail from China. Wandering souls are thirsty for their stories. The clear commitment to multiculturalism that comes through in the hues and topics of her painting is natural to this artist who’s ancestry hails from Odessa, Russia and Odessa Texas, a Jew-xican. She grew up amidst the language of Motown, hearing three languages at home–Spanish, Yiddish, and English. The inspiration that colors Juana Alicia’s palette ranges from the words of Eduardo Galeano, Genny Lim, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Francisco Vazquez to the paintings of Betty Mora and Alfredo Zalce to the bold strokes of the Maestrapeace artists. Listing so many influences that names don’t fit on the page, Juana Alicia demonstrates her perspective regarding art. Everyone has a hand in it from beginning to end. It isn’t only hers; it belongs to everyone.

La Llorona, is another example of her communal approach to art; the project began as a collaboration. Odilia Galvan Rodriguez wrote words for the initial drawing of la llorona, and then came the rest flowing like the waters of Lake Texcoco that move along the seams of Chalchiuhtlicue’s jade skirt. Two years ago, Juana Alicia received a commitment to funding from Mayor Willie Brown’s Neighborhood Beautification Fund for La Llorona, and she continues to raise funds for the project that is due to be completed by the Spring of 2004. This project falls within a tradition of rewriting the Mexican mythology of women ongoing since the 70’s by Chicana artists and writers such as Yolanda Lopez, Martha Cotera, Ana Castillo, Cherrie Moraga, and Gloria Anzaldua, to name a few. This archetype of the weeping woman is being recast in a celebratory manner; her open hand extending towards Bolivia, India, and to all of us. Juana Alicia’s brush aims to counter negative images of women and show the truth about our strength and accomplishments. Funny that Juana Alicia mentions that Chalchiuhtlicue was said to be a consort of Tlaloc. I think back to la Siguanaba and at how this artist is rewriting many more stories than she even imagines. Her palette frees the spirit of women from roles as monstrous creatures of folklore to warrior women of history. The waters of Juana Alicia Montoya’s paintings cleanse us, give birth to us.

Ashe. Word.

La Llorona Completed in June 2004

Juana Alicia has just finished her new mural at the corners of York and 24th Streets, “La Llorona’s Sacred Waters”. With fiscal sponsorship by The San Francisco Women’s Center and the Galer??a de la Raza, the support of Las Trenzas Latina Student and
Alumnae Organization of UC Berkeley, and funding from The Potrero Nuevo Fund, The San Francisco Mayor’s Neighborhood Beautification Fund, the Greppi and Leone family and private donors, the artist was able to complete this project on women, water and globalization, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District.

UCSF Walls

Design Concept for Ceramic Tile Murals at UCSF Medical Center

These are the images for a suite of five new mural pieces for the Parnassus Campus of UCSF Medical Center. These drawings were originally conceived as two murals on either side of Millberry Union, but the site has changed; so too will the drawings. The fabrication of my new design began in January of 2005.

The mural project celebrates and symbolizes diversity is based on unity through diversity, and the notion that dualities create a whole, vibrant and ever changing world. Therefore, I have elected to design a bas relief, ceramic tile suite of murals for the four walls on the Ambulatory Care Elevator Building, as well as on the walkway leading from the sidewalk to that building. The suite will use the central unifying theme of the DNA molecule, the symbol of the key to the structure of life itself.

I will also include imagery inspired from wave theory, such as damped and orthogonal oscillations as motifs in the designs. I will create imagery that reflects the dynamic balance that natural and social movements seek to achieve in order to maintain a healthy and diverse world. The murals will represent healing traditions throughout the world, self-care and the internal work we do to heal ourselves, as well as the social and natural movements that have brought about diversity, with a focus on the special history of UCSF. The images emphasize the excellent work of the medical center, which has been supported by and diversified through the efforts of students, staff and community. I am using much of the original imagery presented in my proposals to the University, but it has been re-designed to accommodate and fully exploit the potential of the bas relief medium and changed dimensions of the walls for which it is intended.

Juana Alicia in Trazos Show at the Galeria de la Raza

Galería/STUDIO 24
Calendar of events: August 1st – August 15

2857 24TH ST. @ BRYANT
415 826 8009

35th anniversary visual arts programming continues with an homage to the POP! in north/south border cultures


The second of three 35th anniversary exhibitions, Trazos: Myth and Memory presents eighteen multi-generational artists – primarily Chicano/a- whose artworks resort to history, myth and traditional Chicano and Mexicano cultural symbols as a means to articulate contemporary issues. oo-la-la

Participating Artists:
Juana Alicia, Victor Cartagena, Alex Donis, Caleb Duarte, Juan Fuentes, Eva García, Lorraine García, Al Hernandez, Nancy Hom, Carmen Lomas Garza, Alma López, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Rhode Montijo, Julio Morales, Mike Rios, Calixto Robles, Patricia Rodríguez, and Xavier Viramontes.

exhibition open until september 3

Giclee Prints

Many of my works are available as “giclee” or high quality digital prints. For a detailed explanation about the process and advantages of purchasing a giclee print, please see
Thank you.

Many images from my gallery, such as the work shown below, are currently available as giclee prints, and can be printed to order in a range of sizes.

DON’T BE SO TOUGH, Digital Print and Acrylic Paint on Canvas, 28.75" x 35.5", ©2008.

Prints & Original Works

“Santuario” Print


“La Ponkalavera Güera” Print
26″ x 40″, serigraph on archival cotton rag paper, unframed.

“Para Las Rosas / For the Roses” Print
22” x 30” silk screen print, unframed.

“La Llorona’s Sacred Waters” Print
22” x 30” serigraph on archival cotton rag paper, unframed.

“Pasajeros 2”
30′ x40” digital prints on canvas upon request, unframed.

“36 x 60” digital prints on canvas upon request, unframed.

“Cool Plants Hot Planet”
“36 x 60” digital prints on canvas upon request, unframed.

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