Latinx Artist Fellowship

Home » Amalia Mesa-Bains

Amalia Mesa-Bains

Installation artist, curator, and writer

Monterey, CA and San Francisco, CA

Amalia Mesa-Bains

Instagram @dr_amalia_says

My work generally takes the installation form using constructed pieces, found objects and other materials. Born out of the ephemeral tradition of the Days of the Dead and the sacred home space of the altar, these installations evolved into historical forms of investigation such as libraries and laboratories. These forms are aimed at the issues of cultural justice and aesthetic meaning in the broader Latino community.

Amalia Mesa-Bains (she/her) is an internationally renowned artist, scholar, and curator. Throughout her career, Mesa-Bains has expanded understandings of Latinx artists’ references to spiritual practices and vernacular traditions through her altar installations, articles, and exhibitions, and in 1992; she was awarded a Distinguished Fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation. 

Her work has been shown at institutions such as the Menil Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the New Museum, in NY.  She has also shown in international venues in Mexico, Istanbul, Colombia, Venezuela, Ireland, Sweden, England, France and Spain. In 2018,her work Transparent Migrations, was part of Home— So Different, So Appealing, at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and in 2013, she recontextualized objects from the collections of the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles in New World Wunderkammer. As a cultural critic she has co-authored along with bell hooks, Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism. She co-founded and directed the Visual and Public Art Department at California State University at Monterey Bay where she is now Professor Emerita.  Mesa-Bains’ community work includes board of trustee positions with the Mexican Museum in San Francisco and advisory boards for the Galeria de la Raza, and the Social Public Resource Center in Los Angeles.

Selected Works

A shelf holds ceramics, small statues, and objects that represent the indigenous Americas, Africa, and cultural and racial mixture that is Colonial mestizaje.
An installation features an altar constructed on a mirrored base surrounded by sand, shells, pebbles, and flower petals. Where the altar meets the floor are a trio of figurines featuring the Virgin of Guadalupe inside of a shell. Above them are a series of gold objects, cards, and candles. At the top of the altar is a niche covered in shells, featuring small figurines and images of the virgin. Behind the altar are six images of the virgin, and the installation is framed by blue fabric draped on a nearby wall.
A mirrored armoire stands with its doors ajar to reveal a sheer dress and veil suspended inside with an array of glass objects are arranged below it. Surrounding the armoire is finely-crushed glass and two glass sculptures of maguey plants.