Rhizomes at UMN Launches New Digital Resource: Mexican American Art Since 1848

Painting of a park with water, trees, and a purple sunset
Detail, Margaret Garcia, Night in Echo Park, 2017. Oil on wood Panel, w: 24 x h: 12 in. Collection of Cheech Marin.

In collaboration with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the University of Minnesota, The Rhizomes Research Initiative announces a new art historical research resource, the open-source portal Mexican American Art Since 1848 (MAAS1848).

Bringing together digital collections, images, and art-related primary documents from libraries, archives and museums in the United States, the portal as aggregator celebrates Mexican American art and culture since the US-Mexican War and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February 2, 1848). 

MAAS1848 includes a variety of art and visual culture often omitted from collections of American art. Its overarching goal is to center Mexican American art, culture, and history to support research, education, and creative new ways of understanding the aesthetic, geographical, and historic range of visual art and related materials and the rich cultural heritage of the United States.  

MAAS1848 allows research on a scale once thought impossible for scholars, curators, students, and the public seeking cross-disciplinary, comprehensive, and intersectional knowledge about Mexican American art, culture, and history. It underscores an American art history with multiple influences and references. 

"The Rhizomes Portal is a field-changer as it comes to research and new scholarship in American art, Latinx art, Mexican American art, and Chicano art," said Professor Karen Mary Davalos, who, along with Professor Constance Cortez of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valle, envisioned and created this significant digital resource as part of a larger research initiative. 

"We look forward to the generation of new knowledge and the expansion of scholarship in the years to come as we grow and augment access to digital collections. An expansive notion of art will increase access, visibility, and understanding about Mexican Americans and the cultural wealth of the United States," said Cortez. 

The portal includes nearly 20,000 digital records and a broad range of art images: paintings, prints, murals, textiles, lowrider cars, sculpture, installation art, photography, papel picado (cut paper), in addition to photographs, newspaper clippings, reports, art reviews, exhibition catalogs and much more. Contributing institutions and collections include Calisphere, a digital resource for libraries, archives and museums of California; the Digital Public Library of America; Smithsonian American Art Museum; The Portal to Texas History, an online gateway created by the University of North Texas Libraries; and repository of documents developed by the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

With the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, some 80,000 residents living in the former Mexican territories all of the sudden became United States citizens. Although the name of the portal signals the year of this transformation, it is not the sole defining parameter. The portal includes art created before 1848 because visual artists were active in the region prior to the treaty. 

MAAS1848 is a component of a broad-ranging interdisciplinary research initiative, Rhizomes: Mexican American Art Since 1848. The initiative has four parts:

  1. The MAAS1848 portal,
  2. An academic book series,
  3. K-16 curriculum, and
  4. An institutional map to visualize and identify relevant collections across the nation.

Rhizomes: Mexican American Art Since 1848 is led by Karen Mary Davalos, Professor of Chicano and Latino Studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and a leading scholar of Mexican American/Chicano art history; and Constance Cortez, Professor of Chicana/o Art History and Post Contact Art of Mexico at the School of Art, University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, an established scholar and curator of Mexican American art and the only art historian in the nation trained in three historical epochs (pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary US and Mexican).

The work is supported by the Rhizomes National Advisory Council, a growing network of prominent humanities scholars, librarians, archivists, curators, and technical advisors with expertise in Mexican American art history, among them: Lilia Cabrera, Corina Carmona, Ondine C. Chavoya, Ella Maria Diaz, William Estrada, Josh Franco, Christen Garcia, Olga U. Herrera, Guisela Latorre, Ann Marie Leimer, Jessica Lopez Lyman, Alda Migoni, Laura E. Pérez, Sara Ramirez, and Mary Thomas. The Advisory Council provides interdisciplinary and multi-institution perspectives on the planning stages of the Rhizomes Initiative to ensure a broad, inclusive methodological foundation for each component. 

For information contact: Karen Mary Davalos at kmdavalos@unm.edu

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