MacArthur Fellows Program

Amalia Mesa-Bains

Artist and Cultural Critic | Class of 1992

Artist and Cultural Critic
San Francisco, California
49 at time of award
Published July 1, 1992

About Amalia's Work

Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist and cultural critic who has worked to define a Chicano and Latino aesthetic in the United States and in Latin America.

Her artworks, primarily interpretations of traditional Chicano altars, resonate both in contemporary formal terms and in their ties to her Chicano community and history.  As an author of scholarly articles and a nationally known lecturer on Latino art, Mesa-Bains has enhanced the understanding of multiculturalism and reflected major cultural and demographic shifts in the United States.  She has pioneered the documentation and interpretation of long-neglected Chicano traditions in Mexican-American art, both through her cultural activism and through her own altar installations.


Mesa-Bains is the director of the Visual and Public Art Department at California State University, Monterey Bay.  She is the author of Ceremony of Spirit: Nature and Memory in Contemporary Latino Art (1993).  Her work has been exhibited at such institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, and the Studio Museum of Harlem.

Mesa-Bains received a B.A. (1966) from San Jose State University, an M.A. (1971) from San Francisco State University, and an M.A. (1980) and a Ph.D. (1983) from the Wright Institute, Berkeley, California.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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