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Muralist Juana Alicia Is Inspired by Poetry and Magical Realism

Muralist Juana Alicia Is Inspired by Poetry and Magical Realism

Juana Alicia describes herself as “uncompromising.” She has been criticized for being too political, radical, and issue-driven. Based in Berkeley, California, she has created murals, prints, sculptures, and paintings for over three decades. Inspired by poetry and literature, Juana Alicia blends elements of magical and social realism into her vivid mixed-media work. As an artist and activist, she addresses issues of social justice, gender equality, environmental crisis, and the power of resistance and revolution.

Known for her dynamic murals on the walls of storefronts and warehouses, and detailed portraits of political figures such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Juana Alicia is a firm believer in the power of art to enact social change. She aims to “humanize public spaces, reclaiming them in order to democratize the public square, and offer visions of a better world.”

‘NOTORIOUS RBG or I ASK NO FAVOR FOR MY SEX: ALL I ASK OF OUR BRETHREN IS THAT THEY TAKE THEIR FEET OFF OUR NECKS’

As a Latina artist of working-class origins, Juana Alicia often felt excluded from the traditional art world. She was sexually harassed in academic and non-profit settings, and omitted from publications, exhibitions, and commissions. When a colleague included her in a book on Latina artist/activists in California, it had to be published in Mexico because no one would take it on in the US. Despite incidents of gender and racially motivated bias, her achievements include a Fulbright Fellowship, a Woman of Fire Award, a long list of domestic and international residencies, and commissioned murals throughout the Bay Area, as well as in Pennsylvania, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

Juana Alicia quotes Nina Simone to explain how she has remained motivated and engaged over the years. “‘I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That to me is my duty.’ And at this crucial time in our lives when everything is so desperate…How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”

“The voices of the women have often moved me to make images. I work for the future, for my children and grandchildren and theirs.” —Juana Alicia

Scroll through for a selection of Alicia’s poetic work, submitted to the annual NOT REAL ART artist grant. To learn more about our grant program, go here.

Juana Alicia. Requiem for Elijah, 2020
‘Requiem for Elijah’
Juana Alicia. THE SPILL/EL DERRAME, 2017
THE SPILL/EL DERRAME
Juana Alicia. LA LLORONA’S SACRED WATERS
‘LA LLORONA’S SACRED WATERS’
Juana Alicia. THE SPIRAL WORD: EL CODEX ESTANFOR, 2021
‘THE SPIRAL WORD: EL CODEX ESTANFOR’

Juana Alicia: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

About the Artist of the Day Series

All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.

Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis

Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis is a writer, photographer, and former New York Gallery Director based in Washington, D.C. She has an M.F.A. in Fine Art and an undergraduate degree in Russian Literature. She speaks five foreign languages and is currently in a Masters of Non-Fiction Writing Program at John Hopkins University.

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