Image Credit: Celia Álvarez Muñoz
This month we are pleased to feature conceptual multimedia artist Celia Álvarez Muñoz (b. 1937 in El Paso, Texas), who was awarded the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts by the Art League Houston. We wish to congratulate her and her commitment to the visual arts.
Image Credit: El Límite, 1991, 16 × 20". El Límite is a layered work about the emigration routes, via railroad, from Texas to California and beyond into globalization. It envelopes the working-class Chicano coming out of the Depression to serve in World War II, an experience that, if he was lucky, expanded his world. In railroad language, El Límite means maximum cargo.
Álvarez Muñoz had a strong female influence (mother, aunt, and maternal grandmother) growing up when her father was deployed to Alaska and Germany during WWII. She studied at Texas Western University (now University of Texas) in El Paso, with a concentration in Advertising, Printmaking & Drawing. She then earned a Certification for Art Ed while teaching in the El Paso Independent School District. After relocating several times to different parts of the country, Álvarez Muñoz and her husband and their two small children returned to Arlington, Texas. In 1977, she enrolled in graduate school at North Texas State University (NTSU; now University of North Texas) in Denton. There she took courses with the artists Vernon Fisher (b. 1943) and Al Souza (b. 1944), who influenced her conceptual practice across mediums, from artist's books and photographs to installations and public works. Her work taps into her childhood memories of growing up along the Mexican border in the aftermath of the Great Depression and highlights her bilingual and bicultural heritage with variations of language, text, puns, and double meanings.
Image Credit: The life, work and process of alumna and acclaimed Texas-based contextual artist Celia Alvarez Muñoz (’82 M.F.A.) is the subject of a book by Roberto Tejada, associate professor of art history at the University of Texas. Available for purchase.
She is both artist and activist and her work details the experiences of living in the physical as well as the psychological and political border zone. Álvarez Muñoz has received numerous awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts grants (1988, 1991) and the Honors Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts from the Women's Caucus for Art (1995). Her work has been exhibited widely in group exhibitions, such as the Whitney Biennial (1991), and in solo presentations at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (1991); Dallas Museum of Art (1991); Capp Street Project, San Francisco (1994); and University of Texas at Arlington (2002). Her work has been acquired by public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.