Chicanx Aesthetic Expressions of Resistance Making Art and Spirit through Altars and Writing

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Denise Meda-Lambru


Many scholars argue that the spiritual dimensions of aesthetic practices and resistance have been undertheorized or omitted. This paper examines aesthetic processes taken up by Amelia Mesa-Bains (1994, 1999) and Gloria Anzaldúa (1987, 2015) to theorize how some Chicanx artists employ an aesthetic based on spirituality as relational, memorial, and material practice to critique colonial ideologies embedded in dichotomies such as man/woman, subject/object, fine/folk art, and individual/community. By focusing on Mesa-Bains’ altar installations and Anzaldúa’s writing process, I draw out how social relations and memory work operate to interpret the relationship between aesthetics and spirituality. I argue that the relational dynamic of their aesthetic sensibilities and techniques show ways some Chicanx scholars and artists subscribe to a sense of spirituality that maintains interconnected relations with others who have been disempowered and marginalized.

 To support this position, in the first half of the paper, I analyze the relational sensibilities central to Chicanx aesthetic sensibility of rasquache domesticana, which highlights the concrete spaces in which Chicanx, their aesthetic perception, and techniques generate a communal resistance that is sustained through spirituality. The second half turns to Mesa-Bains’ altar installation for Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1994) and Anzaldúa’s writing process described in Borderlands (1987) to clarify ways in which aesthetics and spiritual relations engender practices of resistance to social dichotomies.

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Meda-Lambru, D. (2023). Chicanx Aesthetic Expressions of Resistance: Making Art and Spirit through Altars and Writing. Journal of World Philosophies, 8(1). Retrieved from