At present, Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture (LALVC) is committed to publishing intellectually rigorous, thought-provoking content in the form of scholarly articles, reflective Dialogues, and critical book reviews. LALVC does not publish themed issues that focus their content on specific issues identified by editorial leadership. While some have questioned this editorial prerogative, an issue like the current number of LALVC demonstrates the benefit of eschewing themed issues. Issue 4 of LALVC is a reflection of the present depth and breadth of the fields of Latin American and Latinx visual culture studies. Scholarly essays address Pre-Columbian iconography, colonial South American sculpture and architecture, and contemporary Latinx public art. The Dialogues section is guest edited by an anthropologist who brought together an interdisciplinary array of scholars and artists to discuss the visual culture of Peruvian mining. The book reviews in this issue address the most recent publications in Pre-Columbian, colonial, and Latinx visual culture from across Latin America and the United States.
Marisa Lerer's essay on the socially engaged art of the Chicano sculptor Luis Jiménez is a reflection on the power of artists to offer visual and conceptual challenges to traditional ideas about public monuments. Lerer analyzes Jiménez's 32-foot-tall cobalt-blue neo-pop sculpture Mustang, which was installed at the Denver International Airport in 2008. This controversial public sculpture has been met with both public outcry and public support over the eleven years since it debuted. Jiménez created Mustang to redefine historical narratives surrounding the ideas of American art and the West as frontier. The resulting sculpture, however, simmered in controversy as a nontraditional equestrian monument that presented an underdog perspective “developed according to a consciousness about ethics and relevance to community.”
The ability of a publicly accessible visual culture to shape a shared collective experience is not limited to the contemporary world. As Isabel Oleas-Mogollón argues in her essay “The Divine and the Self: Gold and Mirrors in Quito's Jesuit Church in the Eighteenth Century,” gilded ornamentation in the Jesuit church of colonial Quito (Ecuador) shaped the Christian identities of colonial subjects by promoting introspection and advancing spiritual transformation. Oleas-Mogollón presents a dazzling array of gilded liturgical objects from missal stands, frontals, and chalices to candlesticks, monstrances, and crucifixes fashioned of gold and silver and encrusted with crystal, ivory, enamel, mother of pearl, and other embellishments. Her research reveals how reflective surfaces in the Jesuit church of La Compañía were used to demonstrate Christian supremacy over local belief systems and indigenous religions. The Jesuits frequently turned to “specular metaphors” in their theoretical and devotional texts to connect with a diverse indigenous, mestizo, and Spanish constituency.
The final scholarly essay presented in this issue of LALVC also considers the relationship between precious ornament and the visible sacred. Andrew Finegold investigates the social significance of body perforation in ancient Mesoamerica. Among the Aztec, Maya, and other ancient Mesoamerican cultures, jewels and the bodily holes required to corporeally display them occupied a range of significatory possibilities. Finegold's iconographic, material culture, and conceptual analysis of body perforation is built on colonial-era documentation, archaeological research, epigraphic analysis, and iconography. His thorough examination of piercing rituals such as bloodletting reveals how holes placed in the human bodies of individuals of all social ranks served as conduits for the flow of life force and vitality. When harnessed by ancient Mesoamerican elites, this tonalli and the holes that conducted it became the basis for their claims of legitimate social authority.
Fabiana Li is the guest editor of the Dialogues, “Bridging Academia, Activism, and Visual Culture in Conflicts over Resource Extraction,” in Issue 4 of LALVC. Li has brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, artists, and activists who demonstrate how academia, art, and activism intersect around the issue of resource extraction in Latin America. The socially engaged scholarship presented in this Dialogues suggests the ways in which visual culture opens up the possibility for the public to engage with the issue of resource extraction. According to Li, Dialogues itself, as well as the research described in it, “enabled collaboration among artists, academics, journalists, activists, and local communities,” regardless of their individual goals. This work reflects the diversity of people involved in collective actions that fall into three categories: representation, materiality, and translation. The essays in this Dialogues confront a range of cultural expression from protest art, photography, and art installations to maps, murals, songs, and videos. Dorota Biczel focuses her attention on the photography of Edi Hirose and the multimedia work of Nancy La Rosa presented in a 2016 exhibition at the University of Texas, Austin, titled Moving Mountains: Extractive Landscapes of Peru. Biczel's curatorial practice exposes the dramatic changes rendered in the Peruvian landscape stemming from extractive industries by highlighting its impact on economies, settlements, and individual lives. Elizabeth Ferry and Stephen Ferry combine documentary photography with sociocultural anthropology in their study of small-scale gold mining in Colombia. Between 2011 and 2017, the brother and sister traveled throughout Colombian mining communities documenting the stories of individuals that became the basis for their book, La Batea. Teresa Velásquez analyzes the visual iconographies of anti-mining collectives in Cuenca, Ecuador, produced between 2008 and 2018. Velásquez's research shows how activists have mobilized symbols like the raised fist and Canadian dragon to fight against different forms of dispossession in the areas surrounding Loma Larga and Río Blanco. In a comparative study, Stine Krøijer posits a visual connection between how anti-mining indigenous Ecuadorian and German activists have articulated social movements in very different social contexts. His work focuses on the role of visual culture and the performance of identity in resource conflicts, in particular in the International Yasuní and the Rhine-Ruhr campaigns. Finally, Pablo Sánchez and Ofelia Vargas consider the violent aggression of Peruvian mining companies, such as the Yanacocha in Cajamarca, Peru. Using the case study of Máxima Acuña, Sánchez and Vargas show how socially engaged scholarship can contribute to international justice by engaging public opinion against violent aggression at the local level. This Dialogues bears witness to how visual culture and related scholarship can disrupt dominant narratives and suggest new ways of seeing and thinking about Latin American resource extraction.
As we conclude our first year of publication, we look back with pride and gratitude to all of you who have generously contributed to the launch of LALVC. We look forward to continuing to nurture the journal's growth and to reading your contributions. The success of LALVC as a place for academic discourse that advances the field is directly correlated to its circulation. Currently, LALVC has seventy-five institutional subscribers, but we are counting on you to reach out to your librarians. Please encourage your university and public libraries to subscribe to LALVC.