Literatures and Cultural Studies Faculty Publications and Presentations

Alma López’s California Fashions Slaves: Denaturalizing Domesticity, Labor, and Motherhood

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2011


This essay closely reads Alma López’s digital print, California Fashions Slaves (1997), which depicts Macrina López, the artist’s mother and a seamstress, alongside mexicana garment workers within a Los Angeles cityscape. These images are situated within a recasting of La Virgen de Guadalupe imagery, a characteristic of López’s work. The print was part of the Cyber Arte exhibit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2001, the same show that displayed López’s controversial Our Lady. Even though California Fashions Slaves manipulates the imagery of Guadalupe, religious and community activists overlooked the piece. Unlike Our Lady, California Fashions Slaves does not explicitly represent female sexual empowerment, but concentrates on women’s empowerment as a labor class. I argue that the critical oversight of California Fashions Slaves indicates the dominance of images that have sought to naturalize Chicanas and Latinas to domesticity, labor, and motherhood in cultural and visual representations. I closely read California Fashions Slaves as a challenge to such discourses because the print denaturalizes motherhood and domestic labor, emphasizing the domestic as a social and cultural construct, while also underscoring women’s creative resistance and agency.

Publication Title

Chicana/LatinaStudies: The Journal of MALCS