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In this informal conversation on life, art, and community, artists and long-term friends Amalia Mesa-Bains, Ester Hernández, and Mildred Howard will talk about art making, social justice, and the challenges women of color face in the art world. Mesa-Bains’s autobiographical installation Venus Envy, Chapter I: The First Holy Communion Moments Before the End (1993/2022) is currently presented on Floor 2 alongside Madrinas y Hermanas (Godmothers and Sisters), a presentation of works from SFMOMA’s permanent collection that is curated by Mesa-Bains and includes pieces by Hernández and Howard.
Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist and cultural critic. Her artworks, primarily interpretations of traditional Chicano altars, resonate both in contemporary formal terms and in their ties to her Chicano community and history. She has pioneered the documentation and interpretation of Chicano traditions in Mexican American art and is a leader in the field of community arts. Among her many awards is the distinguished MacArthur Fellowship. She is Professor Emerita in the Visual and Public Art department at California State University at Monterey Bay.
Ester Hernández was born in California’s San Joaquin Valley to a Mexican/Yaqui farm worker family. The UC Berkeley graduate is an internationally acclaimed San Francisco-based visual artist. She is best known for her depiction of Latina/Native women through her pastels, prints, and installations. Her work reflects social, political, ecological, and spiritual themes. Hernandez has had numerous national and international solo and group exhibitions. Among others, her work is included in the permanent collections of the National Museum of American Art – Smithsonian; Library of Congress; Legion of Honor, San Francisco; National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago; Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, Mexico City; Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe; Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Her artistic and personal archives are housed at Stanford University.
Mildred Howard is a media and installation artist whose work draws on a wide range of historical and contemporary experiences. Creating “an architecture for the remainder,” she questions perceptions and addresses misconceptions on how the world is viewed. She often uses found objects or the readymade in the work she creates. She has nearly 45 years of historically important exhibitions. Her public art can be seen throughout the Bay Area with her recent 18-foot bronze triptych, Promissory Note (2022) at Third and Evans in San Francisco. Howard has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Adaline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute; Joan Mitchell Fellowship; Anonymous Was a Woman Award; National Endowment for the Arts Grant in Sculpture; and a Lee Krasner Lifetime Achievement Award. She has exhibited throughout the United States and in Berlin, Cairo, and Paris. She is represented by galleries in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, and New York.