Link to What's New This Week Francisco Zuniga's Campesinos

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Francisco Zuniga

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Created: July 14, 2003
Latest Update: July 14, 2003
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Site Teaching Modules Campesinos by Francisco Zuniga

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, July 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Date: 1980 Technique:Lithograph in six colors Dimensions:27" x 19"
Adani Gallery in Dallas.

I chose to share this with you because it is unlike the Zuniga sculptures I so often see. "Ziga's themes consist almost exclusively of female human figures. He used the reboso (Mexican shawl) to generate his well-known pyramidal composition of southeastern Mexican females. Often the figures, regardless of their dimensions, represent women's powerful strength as matriarchs." Adani Gallery Biography

Chamulas Rojo
Date:1981 Technique:Lithograph in three colors Dimensions:22" x 30".
Adani Gallery

The above lithograph is what I usually think of with Zuniga's work, and particularly with his sculptures. They are powerful. But the campesinos lithograph provides such a different atmosphere. The soft, soft grays and blues, and the gentle pink give the white a kind of special glow. The woman at the front right reflects the traditional theme of woman's strength, but I find the overall composition calming and soothing. It projects the feeling for me I might have expected from a jazz group in the South. Notice that the female still provides the solidity of the pyramidal shape.The stronger blue-green of the sitting woman's blanket? shawl? in her lap and the shawl of the standing woman at the upper left, pull things together for me. What am I trying to say by that? Well, it's almost like, between them, the women wrap the group in safety. I can even imagine that the seated woman might have a baby in her lap. Peaceful scene that reflects a warm communal spirit of mutuality.

The Adani Gallery has some lovely work up. Do find some time to browse there. jeanne

Now, I know that in art class your teachers will offer you special details on form and color and so on. But the sociology of art is more concerned with the social context the painting creates for you and the way it vibrates with your lived experience. Obviously, for me, the Campesinos vibrates. That's a major role of citizen's art: to realize the richness of art in our environment and the opportunities it affords us for feelings like the ones I'm expressing about Campesinos. I didn't have that kind of family in New Orleans. My parents and I were fairly isolated and on our own. But looking at Zuniga's lithograph, I can imagine the kind of community I didn't get to experience, and I can relate that to the kind of community I imagined one could have found in the sections of New Orleans so famous for their jazz. The social context influenced what Zuniga saw; and it influences in turn what I imagine, and how I respond to my own social context.

Discussion Questions

  1. Does my reaction to Zuniga's lithographs reflect a valid response to art?

    YES! Once the work is out there, it becomes interactive with its audience, and the author or artist no longer controls the meaning. If an art teacher tells you that a painting you have studied means "xxxx xxx x x x," that teacher is referring to the things you've learned about line, form, color, iconography, and is asking that you reflect that you have learned those things and can reflect them in your answers about the painting. But when we in sociology offer you the work of artists we think you should know, as a general part of your liberal arts education, there aren't any "right" answers about the meaning of whatever the artist or author says. At that point the art becomes interdependent with the audience, and we create our own art and culture through our reactions.

  2. Why do you suppose that Zuniga so often painted and sculpted the female figure with the rebosa?

    Consider this issue sociologically. What does the rebosa do? It covers the whole figure. It bears some resemblance to the veils in which The Virgin Mary, mideastern women, and many female saints are shown. It drapes from the head, creating the pyramidal structure. The pyramids are associated with both magic and astronomy, and are one of the world's seven wonders. The rebosa also serves to cover the child with the mother, and there is some parallel their to a guardian angel protecting the young, the ill, the weak. All these connotations are evoked by the rebosa when Zuniga wraps female figures in them. To do so also establishes a conceptual link with a long line of historical religious paintings of the Marys. It establishes a similar link for the religions of the middle east. In a seated position, the woman cloaked by the rebosa also resonates faintly with the figures of Buddha sitting cross-legged. This all makes of the rebosa a powerful sign, with a long cultural history.

    Other than my own reactions and the connotations the rebosa evokes for me, I don't have a hot clue as to why he chose it. I am not the authority. You are. Zuniga is; but he is gone. ou may favor one association over another, but there is no "right" or "wrong."

  3. Why do you suppose Zuniga included the two male figures in Campesinos?

    I don't have a hot clue, but I'm glad he did. Maybe he just saw the group one day, and reacted to all that it symbolized for him. Most of us don't contemplate our navels for intense interpretations of what we're doing. I'm not Zuniga. But I often paint because I need to. In the process, I interact as much with the scen as it manifests itself as I control it. Painting is not automatic. It is not bound by rules, especially not here in the 21st Century. I like the sense of community the males add to the lithograph. I find the community healthier and stronger when the whole family is there. I think I identify communities that have primarily women and children as ones that have been somehow deprived. So I might have included the males for that reason. I'm willing to leave Zuniga to his own reasons, and recreate my world on the basis of the paintings and lithographs he left for me to construct with my own lived experience.