Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Denise K. Filios
This dissertation analyzes how three female artists of Greater Mexico (the Mexican cabaret artist Astrid Hadad, the Mexican-American singer Lila Downs and the Chicana digital artist Alma López) construct and represent national, ethnic, and gender identity in their performances within a border and/or transnational context. I explore how their choice of art form facilitates the construction of their own identities. My theoretical methodology embraces a cultural-studies approach to dramatic, visual and performative texts. All of these play an important role in redefining female Chicana/Mexican- American/Mexicana identity as a site of cultural and political contestation and struggle. The interdisciplinary character of this project corresponds to the nature of performance itself and to the search for female identity formation within Greater Mexico. I use the term Performing Nation to focus on how these artists embody and enact specific regional and national identities through, among others, costume choice, vocal inflection, song choice and imagery. The Mexican cabaret singer Astrid Hadad ironically performs Mexico through cabaret. Her humorous critiques of Mexican gender norms encourage her audience to envision a more egalitarian future for Mexico. The Mexican- American pop singer Lila Downs performs Greater Mexico through folk culture. I discuss how her oscillation between the new and the "authentic" promotes the idea that folklore is malleable and willing to change. The Chicana visual media artist Alma López performs a queer Greater Mexico in cyberspace through digital art. I show how her play on female dualisms found in Mexican and Chicano culture helps open a space for the contemporary Lesbian Chicana. In their work these artists play with iconography from the Post-Mexican Revolution period. Astrid Hadad highlights female figures such as La Soldadera, La Muerte, Coatlicue, La Virgen de Guadalupe and Frida Kahlo that are important to Mexican culture. Downs incorporates imagery through myth and storytelling, both central to her performances. Alma López plays on indigenous and Chicano art in her digital prints. Through the absorption of symbolic, religious and popular iconography these artists construct mobile identities that extend the Mexican cultural sphere across the northern border into the U.S. The porous nature of the border enables these northern identities to circulate back to Mexico. By participating in this cross-border identity building process, Hadad, Downs and López situate themselves as public figures, as women artists, within the Greater Mexico that they are reshaping.
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Copyright 2010 Kathleen Angelique Dwyer