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 Judy F. Baca  (1946 - )

About: Judy F. Baca


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Lived/Active: California      Known for: mural, mod-real urban genre

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Noted for her socially conscious murals, Judith Baca exemplifies the new spirit among Hispanic-American women artists. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she is recognized both as an outstanding leader-organizer as well as for her murals. After receiving a B.A. in 1969 from California State University at Northridge, she was hired as resident artist by the Cultural Affairs Division of the city of Los Angeles. Baca went into the East Los Angeles barrio and convinced youths in warring street gangs to work together cooperatively in teen muralist brigades; she led them in the constructive task of creating large murals in the community.

Baca was made director of an innovative public art program, the Citywide Mural Project. Between 1974 and 1977, she supervised forty muralists and four hundred apprentice artists in the production of forty public murals in various parts of Los Angeles. At the same time, Baca carried out her own murals (with assistants) at the California Institute for Women (a state prison) and at the Little Sisters of the Poor convalescent home.

In 1976, Baca began directing the creation of the longest mural in the world, "The Great Wall of Los Angeles', a visual history of the city, showing the contributions of ethnic and immigrant groups to its culture. The mural is created on the wall of the Tujunga Wash flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley. In preparation for this colossal task, Baca traveled to the Taller Siqueiros workshop in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to take intensive training in the technique and chemistry of mural painting. After returning, she and two associates formed the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), an agency that conducts many workshops and activities in the melting-pot community of Venice. With the support of SPARC and with the backing of the city of Los Angeles and the County Corps of Engineers, Baca was able to hire youths on parole from the juvenile justice program and then from the Summer Youth Employment Program.

Young people from different ethnic backgrounds are working together in harmony and are learning history, mathematics, and other skills in the process of creating 'The Great Wall'. Baca designed the second and third section of the wall by herself to develop a unified tone for the huge project. Much of it, however, is a collaborative effort, involving the talents of her assistants and the young people working with them. Painted over five summers, this exciting work describes decade by decade the contributions and struggles of California's diverse peoples from prehistoric times to the late 20th century. Unique among murals in its conceptual approach, 'The Great Wall' also provides an educational program of training in inter-racial relations for the project's participants and for the people in the surrounding community.

Although Baca is heavily involved in public commitments, she continues to paint her own murals in a style influenced by the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. 'When God Was Woman' is a two-sided, rotating triptych portraying goddess images from Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Ms. Baca's most recent works include commissions for the University of Southern California; the Baldwin Park Metrolink station; an international exhibition entitled "Art of the Other Mexico"; an interior mural for the Southern California Gas Company's new downtown Los Angeles headquarters; murals for the 1984 Olympics (on the Harbor Freeway); a skid row mural for the homeless; and a historical mural colonnade for Guadalupe, California.

Currently, Baca is working on a commission for the Denver International Airport, as well as 'The World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear' which she began in 1990. The 'World Wall' consists of seven 10 foot by 30 foot portable mural panels on canvas. This 210-foot mural addresses contemporary issues of global importance; war, peace, cooperation, interdependence, and spiritual growth.

In an effort to spread her concept of peace and understanding between cultures, the portable murals have so far traveled to the former Soviet Union, Finland, Washington, D.C., and Santa Barbara. As "The World Wall" tours the world, seven additional panels by artists from seven countries will be added to complete this visual tribute to the "Global Village."

Baca is a founding faculty member at Cal State Monterey Bay and is currently on a leave of absence from UC Irvine, where she has taught studio art for 13 years.

Source: "American Women Artists" by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein

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