Professor Honored at International Latino Book Awards
Constance Cortez's biography on Texas Chicana Artist Carmen Lomas Garza claims top prize.
by Patrick Gonzales
A Texas Tech professor recently was awarded first place at the 2011 International Latino Book Awards for her biography on a Chicana artist with Texas ties.
Constance Cortez, an associate professor in the School of Art, wrote the book, “Carmen Lomas Garza,” as part of the series “A Ver: Revisioning Art History” conducted by UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center.
Cortez claimed top prize in the Best Arts Book (English) category.
“I am so very honored to have received this award,” she said. “In writing this book, I hoped to contribute to the growing body of literature on Chicana and Chicano artists. I was incredibly fortunate because Texas Tech was very supportive of my efforts.”
The Garza biography is 144 pages and includes 77 color illustrations of her work. Born in Kingsville in 1948, much of Garza’s art reflects her experiences growing up in South Texas, especially the relationship between family and community. Cortez, born and raised in Dallas, said she could easily relate. That made writing the book an enlightening process.
“Her childhood experiences, illustrated in much of her art, resonate with me – catching horned toads, the texture of mesquite, hot summer days and tamaladas (family gatherings in which tamales are made),” Cortez said. “What came as a surprise is how writing the book became a journey that was very personal. I feel I grew both as a scholar and as a person.”
Cortez has written and edited four books, and currently is working on an encyclopedia entry that looks at the interface between Chicana/o literature and art, as well as an article for a journal in Mexico on Chicana muralists. For her next book project she is researching other Chicana artists in Texas, with hopes of drawing more attention to their work.
“As one of the handful of established art historians working on Chicano and Latino art, Connie was always on our short list for the series,” said Chon Noriega, professor and director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center and “A Ver” series editor. “Connie did amazing research on this project, including several interviews with the artist, and the book provides a wonderfully written account of a major Chicana artist.”
Cortez also plays a key role in helping bring diversity to Texas Tech. She’s been teaching courses in Colonial Art of Mexico & Peru, 19th-20th century Mexican Art and Contemporary Chicana/o Art since joining the university in 2003.
“Diversity is part of who we are as Americans,” she said. “We should celebrate this diversity. If everyone were the same, what a boring world it would be.”
Constance Cortez is an associate professor in the School of Art at Texas Tech University.
Cortez teaches and publishes in two fields: Contemporary Chicano/a Art and Post-Contact Art of Mexico. Her two most recent volumes include “Carmen Lomas Garza” and “Death and Afterlife in the Early Modern Hispanic World” co-edited with John Beusterien.
Patrick Gonzales is Associate Director of the Office of Communications & Marketing at Texas Tech University.