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Mon, 09.28.1936

Julia López, Artist born

Julia López

*The birth of Julia López is celebrated on this date in 1936.  She is a self-taught Afro Mexican painter.

López was born in a small village near the town of Ometepec on the Costa Chica of Guerrero. She was one of eight daughters born to African and (Amuzgo) indigenous heritage parents.  Her mother and father were farmers, raising cotton, chili peppers, tobacco, sesame seed, bananas, and other crops.  However, she wanted more in life and began her journey by going to Ometepec to work in a hotel called Casa Verde when she was only thirteen years old.  

During this time, she did not attend school but rather taught herself to read and do basic math. Her final move was to Mexico City, finding initial employment modeling bridal and other formal dresses.  This job allowed her to meet several people, especially from Coyoacán, including a muralist that introduced her to Frida Kahlo in 1952. She gave her a card to present herself to Antonio M. Ruíz, then director of La Esmeralda. 

In Mexico City, she was a model for artists. This occurred at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado "La Esmeralda." López became part of the circle of notable artists such as José Chávez Morado, Vlady, and even Diego Rivera.  Their influence encouraged her to draw and paint, with Carlos Orozco Romero discouraging her from formal instructions not to destroy her style.  While doing this, she listened carefully to teachers’ comments to students and integrated herself with this artistic community. López initially remained very poor, along with her artist friends, which included Alberto Gironella, Héctor Javier, Lauro López, Vlady, and José Luis Cuevas, sharing accommodations, food, and work.  

She began sketching images of saints, horses, seahorses, and other familiar elements on old bread wrappers.  López showed her work to Carlos Orozco Romero, who encouraged her novel style and critiqued her work. She suggested an exchange where she would pose, and he would teach her to paint. However, Orozco Romero convinced her that the classes would remove her spontaneity. As she developed her artistic career, she had three daughters of her own. She also had a nine-year relationship with painter Rafael Coronel, which whom she raised his son Juan and her children. The couple separated but remained on good terms. 

Since then, López began exhibiting in 1958 and has exhibited individually and collectively in Mexico, the United States, and Europe. Her work resulted in awards and Salón de la Plástica Mexicana membership.  She said her childhood made growing up in a big city possible.  Lopez’s works depict her childhood home in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero state. She currently lives and works in Mexico City. 

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