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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 a number of 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 took place 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 influenced encouraged her to draw and paint, with Carlos Orozco Romero discouraging her from formal instruction as to not 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 on old bread wrappers, images of saints, horses, seahorses and other familiar elements.  López showed her work to Carlos Orozco Romero, who encouraged her novel style and critiquing her work. She suggested and exchange where she would pose, and he would teach her to paint. However, Orozco Romero convinced her that the classes would take away 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 along with her own children. The couple separated but remained on good terms. 

López began exhibiting in 1958 and since then has exhibited individually and collectively in Mexico, the United States and Europe. Her work resulted in awards and membership in the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana.  She said her childhood made it possible to grow in a big city.  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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