Celia Alvarez Munoz American, b. 1937
Alvarez Muñoz is a Mexican American conceptual multimedia artist who is known for her photography, painting, installations, and public art, as well as for her writing. Born in El Paso, Texas, Álvarez Muñoz's work addresses the dichotomy of living between two cultures. Common themes in her practice include: Catholicism, Mexican American experience, the past versus the present and English versus Spanish language. The artist incorporates themes of family and "communal memories" in her pieces. She uses text and images in her work to explore the ambiguous signs and signifiers where cultures meet and to communicate stories of American history, culture, and society.
She studied at Texas Western University (now University of Texas) in El Paso, taking mostly commercial art classes. Quickly thereafter she began teaching art to children. After relocating several times to different parts of the country, Álvarez Muñoz and her husband and their two small children returned to Texas, to Arlington. In 1977, at the age of forty, she enrolled in graduate school at North Texas State University (NTSU; now University of North Texas) in Denton. There she took courses with the artists Vernon Fisher (b.1943) and Al Souza (b.1944), who influenced her conceptual practice across mediums, from artist's books and photographs to installations and public works. While attending NTSU, she began work on her series Enlightenment.Enlightenment tapped into her memories of growing up along the Mexican border in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Deeply committed to her bilingual and bicultural heritage, the artist plays with text, puns, and double meanings, regularly addressing such themes as cognitive development and language acquisition.
Her most recent work continues to relate to the experiences of living in the physical as well as the psychological and political border zone. Álvarez Muñoz has received numerous awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts grants (1988, 1991). Her work has been exhibited widely in group exhibitions, such as the Whitney Biennial (1991), and in solo presentations at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (1991); Dallas Museum of Art (1991); Capp Street Project, San Francisco (1994); and University of Texas at Arlington (2002). Her work has been acquired by public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Muñoz’s work was included in the invitational traveling exhibition Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement by the Smithsonian Institution and Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985, among other exhibits.