American Studies ETDs


Eric Castillo

Publication Date



An artist who constantly challenged various social and political boundaries, Jimenez and his art contribute to a growing discourse about U.S. sculpture and 21st century American art. By combining various methodologies such as formal analysis, visual analysis, and critical biography, I will underscore the significance of Luis Jimenez's art in 21st century American art. Jimenez's art functions autobiographically particular moment in his life affected his art in many ways. His time in Mexico City, New York, and Rome are a few pivotal moments that shifted the focus of his art and encouraged him to return to the Southwest where his controversial art was created. My methodological approach is based on a concept I call borderlands visual theory. This methodological practice will consist of a social history of art with close attention to content, context, and connoisseurship. An interdisciplinary method that will facilitate the research design of my project, borderlands visual theory explains the theories and methods of Jimenez's contemporary artistic practices. Rooted in histories of oppression and suffering, borderlands visual theory emerges within a framework of purpose, resourcefulness, and an "against the grain," anti-border mentality. Grounding my analysis of Jimenez within a larger discussion about American and Chicana/o art will underscore the effective methods Jimenez employed to reach a diverse audience. Jimenez's artworks offer an innovative conceptualization of aesthetics and cultural identity and critically examine regional and national politics. He offers an understanding about American art that is hybrid, differential, and contingent, rather than pure or monolithic. By examining Jimenez's artwork within the rubric of borderlands visual theory, I will offer a more fruitful discussion about his resourceful, innovative, and multidimensional practice that contemporary writings about him neglect. Differentiated by his style politics and motivated by his sociocultural interventions, Jimenez authored unique methods that engage with the issues of his time. My project will illuminate various moments of artistic intervention that situate Jimenez within a larger, and arguably a more appropriate, discussion about American art. Luis Jimenez was a titan in the art world his monumental sculptures and poignant lithographs reveal his commitment for a shared humanity as well as provide a platform for his social and artistic agendas. Jimenez created works of art that combined formal artistic practices with Chicana/o vernacular aesthetics. In addition, Jimenez's incorporation of classical themes and remarkable attention to form situate his art in distinguished academic categories of sculpture and American art. His innovative use of fiberglass materials and archetypal themes position his unique perspective within formalized discussions in art history. The magnitude of Jimenez's artwork has not been thoroughly documented because of his ability to cross over into the American art scene, this project will trace out the significant factors that enabled him to cross borders historically closed off to artists of color.

Project Sponsors

Center for Southwest Research, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, University of New Mexico, Higher Education Development Grant




American Art, Southwest History, Art HIstory, Borderlands, Immigration, Chicano, Identity, Luis Jimenez, Visual Culture, Rasquache, Domesticana, Mexican-American, New Mexico, Collective memory, Old Town, Monument, public art, citizenship, Mexico, murals, vaquero, iconography, Native Americans, Anglo exceptionalism, Chicano Art, protest art, mestizo, hybridity, American identity, border art

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

A. Gabriel Meléndez

Second Committee Member

Laura E. Gómez

Third Committee Member

Kirsten P. Buick

Fourth Committee Member

Kirk Savage

Fifth Committee Member

Miguel Gandert