Art & Art History ETDs


Regina Emmer

Publication Date



The Nicaraguan artist Armando Morales (1927-2011) has received considerable attention in recent scholarship for his work as a Magical Realist' painter\u2014a label that has drawn attention to the 'dreamlike' and 'mythic' qualities of Morales' work while obscuring other qualities that are critical to understanding the artist and his oeuvre. Focusing on the landscape paintings that Armando Morales executed between 1985 and 2001, I remove Morales' work from the framework of magical realism within which it has been situated in order to more deeply probe themes that were central to the artist but which have been largely overlooked. More specifically, my research has aimed to address the recurring presence of the female nude, the role of spirituality, and the notion of indigenous coevality\u2014or coexistence\u2014with the modern industrialized world, all of which are embedded in Morales' late twentieth century depictions of the Nicaraguan topography. I draw upon twentieth century anthropological discourse in order to situate my analysis within a larger body of work concerned with the temporal and spatial construction of 'otherness.' I begin by deconstructing the myth of Latin American magical realism, exploring the ways in which the construct of magical realism has functioned within colonialist imaginings of Latin America as a place concerned with 'unreal' time and space. By removing these works from the realm of 'unreality,' it becomes possible to pointedly address those elements which do not adhere to narratives of 'otherness' and which have, therefore, remained unaddressed in the existing scholarship. I first consider the implications of the pronounced presence and fragmentation of the nude female body throughout Morales' landscape paintings. Approaching these compositions as open works of art, I propose multiple possible readings of Morales' constructions of the nude, one of which is that we might read these landscapes as representing the artist's own colonizing gaze in dialogue with Europe. I next address the manner in which religion, spirituality, and magic were constructed in opposition to science, modernity, and progress in late nineteenth and early twentieth century anthropological discourse in order to create the inferior 'others' necessary for European and American colonial expansion. Drawing upon the work of anthropologists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Mary Douglas, I argue that Morales' landscape paintings reveal a visual language riddled with spiritual underpinnings that challenge the modern separation between religion and science. I conclude by examining Morales' 1992 work, Selva tropical, decidua, within the discourse of the modernist grid, arguing that Morales reacted against cultural binaries by gridding the landscape, not according to the Cartesian coordinate system, but rather as a rhizomatic map. With the research and analyses presented here, I hope to remove Armando Morales' landscape paintings from the 'imagined community' within which they have been situated in order to provoke new approaches to the multi-layered visual language found throughout these works.'



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Advisor

Buick, Kirsten

First Committee Member (Chair)

Barnet-Sánchez, Holly

Second Committee Member

Santiago-Díaz, Eleuterio


Latin American Art, Central American Art, Nicaraguan Art, Nicaragua, Armando Morales, Landscape Painting, History, Magical Realism