Mi Hermana Lili



Mi Hermana Lili


Victoria Dennis

Date Created




Social Issue



Sometimes my art process is as messy as biting into a mayonnaise slathered eloté. Sometimes, its as fastidious as the spaces in between the white picket fence of my childhood home.

This painting titled Mi Hermana, Lili translates from Spanish as My Sister, Lili. My painting is part of a series that explores our shared experience as first-generation Chicanas growing up in America, and also highlights the fragility of culture due to assimilation.

I collected different photos of Lili and fragmented them into collages on the canvas. I used a primitive landscape of Sonora, Mexico as the background to represent where our family originates. Cactuses in our Pascua Yaqui heritage are valued for their genetic survival, resiliency in extreme conditions, and inhabitance in desolate areas of the Sonora Desert. This motif symbolizes the resiliency of cultural expression by immigrants. Immigrants experience isolation in their new cultural environments, while also cultivating an opportunity to grow and establish their families.

I borrowed colored pallets from Mexican American muralists to demonstrate the blending of these two cultures. However, in this painting, I intentionally confined the figure to the hard edges of the paint. The hard edges are borrowed from American Pop Art to further push the narrative of American consumerism and reproduction of culture. The hard edges represent American assimilation: the experience of having to let go of your culture to absorb the major culture you’re surrounded by, to become socially integrated. I highlight the unique topography of my sister’s Latina face, next to the topography of the landscape. The figure does not feel out of place within the environment, since they have the same painting language and color pallet, but the hard edges are creating a synthetic barrier between them.

The windows of the figure demonstrate the idea of an individual being an apex of expression. There is a cultural phenomenon that can only be passed down by your familial culture. Familial culture is learned by enculturation, the happening in which an individual grasps cultural concepts that they are surrounded by. How you speak, your mannerisms, the way you tell stories, dancing, music, and more, can only be passed down organically. These are all transcendental forms of expression. Assimilation makes this apex smaller and smaller. I compare the song of an endangered species of bird, on the verge of extinction, to be as rare as indigenous Yaqui flute music. Once a culture is erased, these expressions will never be found on Earth again.


©Victoria Dennis, 2021

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