Arts + Culture

'Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas' opens March 30 at Fowler

The margins in the Americas borders both physical and societal engender sacred figures who walk the fine line between sinfulness and sanctity. In worship and artistic representation, these entities reflect and impact the experiences of those who regularly struggle with harsh and frequently dangerous economic, political, legal, geographic, gender-related and racial realities.
Featuring an array of paintings, sculptures, digital arts, mixed-media works and site-specific installations, "Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas" on display at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from March 30 through July 20 examines a series of crucial and often controversial divine beings from Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina and the United States. Artists working in both traditional and contemporary genres interpret official and unofficial Catholic saints, folk heroes-turned-supernatural intercessors such as the New Orleans' "Voodoo Queen" Marie Laveau and the "Mexican Robin Hood" Jesús Malverde and mythological beings like the Native American deity known as Coyote.

The broad range of objects in this exhibition, from pop culture to fine art, attests to a widespread international infatuation with these complex and often countercultural spirits. "Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners" features approximately 66 works by artists including Evelyne Alcide, Vitor Amati, Edgar Clement, Eduardo Closs, Jeff Cullen, Demián Flores, Harry Fonseca, Judithe Hernández, Ignacio, Leonardo Linares, Carolyn Long, Alma López, Marcos López, Teresa Margolles, Matjames Metson, Delilah Montoya, Engelis Oliveira, María Romero, Renée Stout, Steven Yazzie and others.
The exhibition is organized into sections that examine Catholic martyrs and penitent saints; the souls of sinners consigned to purgatory; spirits of troubled places; and contemporary reworkings of traditional icons.
Highlights include:
  • "Quitapesares" (Solace) by Mexican artist María Romero, a tent-like space inspired by the chapel of the "generous bandit" Jesús Malverde in Culiacán, Mexico, which includes collages made of clothing belonging to deceased people dear to the artist.
  • Three paintings by Los Angeles–based artist Alma López from the 2011 series "Queer Santas," in which López reworks Catholic saints from a lesbian Chicana perspective.
  • Two paintings by Phoenix-based artist Steven Yazzie in which coyotes who also appear as tricksters in Native America mythology wander through modern interiors in a commentary on rapid urban growth and the consequences of the American dream.
  • Argentine artist Marcos López's oversized, hyperrealistic digital print juxtaposing sculptures of iconic sacred and popular figures in Latin America, including Jesus, Eva Perón, Ché Guevara, and Mother Theresa.
  • Several pieces by Washington, D.C.–based artist Renée Stout, whose ongoing interest in Marie Laveau has been the subject of her mixed-media works.
  • Mexican artist Demián Flores' sculptures, which conflate ancient Mexican forms with more contemporary elements such as an image of Jesús Malverde or a Mexican flag.
  • Mixed-media assemblages by Matjames Metson, who moved to Los Angeles after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Metson's ornately encrusted sculptures, pieced together using detritus from bygone days, are acts of commemoration intended to give new life to the all-too-easily forgotten or abandoned.
"Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas" is organized by Patrick A. Polk, curator of Latin American and Caribbean popular arts at the Fowler Museum. Generous support for the exhibition comes from the Lenore Hoag Mulryan Fund and the Donald B. Cordry Memorial Fund. Additional funding is provided by Jim and Jeanne Pieper, the Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles, and Manus, the support group of the Fowler Museum. Public programs and family activities are made possible by the UCLA Dream Fund.
This spring, the Fowler will publish the book "Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas" (paper, ISBN 978-0-9847550-7-3), distributed by the University of Washington Press. Edited by Patrick A. Polk, the book includes contributions by Luis Americo Bonfim, Sabrina Gledhill, Stephen C. Wehmeyer, Renée Stout and Carolyn Morrow Long, Katherine Smith, Jim Pieper, Ignacio, Jeri Bernadette Williams, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, and Judithe Hernández.
The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country's most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The Fowler is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., and on Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA Arts, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $12 in Lot 4. For more information, the public may call 310-825-4361 or visit

Saturday, March 29
5 p.m.
Fowler OutSpoken Lecture: Patrick A. Polk
Curator Patrick A. Polk guides us through the sacred figures that serve as objects of popular devotion and as sources of artistic inspiration throughout the Americas. The opening party follows, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Sunday, March 30
1–4 p.m.
Kids in the Courtyard: 'Let Your Light Shine' Candle Making
We light candles to guide our way, to celebrate special events and in memory of extraordinary people. In celebration of the opening day of "Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas," make a candle to brighten your world.
Sunday, March 30
1–3 p.m.
Opening Day: Artist collaboration
On opening day, visitors can collaborate with artist María Romero to embellish her chapel-like installation with fabric inscribed with their wishes, hopes and prayers.

Additional programs are announced online at
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