Publication Date

Spring 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Anne Simonson


activist art, critical muralism, Juana Alicia, murals

Subject Areas

Art history


Much has been written on Mexican Muralism and on the resurgence of mural art in the United States, and Chicana/o murals in San Francisco in particular, but very little has been written about mural artist Juana Alicia specifically, and none of this material has been gathered into one document. This study focuses on Juana Alicia as an important community-educator-artist-leader-activist, what educator and mural artist Arturo Rosette defines in his doctoral dissertation as a “critical muralist.” In particular, this study analyzes Juana Alicia’s 2012 mural, The Spiral Word, and places it within the context of mural art that functions as activist art, especially as it pertains to education, i.e. critical muralism. This study argues that many of Juana Alicia’s murals function as means of critical pedagogy, and that the complex densely packed narrative structure of The Spiral Word is particularly effective in this regard. By researching the literary and other source material for each image in The Spiral Word, this study concludes that decoding the complex iconography is a successful method of critical consciousness-raising.