The Art of Xicanx Peoples at Oakland Museum of California

On June 14, 2024, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) opens Calli: The Art of Xicanx Peoples, a major exhibition navigating the interwoven threads of intergenerational, feminist, queer, and Xicanx-Indigenous stories that offer visitors ancestral forms of liberation, healing, and being. Through photography, sculpture, painting, installation, poetry, and more, Calli layers multiple artistic perspectives in order to imagine new possibilities for the future.

The exhibition derives its name from OMCA’s recently-acquired Calli Americas collection of late queer Xicana activist and professor, Margaret “Margie” Terrazas Santos. A selection of Santos’ historic posters from her collection will be on view alongside large scale installations and major contemporary artworks commissioned for this project, offering a comprehensive portrayal of Xicanx experiences.

In naming her collection, Santos highlighted two key concepts that serve as the foundation of this exhibition: “Calli,” derived from Nahuatl, signifies not just “home” or “house,” but the very essence of household, family, and lineage. “Americas” refers to Indigenous land, transcending colonial borders and divisions. As such, the exhibition is a temporary “Xicanx home” where the stories of Xicanx peoples across California are honored, preserved, and shared.

“Calli: The Art of Xicanx Peoples showcases a diverse array of historical and contemporary artworks that center the voices and experiences of elder Xicanx-Indigenous artists, Queer Xicanx artists, and Feminist artists,” Gilda Posada, exhibition curator and Mellon Foundation Fellow at OMCA, said. “Through their art, these visionary artists expand the horizons of possibility, inspiring reflection and fostering dialogue about a world in which we can all belong.”

Visitors will begin their journey by entering the “calli,” a Xicana/o/x-Indigenous home in the form of a contemporary Mesoamerican stylized temple installation that leads into the first section of the exhibition, “Xicana/o/x Indigenous Revitalization.” This section focuses on the Indigenous Revitalization Movement that took place within the early part of the Chicana/o Movement, highlighting the many ways in which Xicana/o/x peoples renewed their Indigenous worldviews, languages, histories, practices and connection to earth.

The second section, “Self-Naming: Xicana/o/x,” explores how the identity of “Chicano” has shifted over the generations in the context of historic moments and movements in time. Visitors will be invited to engage in topics like challenging gender norms, queer kinship, and AIDS activism.

Next, “Spirituality/Materiality,” focuses on how Xicana/o/x artists have reconnected to their Indigenous spirituality and materialities through artmaking. Artworks invite visitors to witness, feel, and participate in traditional Indigenous forms of healing that reconnect body, mind, and spirit in a holistic way. 

“Creation Stories,” the final section of the exhibition, shows how Xicana/o/x artists use Mesoamerican creation stories in their works to speak to their responsibility to place, to fellow humans, and to other beings in this world.

Linda Lucero, ‘Expresion Chicana,’ 1976. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of the Terrazas Martin Family on behalf of Margaret Terrazas-Santos.
Linda Lucero, ‘Expresion Chicana,’ 1976. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of the Terrazas Martin Family on behalf of Margaret Terrazas-Santos. © La Raza Silkscreen Center, Inc./Linda Lucero

Exhibition highlights and featured artists include: 

  • An adobe Mesoamerican stylized temple installation by rafa esparza
  • Consuelo Jimenez Underwood will create a site-specific Borderline installation conveying issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border such as land commodification, militarization, dehumanization, and its ecological effects
  • A selection of posters from the Calli Americas collection focused on Third World Liberation and Solidarity Movements, Xicana Feminisms, Queer Xicanx activism, along with other social justice movements
  • Photographs from Laura Aguilar’s Clothed/Unclothed series that was recently acquired by OMCA
  • A ceramic and earth-based installation by Gina Aparicio with audio composed by musician Joe Galarza, a member of Aztlan Underground
  • An installation by Viviana Paredes using molcajetes (mortars and pestles) to highlight Indigenous matriarchal knowledge, sacred foods, and medicine. 
  • An OMCA-produced video of Felicia ‘Fe’ Montes activating her Botanica del Barrio, (mobile store selling medicinal herbs and remedies), out into the community in East Los Angeles. An interactive that Felicia Montes has created will invite visitors to share remedies passed down to them by their families.
  • A soft sculpture installation of the Aztec moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui, by artist Melanie Cervantes
  • Postcard takeaways featuring Calli Americas poster images with text written by Xicanx scholars that elaborates on the different sections of the exhibition   

Calli: The Art of Xicanx Peoples will be on view at the Oakland Museum of California from June 14, 2024, to January 26, 2025.


The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $19 general; $16 seniors and students with valid ID, $12 youth ages 13 to 17, and free for Members and children 12 and under. There is a $6 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions in the Great Hall.

OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. An accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum. 

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