Skin color, a physical and tangible form of marking identity, is examined in Barbara Carrasco’s acrylic paintings. Making use of a pop aesthetic with bright colors and a flat style of painting, Carrasco’s portraits are a reflection of her experience as a light-skinned Chicana desiring of darker skin for acceptance into her own community. While Western ideals of beauty laud light skin, Carrasco instead associates light skin with oppression. The history of light skin is often attached to Anglo-Europeans and its admiration in many corners of the world was promulgated by Western imperialism. Postcolonial discourse has made available the critique of light skin and an assertion of a non-Anglo-European identity politics in both the United States and the world. Self-Portrait (1994), a poignant piece featured in this exhibition, depicts Carrasco’s own “problem” with light skin. Carrasco also comments on light skin as a determining element for how people are treated with Patssi (2003), a portrait of her much darker sister that illustrates a story of the dynamic that exists between Carrasco’s communities and skin color. As Carrasco examines the politics of physical characteristics, she also makes bold comments on the complexities that are harbored in skin color within an othered community within a dominant white culture.


Barbara Carrasco is an artist and muralist who has created numerous works which have been exhibited throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America: The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (1996), Armand Hammer Museum (1995, 1999), Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art (1988), Museo del Chopo, Mexico (1984), and the Mexican Museum (1992). Her work has been featured in numerous publications: Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, Artforum, Boston Globe, New England Journal, High Performance, and Flash Art.

She received her MFA in art from the California Institute of the Arts (1991) and her BFA in art from UCLA (1978). Carrasco created numerous banners for the United Farm Workers (1976-1991). She was invited to the former USSR to paint murals in Leningrad and Armenia (1985 and 1987). Carrasco created computer animation PESTICIDES! which was continuously broadcast on the Spectacolor Lightboard at Times Square in New York (1989).

She has been awarded several grants: Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Window Grant for Literature (1990), LACE/Rockefeller Foundation/Andy Warhol Foundation/NEA, Artists Project Grant (1992), J. Paul Getty Fund for the Visual Arts, Visual Artist Fellowship/Painting (1988), and COLA award from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department (2000).

Her original mural sketches and drawings are reposited in the Permanent Collection of Works on Paper at the Library of Congress, Washington DC (1989). Documentation of her mural work is archived in the California Murals Collection at the Smithsonian Institution (1983). A permanent collection of her papers has been established and archived at Stanford University Special Collections Mexican American Manuscript Collections (1996). Her oral history is archived at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (1999).

Carrasco was recently named the 2002-2003 UC Regents Professor for the Spring Quarter the UC Riverside. Presently, Carrasco serves as a board member for the Dolores Huerta Foundation.