Muralist Judy Baca is a Chicana artist working in the mural style of many artists from Mexico before her. She is also a political activist who started the community arts organization Social Public Art Resource Center in Los Angeles.
She is most well know for “The Great Wall of Los Angeles,” the largest mural of its time in Los Angeles started in 1974. Taking over 4 years to complete, this mural is half a mile in length and receives regular restoration treatments.
Judy Baca’s mural work was recently the subject of political debate in the city of Los Angeles where the fine line between art and other stuff (advertising, signage, graffiti) was challenged.
Baca’s work continues to push the boundaries to help continue to evolve the definition of art to include all useful methods, rather than the narrow definition allowed by city governments. In the past, only murals created in fresco were allowed to fit the definition of a public art mural because other types of applications are seen as ephemeral. Several cases have been to court over this issue and the unfortunate removal of murals in California. Previously murals painted in acrylic or aerosol were in danger of being removed based on definitions that did not recognize advancements in technology and conservation methods, sometimes murals would be removed if they had not been painted with a brush!
Baca and her group SPARC have defended art in many mediums with many styles of application. The debate has now moved to the technological arena, some debate whether the use of digital projection, printing and painting on panels can be considered art. The question comes down to what is intended to be permanent and what classifies a work of art as being valuable to a community historically.
Under the Visual Artist Rights Act (VARA) and California Art Preservation Act (CAPA) there are many rights that Artist’s have but are typically not aware of. Judy Baca and SPARC have defended artists in these rights and art has been able to proliferate in ways that might have been smashed down without the guidance and support that Baca has provided and fought as an artist herself.