For over forty-five years, Mesa-Bains has worked to bring Chicana art into the broader American field of contemporary art through innovations of sacred forms such as altares (home altars), ofrendas (offerings to the dead), descansos (roadside resting places), and capillas (home yard shrines). She expanded her installations from domestic spaces to include laboratories, library forms, gardens, and landscapes, focusing attention on the politics of space to highlight colonial erasure of the preexisting and still-surviving cultural differences in colonized Indigenous and Mexican American communities. Many of these works offer a feminist perspective on the domestic life of immigrant and Mexican American women across different historical periods—most notably the four-part installation series Venus Envy, which was created over multiple decades and will be displayed in its entirety for the first time at BAMPFA.
Standing at the juncture of cultural diversity, environmentally centered spirituality culled from ancestral non-Western worldviews, and intersectional feminism, Mesa-Bains has been heralded as one of the most prominent voices in feminist Chicanx art of her generation. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive