Repositioning the Popular: The Hybrid Aesthetics of Violeta Parra’s Paintings Machitún, Las tres Pascualas, and Casamiento de negros

Lorna Dillon

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In the twentieth century, traditional practices and popular culture in Chile went into decline. The situation was compounded by the fact that in the plastic arts, there was already an established hierarchy in which art based on traditional culture and crafts (artesanía) occupied a subordinate position. The Chilean artist and folklorist Violeta Parra sought to disrupt this paradigm. In this article Dillon explores the way Parra sought to defend popular culture through her visual art by creating paintings that were based on traditional culture but were also extremely modern. There is a paradox inherent in the modernism of Violeta Parra’s art and the way it sought to reposition popular culture. On the one hand, Parra’s work was indigenous. It counteracted the demise of traditional culture that was brought about by modernism. On the other hand, her work was utterly hybrid. Violeta Parra’s art enacted a revival of traditional culture through the fusion of a modernist aesthetics with motifs and narratives from Chilean popular culture. To explore the way Parra sought to redefine popular culture, Dillon deconstructs the subjects and visual syntax of the paintings Machitún, Las tres Pascualas, and Casamiento de negros. Dillon analyses the resonance of her work, which arises from the popular subjects she presents and the way her work disrupts hierarchies in the field of cultural production.

Dillon’s original contribution in this article is to challenge the conception of traditional art as stuck in the past or old fashioned. She undermines the temporal paradigm that structures the traditional art / modern art dichotomy using three paintings by the Chilean artist Violeta Parra as case studies. Dillon argues that Violeta Parra disrupts this ingrained hierarchy in the field of production using a hybrid style based on motifs from traditional Chilean art and the aesthetics of modern art.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-160
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in Latin American Popular Culture
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jan 2018


  • Violeta Parra
  • Violeta Parra's Art
  • Latin American art
  • Chilean art
  • folk art


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