Mano con Ojo Modernizes Mexican Folk Art

Christina Cordova is the artist behind a local lino blockprint line of cards, prints, T-shirts and more that honor her Chicano-American upbringing.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Mano con Ojo is Christina Cordova’s line of hand-printed items whose intricate designs are inspired by her Chicano-American upbringing in Los Angeles. Cordova’s carefully considered images play with the familiar tropes of Mexican folk art, with a deeply personal spin. In her “Memory Jacket” print, stereotypical scenes of “sleepy Mexicans” embroidered onto tourist jackets are replaced with her “personal touchstones of cultural identity” — a paletero ice cream vendor, desert scorpion, a woman growing corn with a United Farm Workers’ union logo on her skirt. Cordova’s “Tribute Prints” pay homage to common domestic objects, such as the molinillo and metate, and the physical and emotional labor of women who make domestic life possible.

Although she pursued science in school, the self-taught artist has always been “obsessed with making things with her hands.” Each design takes months to produce from the inception of an idea, working it out on paper, incising the design into a linoleum block, to the printing itself which occurs on her kitchen table in the Lake Merritt apartment that she shares with her partner.

Cordova quit her high-paying-yet-all-consuming biotech job two years ago to devote herself fully to Mano con Ojo (which translates to “hand with eye” and symbolizes protection in a variety of cultures).

“I’m working on being a better business person,” she admitted, citing the struggle of reconciling artistic output with creative need. She is looking for wholesale clients and hopes to find studio space outside the home when her business becomes more profitable. The self-proclaimed foodie also works part time at the Oaktown Spice Shop to help make ends meet and is designing a card exclusively for the specialty store.

The Mano con Ojo line also includes T-shirts, cards, tote bags, and leather card carriers and wallets, which are made utilizing her lino blockprint technique. All of her work is reasonably priced ($4.50 for a card to $80 for a multicolored print) and can be found at Bay Made on Lakeshore Avenue, E14 Gallery in Old Oakland, or on her website at ManoConOjo.com.

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