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Centre of Latin American Studies

Lorna Dillon

Dr Lorna Dillon

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Research Interests

I specialise in Latin American art and culture. My main research areas are textile art (twentieth century and contemporary) and the work of the Chilean artist Violeta Parra. My current project explores the link between visual art and human rights through the analysis of transnational art movements and diasporas. The focus is embroideries, quilts and arpilleras (appliqués) created by artists and art collectives in Colombia, Mexico and Chile. My work confronts exclusionary biases in the art world, particularly with regard to craft work, participatory textile art movements and the art of the Global South.

My other interests include the iconography of human rights, Surrealism, Pop art, muralism and the translation of theatre.

Selected Publications


Violeta Parra’s Visual Art: Painted Songs

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This book explores Violeta Parra’s visual art, focusing on her embroideries (arpilleras), paintings, papier-mâché collages and sculptures. Parra is one of Chile’s great artists and musicians, yet her visual art is relatively unknown. Her fusion of complex imagery from Chilean folk music and culture with archetypes in Western art results in a hybrid body of work. Parra’s hybridism is the story of this book, in which I explore Parra’s ‘painted songs’, the ekphrastic nature of her creations and the way ideas translate from her music and poetry into her visual art. I identify three intellectual currents in Parra’s art: its relationship to motifs from Chilean popular and oral culture; its relationship to the work of other modern artists; and its relationship to the themes of her protest music. I argue that Parra’s commentaries on inequality and injustice have as much resonance today as they did fifty years ago. I also explore the convergence between Parra’s art and the work of other modern twentieth-century artists, considering its links to Surrealism, Pop Art and the Mexican Muralism Movement. Parra exhibited in open-air art fairs, museums and cultural centres as well as in prestigious venues such as Museu de Arte Moderna do Brasil (the Museum of Modern Art in Brazil) and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Paris. I reflect on Parra’s socially-engaged work as it was expressed through her exhibitions in these centres as well as in her own cultural centre La carpa de la reina

Violeta Parra: Life and Work

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Violeta Parra was an extraordinary figure. She is best known for her contribution to the Latin American New Song movement and for her visual art which was exhibited in the Musée des arts décoratifs of the Louvre gallery in 1964. Parra spent her early career singing Mexican songs in bars and researching traditional Chilean culture. All the different phases of Parra’s life and work are discussed in this book, with analyses of her music, paintings, sculptures, embroideries (arpilleras), and poetry. Her exhibition in Paris and the music venue that she established before she died, La carpa de la reina, are also covered.

Among the individual essays collected here are seminal works by Patricio Manns and Leonidas Morales, which have been translated into English for the first time by Lorna Dillon and Lucy Fyfe. These texts introduce the historical and biographical context for Parra’s work. Other essays feature the latest research and findings by Catherine Boyle, Erika Verba, Paula Miranda, Serda Yalkin, Romina A. Green and Lorna Dillon. The book also includes an interview with Violeta Parra´s brother, the influential poet Nicanor Parra, which has been translated into English by Catherine Boyle. It also includes a foreword by Marjorie Agosin.

Other publications


I teach across different disciplines: art history; modern languages and comparative literature.

I teach surrealism; Latin American art; Latin American literature (twentieth century); Latin American film and creative responses to military dictatorships in Latin America.

Research Awards

My research has been supported by organisations such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, The Henry Moore Foundation, the Isaac Newton Trust and the Institute of Fine Art at the University of New York.

I am a Research Fellow at Murray Edwards College and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.