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Centre of Latin American Studies


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. 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

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

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.


  • Dillon, Lorna and Erika Silva. (forthcoming / in press). “Arpilleras” Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of World Textiles. (London: Bloomsbury)
  • Dillon, Lorna. (translator). 2023. “Claiming the Right to Memory, Stitch by Stitch. The experience of the Costurero Tejedoras por la Memoria de Sonsón (the Sonsón Memory Sewing Group)” The Textile Reader (London: Bloomsbury).    
  • Dillon, Lorna. 2022. “Repairing the Fabric of Society through Needlework” Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture. 4, 4: 74-80.
  • Dillon, Lorna. 2022. “Embroidery in Abya Yala” Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture. 4, 4: 119-128. 
  •  Dillon, Lorna, Lucy Phelps and Jennifer Wood (translators) 2022. “The Catch Up” In Poor Connection / Conexión Inestable. Edited by Catherine Boyle, Jack Tarlton, Lucila Cordone, Luis A. Medina Cordova, María Laura Ramos and Nicolás Lisoni. 201-211.  
  • Dillon, Lorna. 2021. “The Aesthetics of Global Protest; Global Activism and Art and Conflict in the 21st Century” Visual Studies
  • Dillon, Lorna. 2020Violeta Parra’s Art: Painted SongsCham: Palgrave Pivot.
  • Dillon, Lorna. 2018. “Repositioning the Popular: The Hybrid Aesthetics of Violeta Parra’s   Paintings Machitún, Las tres Pascualas and Casamiento de negros.” Studies in Latin   American Popular Culture 36: 145-160.   
  • Dillon, Lorna, ed. 2017. Violeta Parra: Life and Work. Woodbridge: Tamesis. Violeta Parra (
  • Dillon, Lorna. 2016. “Religion and the Angel's Wake Tradition in Violeta Parra's Art and   Lyrics.” Taller de Letras 59: 91-109.  
  • Dillon, Lorna. 2015. “Review of Arpillera sobre Chile: cine, teatro y literatura antes y   después de 1973.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 92, 6: 728-729.   

Full details of all my publications can be found on my page

Teaching and Service

I teach in the History of Art Department and the Centre of Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge. I supervise undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines as well as postgraduate MPhil and PhD students working in the areas of Latin American visual culture or Surrealism. 

I am the co-chair of the Latin American Studies Association Visual Culture Section (2022-2024) and a member of the executive committee of Women in Spanish and Portuguese Studies (WISPS). I am a tutor at Murray Edwards College and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  

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.


 What lies Beneath: Women, Politics, Textiles (co-curated with Naomi Polonsky, February to August 2022), The Women's Art Collection, Murray Edwards College. 

A virtual display of the exhibition can be seen here: What lies Beneath: Women, Politics, Textiles - 3D virtual exhibition by Lorna Dillon and Naomi Polonsky | art.spaces | KUNSTMATRIX