Local Chicana artist illuminates strength and femininity in new mural


DENVER — Off Santa Fe Drive, located in the backyard of the well-known Museo de las Americas, artist Karma Leigh has transformed a once-dull wall into a colorful mural. 

“Each of the women I chose to paint a portrait of for my mural, "Lineas de Sangre", was very specific, and not just because they’re my friends,” explained Leigh. “These women contribute to their communities. They’re mothers, creatives, and healers of the earth. There are so many reasons why they should be honored.” 

“Lineas de Sangre,” or “Bloodlines,” reimages the iconic “Mestizo Head” created by renowned Colorado Chicano artist Emanuel Martínez. "Mestizo Head" portrays a profile of an indigenous mother, a profile of a Spanish father, and, in the center, a face of their union: a Mestizo/Chicano. Mestizo or Mestiza is a term used for for a person with European and Indigenous American ancestry. This new mural recognizes three women from Colorado, who represent different bloodlines: The Pachuca, the Mestiza, and the Indigenous woman.  

For Leigh, a lack of strong female representation in art and the erasure of Black and Brown people were motivating factors for creating the murals. 

“Having feminine energy present that is strong, bold, and colorful is powerful,” Leigh said. “Even if that feminine presence is subtle, people still see it. It’s like a little tiny seed planted in their minds for future inspiration.” 

The women represented in the mural— Sarita Peralta-Sabala, Eutimia Cruz, and Renée Chacon— are all from Colorado.

“I’m so humbled to be able to have my face represented on the mural, as a life-giver, and as a mother. I’m proud of my heritage. I’m a mix, Chicana and Filipina. I always tell people I can’t exist other than [in] Colorado because my Filipino grandfather married my Mexican grandmother. We call ourselves Chicano,” Chacon said. “Most people do not know that there are over 40 indigenous tribes in Colorado, including Chicano. I’m proud.” 

Leigh said the mural was painted in vibrant colors because she loves painting with a non-traditional color palette. In the mural, all three women have purple in their hair, representing royalty, as Leigh highlights. 

“I’m very humbled. Karma made me feel very empowered,” Peralta-Sabala said. “When Karma told me I was going to be on the mural, I was nervous, but this is exactly what I needed. I feel so confident because of this honor.” 

Leigh reminds women that they are life-givers. “Even if you are not birthing, you are a creator. We have wombs for a reason,” said Leigh. 

The unveiling of the mural on August 6 was a part of the First Friday Art Walk in the Sante Fe Arts District. 

“Painting is my Zen, so I was not emotional during the artwork process. What made the most emotional was seeing my friends and family come to support,” Leigh said. “I was humbled by the crowd of people who came by to check it out. People were coming up to me saying that they were intrigued and interested.” 

Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at lindseyford@rmpbs.org.

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