photo by Evan Hartzell

Born in Southern California in 1969, Laura Alvarez is a visual and recording artist. She grew up in Orange County where her father did mysterious work for the government and her mother cleaned houses. She spent her summers on her maternal grandmother’s ranch in Tamaulipas, Mexico which seemed straight out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.  As an adult, she taught art and raised her children in the nanny-filled west side of Los Angeles. The combination of these specific environments, cultures, and experiences inform the work she does today. Laura has a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Studio Art and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in painting.

Laura has exhibited throughout the US in museums such as San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the SouthwestMuseum of Art, the American Federation of Labor in Washington D.C., and the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Her art is in the collection of both LACMA and The Smithsonian’s Gallery of American Art.

Laura has been creating artworks, music, and film about her character, the Double Agent Sirvienta (DAS), a spy posing as a maid on both sides of the border since 1995. Posters of DAS lined MUNI bus stops along Market Street in San Francisco in 1996. In 1997-2000 Alvarez recorded a rock opera with music and lyrics directly from, and inspired by her character and her artwork. In 2001 a mural installation of the DAS character was presented at Bolivar in Santa Monica, and in 2006, Laura had a solo show of DAS artworks and films at Chiat Day in Los Angeles. In 2017 she focused on DAS’ costumes/uniforms in her exhibition, DAS: Clothes Stories at Pasadena City College.

Laura has created three short films about DAS. The first was created in graduate school at SFAI in 1995 and inserts DAS into telenovela stills. The second, Sueños Intermedios, was commissioned for the exhibition, “Mixed Feelings” at USC’s Fisher Gallery in 2002 and was produced by Evan Hartzell. Sueños Intermedios integrates live action and animation.  In 2005 she created another DAS film, Dreams of Venice for Oceanside Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Borderless Dreams” which was also produced by Evan Hartzell. This last film features DAS as a nanny caring for a child in the Venice Canals of Los Angeles. 

Images and lyrics about DAS are in the books, Urban Latino Cultures by Dear, Leclerc, and Villa,  Chicana Art: the politics of spiritual and aesthetic altarities by Laura Perez, and in Domestic Disturbances by Irene Mata.

Currently, she is finishing a mixed media graphic novel about the Double Agent Sirvienta which has been optioned by a development company to become a live action series.

Selected Exhibitions

What Would You Say: Activist Graphics from LACMA, Museum of Art & History, Lancaster, Riverside Art Museum, Cal State Northridge, Vincent Price Art Museum, 2022-2023

Milenio: Chicanismos of Tomorrow, Harwood’s 6th Street Studio, Albuquerque, New Mexico 2023

Fronteras Del Futuro: Art in New Mexico and Beyond, The National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico 2022-2023

*DAS:  Clothes Stories, Pasadena City College, Pasadena, 2017

*Open Studio, Paradiso Arts, Santa Monica, 2013

Crossroads Art Faculty Show, Sam Francis Gallery, Santa Monica, 2010

El Maiz es Nuestra Vida/Bolsa del Mercado, Centro de Cultura, San Diego, May 21st-June 28, 2009

Chicano Art and ExperienceAmerican Federation of Labor – CIO, Washington D.C., 2009

Secretos y Cartas de los Muertos, Avenue 50 Studio, Highland Park, CA, 2008

Essential Beauty of Nature’s Overthrow, Café Bolivar and Gallery, Santa Monica, CA 2008

Inaugural Show, La Palma de Oro, Mar Vista, CA, 2007

*Laura Alvarez, Chiat Day, Los Angeles, CA 2006

Borderless Dreams, Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, CA 2005

Chicano Art for our Millennium, Southwest Museum of Art, AZ, 2004

Café Valentine, exhibited in, curated and co-designed installation, Café Bolivar & Gallery, Santa Monica, 2004

Mixed Feelings, (featuring a commissioned film) USC Fisher Gallery, Los Angeles, 2002

* From the Adventures of the Double Agent Sirvienta:  Espias Románticas, Café Bolívar & Gallery, Santa Monica, 2002

*Laura Alvarez – Twenty Works, Espresso Mi Cultura, Hollywood, 2001

Revelatory Landscapes, in collaboration with ADOBE L.A., SFMOMA, San Francisco, 2001

Revealing and Concealing:  Portraits and Identity, Skirball Museum, Los Angeles, 2000

Annual Print Exhibition, (Atelier de Mujeres), Self Help Graphics, Los Angeles, 1999

Facades, in collaboration with Barbara Jones, Long Beach Museum of Art, 1997-1998

HA!, Terrain Gallery, San Francisco, 1997

New Drawing, 2451 Harrison Street, San Francisco, 1997

Celebrity/Self, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, 1996

*mica@espiar.com, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, 1997

(* denotes solo shows)


Opening Night, mural for the Siqueiros Tropical Interpretive Center, contributing artist under lead artist, Barbara Carrasco.

MTA Atlantic Station (Gold Line), conception and design with ADOBE L.A., 2009

Sueños Intermedios, digital projected animation/installation for exhibition Mixed Feelings, curated by Gustavo Leclerc and Michael Dear, University of Southern California, Fischer Gallery, 2002


The Smithsonian, Gallery of American Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Southwest Museum, Arizona


Domestic Disturbances by Irene Mata, 2014

Chicana Art:  the Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities by Laura E. Perez, 2007

Chicano Art for our New Millennium:  Collected Works from the Arizona State University Community, by Erickson, Keller, and Villeneuve, Arizona State University, May, 2004

*David Pagel, “This Glittery Lawn Mower Cuts to the Tough Questions”, Los Angeles Times, September, 2002

Scarlet Chang, “As the Border Blurs and the Culture Becomes One”, Los Angeles Times, August, 2002

*David Pagel, “Revealing and Concealing”, Los Angeles Times, September, 2000

Shawn Hubler, “Art Show Asks:  Who Are We?”, Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2000

Barbara Gilbert, Revealing & Concealing:  Portraits and Identity Catalog, Skirball Cultural Center, 2000

Gustavo Leclerc, Raul Villa, Michael J. Dear, La Vida Latina en L.A. – Urban Latino Cultures, 1999

Gustavo Leclerc and Ulises Diaz, Hybrid City, 1998

Laura E. Alvarez, “Diapers and Society”, Artweek, 1998

Laura E. Alvarez, “Conference Report:  Art, the New Business Education”, Artweek, 1997

Laura E. Alvarez, “Viewpoint”, Artweek, 1997

Laura E. Alvarez, “’Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education and ‘Mapping the Terrain:  New Genre Public Art’”, Artweek, 1997

Laura E. Alvarez, “Luis Gonzalez Palma at Stephen Cohen Gallery”, Artweek, 1997

Laura E. Alvarez, “Cooking Crystal Barbecue with Liza Lou”, Artweek, 1997

Isabel Anderson, “Power of Press – El Nopal Press:  A Portfolio”, Artweek, September, 1993

*Linda Pope, “Heart and History in Art”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, January 31, 1992

(* denotes reviews)

Awards and Honors

Merit Scholarship, San Francisco Art Institute, 1994-1996

Artist-in-Residency, California Arts Council, 1994

Lectures/Speaking Engagements

Guest Lecturer, Alma Lopez’ class, Chicana Artists, UCLA, 2015, 2016

Lecture, “Revealing and Concealing:  Portraits and Identity, Meet the Artists”, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA., 2000

Workshop, “Creating A Mini-Studio…” B.E.S.T. Art Conference, Long Beach City College, Long Beach, CA., 2002

Workshop, “Drawing to Learn”, Releasing the Imagination Conference, Pasadena, CA., 2000


San Francisco Art Institute, M.F.A., 1996

University of Leeds, England, Fine Art Department, Study Abroad Program, 1990-1991

University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A. in fine art with emphasis in printmaking, Winter, 1992