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Laura Aguilar Fearlessly Reclaims Her Body and Her Journey Through Life With “Show and Tell”

April 9, 2018 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Lesbian, Latina and large-bodied, Laura Aguilar fearlessly reclaims her body and her journey with Show and Tell: the headline-grabbing exhibition that captured the heart of the art world during the recent PST: LA/LA, the massive art initiative led by the Getty. During this unprecedented exploration of Latin American and Latino art, Aguilar’s show was hailed as one of the most critically acclaimed of all the 70+ exhibitions at cultural institutions across Southern California. “Show and Tell” now makes it East Coast premiere in Miami at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU through May 27, located on the campus of Florida International University.

The first comprehensive retrospective of the American photographer’s work assembles more than one hundred photographs and video spanning three decades. A rebellious and groundbreaking Chicana, Aguilar’s retrospective has been heralded nationwide for establishing the artist as a powerful voice for diverse “invisible” communities, and for courageously disrupting repressive stereotypes of beauty and body representation. Often political as well as personal, the bold portraits cut across performative, feminist and queer art genres.

The images captured through her lens reflect Aguilar’s struggles with depression, obesity, self-acceptance, prejudice and misogyny.

Challenged by auditory dyslexia, she struggled with words and turned to her camera to penetrate the underground LGBT world around her in the East Los Angeles of the 1980s and 90s. Her later works cross into never-before-seen territory: Aguilar’s daring self-portraits juxtapose her over-sized, naked body alongside desolate terrains, hulking boulders and stark bodies of water.

The guest comment book inside the galleries of the Frost Art Museum is already overflowing with hand-written messages proclaiming shock, outrage, loneliness, hope and inspiration, ranging from “How could you do something like this?” to “I’ve been waiting for something like this all of my life.”

“Laura Aguilar’s works express raw honesty without demanding a singular response, and we are seeing how her exhibition is providing transformative experiences for those who are open to it,” said Jordana Pomeroy, the Director of the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU. “We are honored to be selected as the venue where the public can currently experience Aguilar’s powerful approach to camera work, and her humanistic eye on her subject matter. Exhibited outside of its native Southern California context, Aguilar’s exhibition resounds strongly to our East Coast, Latin American and Caribbean audiences ─ with universal truths about the ways we view others who may not look like ourselves or share our backgrounds. We are witnessing a strong response from our local audiences, including our many visitors from all over the world.”

The exhibition was curated by Sybil Venegas, and was organized by the Vincent Price Art Museum (where it was originally presented as part of PST: LA/LA), in collaboration with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

“Show and Tell” reflects the trajectory of an artist unable to communicate via words, especially due to her auditory dyslexia.

Yet through her decades of artmaking she became a voice for diverse groups that are under-represented in society.

The ‘three eagles’ within the photograph appear implicitly. The Spanish word for eagle, águila, denotes the artist’s name. The national emblems of both the U.S. and Mexico are referenced. Her head is wrapped, and her body is bound, creating a forceful political symbol.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE EXHIBITION:

Latina Lesbians (1985-1991) and Plush Pony Series (1992):
Both featured collaborations with the Los Angeles LGBT communities. The Plush Pony was a working class, lesbian bar in El Sereno, a neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles, where Aguilar met the women who form the core of this series. Like much of Aguilar’s oeuvre, this work documents a piece of the American experience from the perspective of a photographer whose identified subjects are often invisible to the mainstream lens. As a photo essay, it captures a microcosm of the city’s queer community of color in the early 1990s.

Nude Self-Portraits (1996):
This series was shot while on a road trip through New Mexico with friend and fellow photographer, Delilah Montoya. As an artist, Aguilar was moving towards a place of greater self-acceptance and was overtly and visually beginning to challenge her limiting beliefs of her own self-image and self-esteem. Portrayals of her body in nature, particularly set against the forms of rocks and stone, resonated powerfully with her and she began pursuing this artistic direction. Aguilar would later gain international recognition for these photographs, influencing her subsequent nude series Stillness (1999), Motion (1999), Center (2000), and Grounded (2006).

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