By Joe Simonson, DCNF
The Vincent Price Art Museum in Los Angeles, Calif. is hosting an exhibit featuring nude, self-portrait photographs of artist and activist Laura Aguilar.
The self-titled show “Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell,” features the lesbian artist’s overweight, Mexican-American, naked body draped over the ground and various rocks in the New Mexican desert.
Aguilar checks several of the liberal grievance boxes: the daughter of a Mexican-American father, a sufferer of auditory dyslexia, and self-proclaimed member of a “‘hidden subculture’ within another subculture, a marginalized community within another marginalized community,” according to The New Yorker.
In her series of self-portraits set in the New Mexican desert, Laura Aguilar is at once part of the American land, and the viewer’s eye, and apart from them: https://t.co/65RikwtwR3 pic.twitter.com/nsuonvFR4d
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) November 30, 2017
For those who believe many of her photos merely consist of a nude, rotund woman laying lifelessly on the ground, consider this description from Michelle Hart, a writer and professor of contemporary American literature at Rutgers University:
“Aguilar makes the curves and shadows of her round body echo beautifully the shapes of the landscape around her. In one playful image, she is bent over so that only her backside is visible at the bottom of the frame, its sculptural roundness, and dark crack, mimicking the shape of a rock formation above her. In other photos, she lies curled on the ground, facing away from the camera, or doubled over in a ball, as if she’s retreating into herself or protecting herself from the onlooker’s gaze. She is at once part of the American land, and the viewer’s eye, and apart from them: in her own words, both present and persistently unseen.”
Other photos in the exhibit feature Aguilar standing “bare-breasted and bound by heavy rope, between the Mexican and American flags,” which very well may be a thinly-veiled message about the way the U.S. treats immigrants.
The California-based artist has spent most of her career using “her body to provide a voice for her loneliness and the marginalized peoples that are outcasted by society,” and “wants her art to make viewers think about and challenge the social norms of: race, class gender, and sexuality,” according to her online biography. Aguilar attempts to accomplish this primarily by taking portraits of her self-admittedly obese body in various locations around the western United States.
Fans of Aguilar’s work have applauded how she challenges “the Western concept of beauty identified with a classical ideal of physical perfection.”