Identity & belonging

Portraits of large-bodied, lesbian, Latinas highlight a ‘hidden subculture’

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A photo exhibit by artist Laura Aguilar featuring portraits of a “hidden subculture” of large-bodied, lesbian, Latina women, herself included, is receiving high praise from critics for its examination of “identity and belonging, the friction of feeling unworthy and the peace of reaching self-acceptance.”

In what marks Aguilar’s first full survey, independent curator Sybil Venegas, a former professor of Aguilar’s at East Los Angeles College, compiled more than 130 of Aguilar’s works and displayed them over two floors at the Vincent Price Art Museum. Notable pieces included a series of prints titled How Mexican is Mexican, which included a row of thermometers at the bottom of each print, in the same way that is often used to measure hot sauce. But according to art critics Leah Ollman of The Los Angeles Times and Michelle Hart of The New Yorker, it was Aguilar’s nude self-portraits that really stole the show.

In a series of self-portraits taken in the New Mexican desert, the curves of Aguilar’s nude body fit naturally among the deserts rocks and boulders, and “echo beautifully the shapes of the landscape around her,” Hart wrote.

In another, more overtly political piece, the artist can be seen standing topless and bound in rope between the American and Mexican flags, her lower body draped in the Star Spangled Banner, and her head muzzled by an image of the eagle from the Mexican coat of arms.

People that have gone to view the exhibit are posting on social media.

But for Ollman, the most remarkable piece may have been a 2007 video, in which Aguilar can be seen standing naked, “literally and metaphorically,” in front of a stone wall.

“Aguilar speaks to the camera about her struggles with depression, fear, self-doubt, the lack of touch in her life … describing how her photographs help remind her of her own capacity and beauty,” Ollman wrote.

Read the full story at The New Yorker and The Los Angeles Times.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is independent of and separate from any views of The New York Times.

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