These large black and white self-portraits are responses to confrontations, exclusions and adversities. As a person of color and a woman I understand the cultural and artistic stereotypes and biases that continue to exist in the United States. Add to this the fact that I am from South America, born in Peru, and emigrated to America as a young girl doubles my outsider status. Born into poverty and an illegitimate child, my birth father died when I was ten. My life has been a series of challenge in the “melting pot” of life circumstances that allowed fate to bring me to photography, as the family photographer.
Now, this self-portrait project is the direct result of a series of recent difficult events that I had to navigate over a period of weeks. I could have vocalized my anger and frustration but I chose not to create any confrontation. "Response" is instead a visual retaliation. The self-portraits respond through body language and facial expressions, which initially avoided the camera lens. Over time I had developed a range and variety of hand gestures learned unconsciously from my Peruvian elders who were artisans and expressed themselves in beautiful hand gestures used every day to cook, braid hair, garden, wash dishes, and even folk dance. I adapted their movements in a more free style way. Now, here, they vividly communicate the experience of both pleasant and difficult, painful days.
An example, in one photograph my head is cradled by my outstretched hand, fingers clutching my hair, hair hiding my face in an overall and simultaneous motion of hurt, self-protection, and anger. Another shows my hand raised into the air, with fingertips touching and so forming the shape of a delicate tulip bud, challenging people to be gentle.
“Speaking With Hands” is a collection of photographs brought together by Henry M. Buhl exhibited at The Guggenheim Museum (2004) that included pictures by Man Ray and William Eggleston. Another excellent reference to my work is the hand series of photographs by Alfred Stieglitz of the painter Georgia O’Keefe, his wife. This body of work is the first set of images I find successful in my quest to emulate my mentors and great artists that inspire me such as Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe and Sally Mann.
I exposed two rolls of black and white 35mm film every day during the only two times available early mornings and evenings when my children had been taken care of. With the help of my daughter to set the frame. The light and space between the camera and backdrop become a temple. The pictures reveal a hurt, hysterical, and fragile woman seeking salvation and justice. In one image the light erases my face in much the same way my ancestors were. This use of black and white photography introduces antiquity in present digital cultures.