Most people think of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Fernando Botero when they think of famous and influential artists in Latin America. While these three have definitely coveted the top spots in mainstream culture, there’s a whole other layer beneath the surface.
In this modern world, several women have risen behind the scenes to expose hypocrisy, injustice, and cruelty in contemporary society.
Here are the most revolutionary artists who have uncovered a feminist outlook in Latin America.
Regina José Galindo (Guatemala)
Image Source: Rave residency
Galindo strongly condemns femicide and violence against women in her country in her most famous work, “(279) Blows.” In this performance piece from 2005, the artist hits herself 279 times while inside a box.
She records the sounds of the bangs, of her own crying, and her screaming, all to represent the 279 Guatemalan women who died at the hands of sexist violence within only the first half of that year. This shocking piece is meant to, on the one hand, shake the spectators out of their usual callousness to daily gender violence, and on the other, show solidarity and compassion for the women who suffer from violence regularly.
Image Source: La Review of Books
Ana Mendieta (Cuba)
Image Source: Observer
While still in school, she modeled for and photographed the pieces “Glass on Body Prints” and “Facial Hair Transplants” in 1972, each manipulating the female body and toying with the idea of gender. In the first work, Mendieta presses herself against slabs of glass, distorting the feminine parts of her body.
The glass represents the public eye, the anonymous crowds that criticize and judge women based on their looks without recognizing her as a human being.
In “Facial Hair Transplants,” Mendieta and her male classmate photograph each other as she cuts his facial hair off and puts his beard and mustache on herself. By doing so, she is extending the limitations of gender roles and expectations of the two as separate spheres.
Image Source: Mutual Art
Jessica Lagunas (Nicaragua)
Image Source: Show Studio
Jessica Lagunas provides a new style of feminist art with her videos “To Caress You Better,” “To Kiss You Better,” and “To See You Better,” clearly all playing off of Little Red Riding Hood’s Wolf-in-Grandma-Clothing character.
The sequential clips from 2003 all show the artist recording herself up close. In the first, she is incessantly painting her finger nails, to the point that the paint becomes all goopy, lumpy, and smeared.
In the second, “To Kiss You Better,” Lagunas smothers her lips in lipstick to the same effect. In the last video, the artist drowns her eyelashes in mascara. In all three, the result is the same: she is trying so hard to conform to society’s idea of feminine beauty that she no longer looks elegant or refined at all, but rather like a complete disaster.
Image Source: Masha
Ana Álvarez Errecalde (Argentina)
Image Source: Partono Brazil
Situating the feminist discourse in Argentina, Ana Álvarez Errecalde forcefully breaks out of the norm with her photo, entitled “The Birth of My Daughter.”
For the most part, we don’t see the mother and child immediately after birth because the blood, umbilical cord, placenta, and everything else are seen as dirty. What the world is used to seeing with a birth is the mother dressed, the baby cleaned and covered in blankets, and with the umbilical cord and placenta already removed.
Álvarez Errecalde, on the other hand, shows the more realistic and natural side of maternity. Her image doesn’t conform to society’s expectations, but rather it starkly portrays the intimacy and not-so-pretty aspect of brining life into this world.
Individually, these Latin American artists reject the accepted norms of society in terms of the role of women, and they demand new social constructs of the reality of sexualized violence, of the fluidity between the genders, of the harmful obsession with female beauty, and of maternity in its true nature.
Collectively, these feminists call for social change on behalf of women, and they do so directly and sometimes grotesquely so that the public can no longer ignore them.
Image Source: Quesabesde
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