Art Encounter: Laura Aguilar

Video (3:45): Gloria Sanchez shares her insights on the work Stillness #33, 1999 by Laura Aguilar (1959-2018) a Chicana lesbian artist.

Laura Aguilar’s Biograpy

‘Laura Aguilar spent most of her prolific career examining her identity as a Chicana lesbian artist. Aguilar was born in San Gabriel, California, in 1959 and grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. Aguilar’s family is native Californio, Mexican, and Irish. Her father, Paul Aguilar, was a second-generation Mexican American, while Aguilar’s mother, Juanita, was half-Irish and at least a fifth-generation documented Mexican Californio native.

After studying photography at East Los Angeles College, her photographic production was characterized by portraits of diverse communities in the Los Angeles area and self-portraits, which are representations of herself as a complex individual, Chicana, lesbian, and struggling with poverty, learning disabilities, and depression. Later in her career, Aguilar would incorporate nude self-portraits and nude portraits of other women into her work, challenging contemporary depictions of beauty and highlighting the intimacy between the female form and nature. Ahead of her time, Aguilar’s photographs first expose the visibility of these underrepresented and marginalized women and then celebrate them. Among her most recognized series involving nude self-portraits in nature are Nature Self-Portrait (1996), Stillness (1999), Motion (1999), Center (2000-2001), and Grounded (2006-2007).

Aguilar died in 2018 at age fifty-eight, when recognition of her work was gaining momentum. Her retrospective, Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell at the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, CA, was the breakout exhibition of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA: Latin American and Latino Art in LA 2017-2018 and was Aguilar’s last exhibition during her lifetime. Since passing, she has joined the ranks of other iconic female photographers.’ – Kleefeld Contemporary

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