How Latinas Are Changing the Narrative in the Art World

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Martha Amorocho. Autorretrato en naturaleza muerta. 2015. Martha Amorocho is one of the artists that participated in “Cómo Cargar un Cuerpo.”

Art history, like universal history, is an inexact science. Not only is it written by the victors and survivors, but it changes over time, fluctuates, becomes malleable to new perspectives. However, if anything has remained unchanged, it has been the position of women in the art industry.

And we say “position” even though art has also been a space reserved for white men.

Many months ago, we talked about the work of art historians Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta who put Latina artists on the map of history.

Through their curatorship titled “Radical Women: Latin American Art” that debuted in 2017 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the two theorists sought to bring out of obscurity Latina artists whose strength and activism remained in time despite not making it to the shelves.

“It comes from a patriarchal perspective where they accept the history that we have as the status quo. And it’s very comfortable to think that history is okay, especially when you’re a man,” Fajardo-Hill explained in an interview with Hyperallergic.

Today, this work seems to have gained momentum in other artistic languages.

As Yxta Maya Murray recounts in her essay for Aperture, Elizabeth Ferrer, Arlene Dávila, and E. Carmen Ramos are three Latinas working in this field. They are currently confronting the “Anglo-Saxon artistic canon” through their theoretical and practical contributions to the world of photography.

“Ferrer, Dávila, and Ramos work to expand and challenge our understanding of art history by inserting Latinx artists into white spaces,” Murray writes. “These leaders recognize the brilliant offerings of Latinx art, study the market forces that have barred artists of color from inclusion, and inaugurate new collection practices that usher Latinx artists into major museum collections.”

Ferrer is a writer, curator, and vice president of contemporary art at BRIC, Brooklyn, and has organized several exhibitions on Latinx photography in the United States. For her part, Arlene Davila is the founding director of The Latinx Project and has eight books under her belt after years of analyzing the visual culture of Latinos in Puerto Rico and the Latinization of the United States.

Last but not least, E. (Evelyn) Carmen Ramos is the first woman and person of color to be the chief curatorial and conservation officer at the National Gallery of Art. Her curatorial work has spotlighted the presence of the Latino perspective in American art.

On the other side of the continent, a group of Latina artists reflects on what it means to be a woman and represents the phenomenon that Latinas are spearheading in the art world.

Under the title “Cómo Cargar un Cuerpo” (“How to Carry a Body,”) 16 women artists of high trajectory in Latin America, from Chile, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, and Guatemala, explore in the Visual Arts Gallery of the Cultural Park of Valparaiso, Chile, the different visions on what it implies to carry a woman’s body in the region.

“To be, to stay, to become or to feel like a woman” is one of the calls of the participating Latin American artists, explained the Chilean newspaper El Matutino. The artists propose their work thinking, on the one hand, to refute the fetishist view that has prevailed in the visual discourse of the feminine. On the other hand, they propose “reflections, criticisms, and denunciations of what it has meant to be a woman in a context such as the Latin American one.”

“The summoned artists, all Latin American, address what it means to be a woman in this same continent, to be an artist, creator, mother, bleeding, raped, abused, abducted, political, divergent,” explained Elisa Massardo, curator of the show, to the media. “Each artist works one or multiple of these roles in her work, and that is what we are exhibiting.”

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