Arts + Advocacy Blog: Celebrating the Life and Work of Laura Aguilar

Editor’s Note: Following the release of our original post, WonderRoot staff learned of a recent exhibit showcasing Laura Aguilar’s photography. This exhibit is the “first comprehensive retrospective” assembly of Aguilar’s work. It is open to view until June 3 at the Vincent Price Art Museum at UCLA. Check out Florida International University’s Frost Art Museum website to read a summary of this unique exhibit.

This week our Arts + Advocacy Blog post is dedicated to celebrating the life and work of Laura Aguilar who passed away this week at age 58 due to diabetes related health issues.

(Laura from “Latina Lesbians” series, 1988 via Artillery Magazine)

Laura Aguilar’s practice as a photographer is impossible to separate from her passion for lifting up and advocating for the life stories of people in marginalized groups, including “women, lesbians, Latinas, the working class, overweight people, and those with learning disabilities.” (artnews.com, April 25, 2018). Aguilar’s work specifically explores life on the margins of the margins, where multiple oppressed identities coalesce producing a highly precarious existence.

 

Laura Aguilar, Plush Pony #13, 1992. Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 in. (image source: LA Weekly)

 

Through her photography Aguilar challenged dichotomies between subject and object, often turning her camera on herself. This allows her to have both a physical presence in the work as well as an unseen presence that can be felt with the viewer of the photographs. Aguilar’s work in the 1990’s was decades ahead of our increasingly common conversations today about body politics, gender, and identity. Before these words and concepts were a part of our mainstream vocabulary, Laura Aguilar was creating artwork that dealt with these issues in intimate, compassionate, and urgent ways.

 

Aguilar’s contributions to the field of photography are matched only by her creative passion to upend the marginalization experienced by queer, working class Latina women.  For anyone working in the realm of art and advocacy, Laura Aguilar sets a remarkable example as a pioneer both aesthetically and politically. Artnews.com published an article yesterday covering both a history of Aguilar’s life and her robust body of work as a photographer. Read the full article here.

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