Phoenix Art Museum premieres Laura Aguilar exhibition featuring self-portraits in Southwest landscapes
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Phoenix Art Museum premieres Laura Aguilar exhibition featuring self-portraits in Southwest landscapes
Laura Aguilar, Grounded #105, 2006-2007 (printed 2018). Inkjet print. © Laura Aguilar Trust of 2016.

PHOENIX, ARIZ.- This winter, Phoenix Art Museum presents Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature, the future exhibition to bring together nearly 60 photographic works from five series of nude self-portraits by the groundbreaking photographer Laura Aguilar. Co-organized by the Center for Creative Photography, the exhibition considers how Aguilar used the photographic medium and her body to subvert Western beauty standards and upend the relationship between the female form and the landscape. Nudes in Nature is co-curated by Sybil Venegas, an independent curator and art historian, and Christopher Velasco, photographer, professor, and Aguilar's longtime studio manager.

"We are excited to bring the profound and intimate work of Laura Aguilar to our audiences in Arizona," said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. "Aguilar was overlooked in her lifetime but played a pivotal role in elevating Chicanx and queer art within the history of photography, all while using the medium to interrogate important issues of mental health, gender, race, sexuality, and beauty. This exhibition builds on the Museum's efforts to present diverse forms of artistic expression that enable visitors to see themselves represented in the galleries. Its presentation and the concurrent exhibition of Amelia Mesa-Bains: Archaeology of Memory also reaffirm our commitment to elevating the work of Latinx women artists during our upcoming exhibition season."

Born and raised in California's San Gabriel Valley, Laura Aguilar (1959-2018) created black-and-white portraits that visualize intersections of her queer, Latinx identity. Although underrecognized by the mainstream art world during her career, Aguilar expanded representations of historically excluded and marginalized groups of people from various communities across Los Angeles. The self-taught photographer eventually turned the camera on herself to consider the many factors that defined her identity as a Chicana and a lesbian who dealt with economic hardships, depression, and learning disabilities. Later in her career, she began to produce intimate self-portrait nudes in natural settings, creating various series within this framework that explore the inherent connections between nature and the female form.

Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature brings together for the first time nearly 60 photographic works from her series Nature Self-Portrait (1996), Stillness (1999), Motion (1999), Center (2000–2001), and Grounded (2006–2007). Across the exhibition's featured images, Aguilar centers her nude body and those of other female subjects. They appear in repose or in contorted forms that mimic surrounding rock formations, plant life, and terrains. In contrast to the eroticized images of nude white women throughout Western art history, Aguilar positions her large, brown body as an object of desire in harmony with the natural world. How Aguilar's body is perceived within these landscapes stands at odds with how female figures are viewed in cultural and social spaces.

"Select images from these series have been seen in numerous exhibitions over the past 25 years, however never before in a comprehensive exhibition that features the majority of works in these series together," explains Sybil Venegas, who also organized the acclaimed retrospective Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell in 2017. "We are so excited to have participated in this project and are grateful to Phoenix Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography for organizing what may be the most significant exhibition of Laura's work since Show and Tell."
High-resolution photography can be downloaded here. Contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2117 or to request interviews.

Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature is organized by Phoenix Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography. It is co-curated by Sybil Venegas and Christopher Velasco, trustees of the Laura Aguilar Estate. All exhibitions at Phoenix Art Museum are underwritten by the Phoenix Art Museum Exhibition Excellence Fund, founded by the Opatrny Family Foundation, with additional significant support provided by Joan Cremin.

Phoenix Art Museum
Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature
December 16th, 2023 - November 17th, 2024

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