The Phoenix Art Museum (PhxArt) presents Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature, the first exhibition to bring together nearly 60 photographic works from five series of nude self-portraits by the 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. The exhibition will be on view from December 16, 2023, through November 17, 2024, in the Doris and John Norton Gallery for the Center for Creative Photography at Phoenix Art Museum.
“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 Amalia 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.
The exhibition is co-curated by Sybil Venegas and Christopher Velasco, trustees of the Laura Aguilar Estate.
Laura Aguilar : Nudes in Nature
from December 16, 2023, through November 17, 2024
Phoenix Art Museum
Doris and John Norton Gallery for the Center for Creative Photography
1625 N Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004