Laura Aguilar (born San Gabriel, California, 1959) is an American photographer. Her work focuses on the experiences of often marginalized people such as women of color, lesbians, and women of size, as well as the perception of her own body.
Aguilar is largely self-taught, though she did study at East Los Angeles Community College and participated in The Friends of Photography Workshop and Santa Fe Photographic Workshop. Her work has been in the 1993 Venice Biennial, Italy; the Los Angeles City Hall Bridge Gallery, the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), and the Los Angeles Photography Center, Women's Center Gallery at the University of California in Santa Barbara and elsewhere.
Her work challenges contemporary social constructs of beauty, focusing in large part on lesbian women of color. She often uses self-portraiture to help her come to terms with her own body as she challenges societal norms of sexuality, class, gender, and race.
Aguilar's work focuses on portraiture that captures the identities and lives of those marginalized by American culture, specifically Latina lesbians, people of color, and the obese. Chon A. Noriega, director of the Chicano Studies Research Center at University of California Los Angeles Center, notes that Aguilar's photography is particularly notable as:
Aguilar collaborates with subjects who are her peers so that her works is not about power differentials between photographer and subject as is often, if implicitly the case with ... the social documentary tradition itself.
Her more recent self-portraits navigate her personal intersection of identities as Latina, lesbian, dyslexic, and obese. "My photography has always provided me with an opportunity to open myself up and see the world around me," Aguilar writes. "And most of all, photography makes me look within." Critics and scholars closely identify Aguilar's work with Chicana feminism. In his 2013 paper on Chicana aesthetics, Daniel Perez writes:
Aguilar consciously moves away from the societally normative images of Chicana female bodies and disassociates them from male-centered nostalgia or idealizations. The theme of reclaiming and reconfiguring Chicana female bodies reflects the influences of feminist critiques by women of color that move beyond identifying sexist and heterosexist perspective that project Chicana feminist aesthetics.
Aguilar tries to "provide a better understanding" of the Latina and lesbian experience by depicting role models that "break negative stereotypes and help develop a better bridge of understanding."
A complete list of Aguilar's exhibitions, publications, grants, and more, is available online at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.
Latina Lesbians series (1986–89)
Three Eagles Flying (1990)
Clothed/Unclothed series (1990–94)
Plush Pony series (1992)
Nature self-portrait series (1996)
Stillness series (1996–99)
Grounded series (2006–07; first body of work done in color)
Aguilar's works have appeared in more than 50 national and international exhibitions. Between 1998 and 2003, she has had five solo exhibitions. In 2014, The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in collaboration with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center received a $50,000 grant from the Getty Initiative to develop the first career retrospective of Aguilera's work. According to the project's webpage, the exhibition Laura Aguilar: Retrospective is scheduled for 2017-18 and will include an "extensive oral history with the artists and a catalog with scholarly essays."
Her work is in held in several public collections, including ones at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City; and Stanford University, Stanford, California.
- Noriega, Chon (May 2008). "Laura Aguilar: Clothed Unclothed: Challenging Normative Conceptions of the Body" (PDF). Newsletter of the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. Retrieved 2015-03-19.
- "Pacific Standard Time LA/LA: Laura Aguilar Retrospective Fact Sheet". Vincent Price Art Museum. 2014-04-30. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
- Valladolid, Patricia. "the private and the public in the photography of laura aguilar" (PDF). UCLA Center for the Study of Women. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- "Laura Aguilar". re:present L.A. Exhibition. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- Haggerty, George E.; Zimmerman, Bonnie (2000). Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures. p. 65.
The new lesbian artist was interested in exploring and representing sexually charged spaces, activities, and identities that were previously taboo, such as butch- femme and S/M exchange. Lesbian artists of the 1980s include Laura Aguilar, ...
- "Aguilar, Laura". Social Networks and Archival Context Project. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- Fuller, Diana Burgess; Salvioni, Daniela (2002). Art, Women, California 1950-2000: Parallels and Intersections. p. 254.
Laura Aguilar, a Southern California Chicana photographer, has made a series entitled Clothed/Unclothed (1990-94) in which her friends pose in front of a neutral backdrop in formal Polaroid studio portraits, dressed and nude.
- Ruiz, Vicki L.; Korrol, Virginia Sánchez (2006). Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. p. 64.
Photography is another medium used for autoreflective narratives. Chicana photographers Laura Aguilar, Christina Fernández, Delilah Montoya, and Kathy Var Artists Looking at the Primitive. By and courtesy of Delilah Montoya. q.
- Rojas, Maythee (2009). Women of Color and Feminism. p. 130.
Photographer Laura Aguilar's provocative images are a case in point. Serving as the primary model for her work, Aguilar transforms social expectations of the female nude when she photographs herself.
- Lopez, Alma. "Queer Arts in Los Angeles: Laura Aguilar". almalopez.com.
- Smith, Sidonie Ann; Watson, Julia Anne (2002). Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance. p. 69.
Aguilar's 1991 self-performance as an odalisque in the image In Sandy's Room (Self Portrait) in obvious ways unhinges this trope of feminine sexual availability that is so endlessly reproduced in the history of post-Renaissance Western art.
- Ressler, Susan. "Women Artists of the American West: Lesbian Photography on the U.S. West Coast 1972-1997". Women Artists of the American West. Purdue University, West Lafayette, India. Retrieved 2015-03-10.
- Perez, Daniel (2013). "Chicana Aesthtics: A View of Unconcealed Alterities and Affirmations of Chicana Identity through Laura Aguilar's Photographic Images". Lux: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research from Claremont Graduate University. Retrieved 2015-03-10.
- "Biography of Laura Aguilar". Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Retrieved 2015-03-10.