FINDING RESILIENCE IN LAURA AGUILAR
In honor of Pride Month, curatorial assistant Kelly Long reflects on a favorite work in the Museum’s collection.
I’m thinking about the creativity and perseverance of artists like Laura Aguilar, whose entrance into the Whitney’s collection last year brought me so much joy. Known for photographing the lesbian Chicana community in East Los Angeles, and for drawing connections between her body and the landscape through nude self-portraits in the desert, Aguilar is here, too, thinking through ideas of connection, alienation, and systemic exclusion.
As a large-bodied, Chicana, working-class, lesbian woman, Aguilar struggled to gain access to much of the art world in her lifetime. In Will Work For #4, she stands in front of a concrete edifice marked “GALLERY,” asserting herself as an artist, resolute in protest. A misspelling of “access” (likely intentional) also serves to highlight the artist’s dyslexia and underscore the photographic image as Aguilar’s preferred way of raising her voice and being heard.
Do I belong? Do we belong? We are here, and we belong! When I look at Aguilar’s photographs, I hear her, loud and clear. They’re vulnerable and questioning, declarative and joyous, all at once and all together. In our moment of profound uncertainty, and economic struggle for many, Aguilar’s work is teaching me resilience.