Flor Garduño
Natural Elements

Exhibition Dates:
July 22 - August 31, 2016

Andrew Smith Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibit "Natural Elements" by Flor Garduño.  Eleven new works by Mexico's preeminent photographer will be displayed at Andrew Smith Gallery’s newest exhibition space, VIDA LOCA GALLERY, at 203 W. San Francisco St. (between the Lensic Theater and the Plaza.)   Flor Garduño will attend the opening reception on Friday, July 22, 2016 from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibit continues through August 31, 2016.

Flor Garduño, one of Mexico’s leading contemporary photographers, born in Mexico City in 1957, embarked on her career while a young woman in the early 1980s, when she made numerous trips to remote parts of Latin America. There she photographed the lives and rituals of indigenous people that bridged the threshold between the sacred/temporal worlds. The subsequent book, Witnesses of Time (1992), published in six editions, became an international success. Her images, exuding the formality and light of the finest fashion and studio work by Irving Penn, were made with natural light in lyrical rural settings.  This series catapulted her career as she was recognized as one of Mexico’s leading contemporary photographers. Her next project dealt with the mythic feminine and lyrical still life photographs. Using the cracked adobe floor and walls of her studio as a neutral backdrop she created highly imaginative photographs that became the subject of the book, Flor Garduño: Inner Light - Still Lifes and Nudes, (2002). This was followed with a major body of work called Trilogy which drew from three ongoing themes: Bestiarium (enchanted animals representing dreams and passions), Fantastic Woman (celebrating the mystery and sensuality of the female body) and Silent Natures (the realm of the wilderness). The accompanying book Trilogy was published in 2011.

Garduño continues to photograph in Mexico, Latin America, Europe, and India. She prints her photographs and portfolio prints using silver, platinum, palladium and carbon pigment digital processes.  All prints below are archival carbon pigment prints, except as noted, in editions of 30 in various sizes.

The 11 new photographs on exhibit at Vida Loca Gallery were made between 2009 and 2016 in Mexico and Europe.  In them Garduño explores a wide range of unusual subjects and the environments they occupy, many floating in air or rising from the ocean and earth.  She describes through her unique sensual aesthetic and intelligence how the natural elements of air, earth, fire and water act upon everything.

Rising from the Earth

"El Té De Las 5, Mexico," 2015, 20" x 24"

The words, "5 p.m. Tea," conjure up notions of gentility, leisure and a pleasurable, convivial time of day.   Printed in luminous tones, the photograph depicts a gorgeous spray of drooping white lilies that has been elegantly arranged in an exquisite glass vase with two figurines of nude women. In contrast to this civilized place setting a wild and brooding landscape appears in the distance where forested mountains are enveloped by thick clouds.   Garduño seems to be giving us her definition of true happiness, an exquisite marriage between order and culture with absolute wildness.   As the artist has said:   "whenever I think of Silent Natures, I must confess that I created these photographs for myself, to maintain my playful spirit throughout all these years.”
Rising from the Sea

“The Stranded Lovers, Mexico,” 2009   16” x 20” Silver Gelatin Print


Long fascinated by images of the mythic feminine, Garduño created a magical tableau of two “stranded lovers” washed up on the sands of a pellucid sea. The woman’s sensual body glows against the dark sand, her fingers barely touching the massive, shimmering fish at her side.   Though different species, the two are related by size and in the way the woman’s crossed feet mimic the fish’s tail. But whereas she seems to be sleeping peacefully on the shoreline, the fish, cast out of its element its sword-like bill and monstrous fin are inert, eternal.

Toward the heavens

“Tres Mástiles, Italy,” 2015  16” x 20”

The three masts refer to the mast of a ship painted on a wall mural and the bills of two very real swordfish heads pointing skyward.   The large severed fish heads have been placed as if rising from the sea in front of a wall painting that describes an apparition of the Virgin extending her blessings toward a fishing trawler.   The considerable irony of this picture is the wordless anguish of the swordfish, who seem to be lamenting their fate to heaven, yet who are supplicating a deity invoked to help humans catch fish.
Resting on earth

“Agnello de Dio, Italy,” 2015   24” x 20”

The white lamb in this not dead but is only sleeping on a straw plate tucked into a dark niche. Half-covered with luxurious leaves and berries, it all looks like an offering to the gods.  The lamb’s small feet are tied together with rope, yet its expression is tranquil and untroubled.


Between Sky and Earth


"Migración, Mexico," 2015   20" x 24"

This photograph can be read as a playful pairing of 2-dimensional reproductions of bird illustrations in an open book with real birds that are hopping or about to take flight. Or is it a reflection about the strange need of human beings to document and preserve the natural world by killing it? In any case, Garduño has created a lively tableau of once living creatures reduced to illustrations, or stuffed and set on perches to mimic life, or simply decaying.

Floating In Air

"Parvada, Switzerland," 2015 16 x 20”

A hand-tooled metal ornament with a bird in its center is silhouetted against a cloudy sky.   Above it another ornament resembling a flying goose embellishes the picture.   Though highly abstracted, the birds appear surprisingly natural, as if enjoying the Swiss air.


"Geometrías, Switzerland," 2015  24" x 20"

While in Switzerland, Garduño pointed her camera skyward, intrigued by geometric shapes in the air made by a multitude of wires and a banner strung from a building.   Floating in the sky somewhat inexplicably is the face of a scowling man printed on fabric, apparently a person of note to this community.

Water Floating In Air

"Como Pez en el Agua, Mexico,” 2016   20" x 16"

The literal translation of Como pez en el agua is "like a fish in the water," meaning "to be at ease," or "in one's natural element."    But Garduño's close-up photograph of a number of fish coiling around each other in a hand-held plastic bag half-filled with water.  The fish become a simple wonder as they are alive in water as well as suspended in the air.

Flying in the Air

"Columna De La Independencia, Mexico," 2015   20" x 16"

Photographed in Huaquecula, Puebla, Mexico, a totemic pole with ladder-like steps rises to incredible heights.   At its top a man wearing the feathers of a bird spreads his wings. Below him three men in feathered headdresses perch on wooden struts are quietly engaged in an aerial ritual. Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony celebrated in only a few places of Mexico. Its purpose (according to one myth) is to petition the gods to end severe droughts.   As part of the men tied to the pole by cords will launch themselves into the air.
Rising to the Heavens

"Ascención,Mexico," 2015    16" x 20"

In the church of San Juan Bautista in the monastery of Tetela del Volcán, Mexico,  Garduño photographed a wood sculpture of Christ on the Cross suspended from wires below the ceiling of the church.   Within the unembellished, tent-like walls the crucifix appears to be ascending toward a dark vanishing point in the ceiling.   In pre-Columbian times the site of this church was sacred to a god of commerce called Yacapitzauac, an ancient Mesoamerican deity who held a staff.   Knowing this the Augustinian priests who evangelized the area in 1530 dedicated the monastery to John the Baptist who also holds a staff.


"Re-Aparición, Mexico," 2015   20" x 16"

Garduño photographed the grid pattern of tiles that once displayed the familiar Mexican image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.   The original image has faded completely under the Mexican sun, wind and rain, retaining only the scalloped halo and faint rays of light that surrounded the Virgin.   In this tongue-in-cheek commentary on the “natural” evolution of symbols, Garduño shows the Catholic Madonna as evanescent as life itself, in fact, merely an apparition.


Liz Kay