by Laura Aguilar
From Boom Summer 2015, Vol 5, No 2
Editor’s Note: Laura Aguilar’s remarkable Nature Self Portraits treats the human body as just another feature in the landscape. In the series, Aguilar positions herself in the center of her photographs, nude, often with her back to the camera. The curve of her back echoes the rocks, her black hair in the wind recalls the thin fingers of desert trees. The photographs are at once playful and beautiful, peaceful and provocative.
Aguilar’s first nude self portraits weren’t intended to be shared publicly. She has said in interviews that she made the first ones as a way to deal with her discomfort with her body and shame herself into changing it. It didn’t work—the friends she showed the photographs to thought they were some of her finest work. She decided to take the work outside, inspired largely by Los Angeles–based photographer Judy Dater, whose Self Portrait with Stone is echoed in the first photograph of the series.
When it came time to make the first photographs for the series, Aguilar was grieving the death of her closest friend. Working outside brought her back to her childhood spent camping and hiking with her family, and Sundays fishing with her grandmother who taught her that you didn’t have to go to church to get close to God.
Aguilar’s Nature Self Portraits may have roots in shame and mourning, but, transformed by the desert, the images become a celebration of the human body in nature. The earliest photographs were made in New Mexico and Texas, but more recent work was done in the Mojave Desert in California.
Laura Aguilar, born in San Gabriel in Los Angeles County, will be the subject of a retrospective—her first—at the Vincent Price Art Museum as part of the 2017–2018 Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America.