Scripps Celebrates Cross-Generational Latina Photography

Students and community members discuss the work of contemporary Mexican photographer Tatiana Parcero. (Adela Pfaff / The Student Life)

The sound of a band blended with jovial Spanish conversation into a melodic symphony fitting for the opening night of “Revolution and Ritual” at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery of Scripps College’s exhibition in conjunction with the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA series.

The exhibit, which celebrated its opening on Sept. 9, will run until Jan. 7, 2018 and features photographs from three Mexican female artists: Sara Castrejón, Graciela Iturbide, and Tatiana Parcero.

Although both Iturbide and Parcero were invited to exhibit-related events, only Parcero could participate in the opening. Oswaldo Ruiz, who works closely with Iturbide, attended in her place.

Until January 2018, over 70 separate art exhibitions all over Southern California will prompt a far-reaching exploration of Latino art, according to literature provided at the event by Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an initiative by the Getty Foundation.

Patrons admire the work of Graciela Iturbide at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery last Friday. (Adela Pfaff, The Student Life)

Pomona College and Pitzer College are hosting their own exhibitions in addition to the one at Scripps’ Williamson Gallery.

The “Revolution and Ritual” opening consisted of several panel discussions throughout the day with an afternoon tea session, all taking place at Scripps. They finished with a reception from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., celebrating Mexican heritage with live music, traditional food, and Claremont residents eager to participate in discussion about the displayed photography.

Amongst those attending the exhibition were Lauren Koenig SC '20 and Anezka Boyle SC '20, both of whom were prompted to contextualize the photographs’ artistic significance. The two were present with their Scripps Core III course “Portraits, Snapshots, Instagram,” taught by Associate Professor of Art History Juliet Kloss.

“The [Core III] class is dealing with art versus photography, and if photography should be considered art or not,” Boyle said.

Both Boyle and Koenig agreed that photography is an art form but pointed to the era of each photographer when identifying differing artistic intentions.

“It’s interesting to compare each photographer’s take on the art of their time,” Koenig said. “Castrejón is sort of a historical documentary photographer and didn’t really identify what she was doing as ‘art.’"

This is the first exhibition in the United States to feature Castrejón’s work, according to the project director Dr. Mary MacNaughton.

Laurel Dickstein SC '18 interned at the Williamson Gallery this summer, helping to curate the exhibit specifically by transcribing all of the wall text. She similarly pointed to the artists’ differing objectives based on the time period each photographer was documenting.

“[Castrejón] was really documenting the Mexican Revolution from her point of view in this very rural town, so she didn’t really have artistic intentions,” said Dickstein, who is double-majoring in art history and anthropology. “It was portrait work … She was documenting history.”

Conversely, Dickstein noted that by the time Iturbide came onto the scene, she was held to the same standard as Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera.

“It wasn’t crazy anymore to consider photography as an art, which shows how quickly the medium was transformed,” Dickstein said.

However, Dickstein also recognized that Iturbide's work, which documented indigenous communities, could potentially be viewed as an anthropological endeavour.

“These portraits that Graciela was doing, people thought that they were anthropological just because she was photographing people [who] weren’t her contemporaries,” Dickstein said. “It’s portrait work – yes – but portrait work with artistic intention.”

The work of Tatiana Parcero, the third and most contemporary artist represented, was previously featured at Williamson Gallery and had left an impression on Giovanna Perricone SC ’19, who works at the gallery as a guard.

“It’s just very unique,” Perricone said of Parcero’s work, which comprises of black and white self-portraits overlaid with illustration serving in place of the photo’s white space. “It was about a year ago, but I can still remember because it was unlike any photograph I had ever seen before.”

Dickstein credits the impressionistic effect of Parcero’s photography to the ephemerality of the experience and the viewer's addition of their own context to the image.

“What’s special about it is that she leaves that inch, quarter of an inch, [or] two inches in between the background and the acetate of the photo so that it really is a window, and as you’re moving around, it’s changing,” Dickstein said. “Not only is she not telling you what the illustration is, but by de-contextualizing it, she’s also re-constituting its value as a system of knowledge.”

When asked about the significance of the exhibit at Scripps – compared to the ones at the other Claremont Colleges – Dickstein referenced the implications of having only female artists represented.

“I don’t think it’s chance that we chose Mexican female artists at a school that is supposed to be representing women [and] minority women,” Dickstein said.

Eve Wang PZ ’19, who worked for one of the curators of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA this summer, noted a similar connotation.

“All of the three photographers are females who approach the subjects in a very humanistic way,” Wang said. “They shoot the subject as the way they are, and Tatiana specifically celebrates women's bodies by linking it to her cultural heritage, which I think is what a lot of students here are striving to explore.”