Friday, September 24

Alejandra Glez: The denunciation of machismo and gender discrimination as a work of art | Culture


Three or four years ago, the young Cuban Alejandra Glez (Havana, 1996) went to work for a time in Lima. She was 20 years old and her career as a photographer was just taking off, but the months she spent at the Fugaz del Callao artistic residence left a deep mark on her. In Lima he met all kinds of marginal people, but he was especially impressed by the story of a woman who lived on the street, was hooked on drugs and prostituted herself to survive. Little by little they got to know each other. He told her that he had children and that he had come from an upper-class Peruvian home. “When her husband arrived drunk he beat her brutally, and in the middle of a beating one day she took a knife and killed him. He went to jail, lost his children and never came out of that black hole again. ” Alejandra spent time by her side on the streets, earned her trust and finally made her a model for one of her works. On Murderess? (2018), she appears naked, with a dagger on her chest and all the horror she has experienced reflected on her face. “Society condemned her, for everyone she was simply a criminal and a drug addict. But was she a murderer, or a person who fought for her life? If she didn’t kill, they would have killed her. With my work I try to create awareness, that the authentic story behind is known. “

'Asesina' (2018), a photograph by Alejandra Glez.
‘Asesina’ (2018), a photograph by Alejandra Glez.

In 2017, in Madrid Alejandra met Carmen, a woman with Diogenes syndrome who lived with her cats and recycled the objects she collected on the street and also made lamps. “She was giving birth to the garbage, something very interesting, I loved it and wanted to work with her.” For Alejandra, the naked body of women is vindictive and fundamental in her work, which she considers feminist. When he asked Carmen to pose for one of his portraits, she said no. She told him that she had a panic about nudity because of a bad experience at school. “She was shy and never wanted to change in front of her classmates, until one day at the sports center a teacher undressed her in front of the rest of the girls. With that trauma she stayed, to the extent that she didn’t even undress to have sex. ” It was a work of months, but finally Carmen opened up and they did several photoshoots. “The realization of the work was almost a process of psychological rehabilitation.”

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Carmen Y Murderess? there are only two photographs, but to get to take them and capture the deep history of its protagonists Alejandra spent months interacting with her models, who are almost always victims. “I try all the time to connect with other women from other societies so that they tell me their truths and feel that through me they can liberate things,” she says, confirming that her work is a kind of personal exorcism and self-therapy.

'Carmen' (2017), a photograph by Alejandra Glez.
‘Carmen’ (2017), a photograph by Alejandra Glez.

Sexism. Patriarchy. Sexual abuse Gender discrimination. They are scourges that turn his guts and that, in one way or another, his work denounces. Alejandra suffered firsthand the separation from her parents. His father was “the great father”, until he abandoned them and did not want to know anything more about the family. “He was an absent father figure, but also present in a negative way: he conditioned in me an image of the man as treacherous, as the person you love and who at the moment can hurt you.” As a teenager she was raped, but she did not know until later that it was rape. “He was a guy I had had sex with before, but that day I said no. Since we had kissed, he interpreted yes. I cried, screamed and ended up bleeding, until he left me, and when he left the room he told his friends that I was a close and a lesbian ”. Alejandra says that until later she was not aware of what had happened to her. “When I began to study and investigate the subject, I realized that I had been raped. I was more than a year without being able to have relations with a man, afraid of my own body ”.

The women she interacts with in her work are in a way a reflection of herself. “I work with my own feelings, the whole creative process comes from my experiences as a woman and how I feel reflected in society. Cuba is a country that is not institutionally macho. Women have the same rights and are protected by law, but at the cultural level there is a lot of machismo, we are constantly attacked when we walk down the street ”. She explains that she never wears a bra, she doesn’t like it, and that in Cuba is frowned upon, almost a “provocation”. “You walk down the street and men yell at you where they are going to put the semen on you, they touch your hair, they tell you how beautiful or ugly you are. There are a number of cultural elements that continue to disturb the female figure. So with the nude in the photography what I am trying to do is to normalize the woman’s body, not to cause a scandal ”.

Self-portrait from the series 'Life is immortal when it ends' (2020), by Alejandra Glez.
Self-portrait from the series ‘Life is immortal when it ends’ (2020), by Alejandra Glez.

From the experience of the rape Alejandra began to suffer violent anxiety and panic attacks, which she reflected in the series Life is immortal when it’s over (2020), which is also a tribute to the Cuban artist Ana Mendieta (Havana, 1948, New York, 1985), one of her great influences. Although he is only 24 years old, his work is powerful and has attracted the attention of critics and gallery owners. The Aurora Vigil-Escalera Gallery, its representative in Spain, presented its work for the Enaire Foundation Young Photography Award at the JUSTMAD Fair. It won its fourth edition, and was invited to participate in the inauguration of PHotoEspaña on June 2 at the Botanical. There she will present the Liliths series, three feminist works that draw on the Hebraic tradition of the first woman who inhabited paradise, before Eve. This is how she recreates it, with a Cuban accent: “Supposedly Lilith and Adán had been created from the same dust, but Adán did not allow them to have the same living conditions. She couldn’t decide, couldn’t choose, couldn’t get on top of him in sex, and Lilith asks her why, if we were created from the same dust? Lilith had to be submissive to man, and since she does not accept these conditions and leaves paradise, God punishes her and turns her into the fatal woman, the mother of devils, the serpent, all for being a woman that the only thing that he wants his voice to be heard within a patriarchy ”.

Alejandra says that with this work she tries to “represent the Liliths contemporaries of his life ”, who have had to make a great effort to be respected. On June 4, his gallery will present a retrospective of his work that includes photographs, installations, performance and video art, curated by Semíramis González, which includes Swell (2018), a monumental piece that has marked her career, inspired by the number of women who die each year from domestic violence, femicides or human trafficking.

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