Although Bolivia is a pluricultural country with a rich loom of femininity, the representation of women remains whitewashed and phallocentric. To this day, Catholicism and class struggles permeate our understanding of womanhood with Catholic dogmas reinforcing society’s Madonna-Whore complex and inequality manifesting as the under and misrepresentation of indigenous and mestizo women. MADRE was conceived to challenge this embedded machismo and celebrate the diversity and complexity of my culture through the portrayal of its women. The project became a cathartic experience that allowed me to (re)connect to my female lineage and through it (re)invent the history of Bolivia.
In the series, family photos act as windows to the past but are deconstructed to subvert meaning and add layers of symbolism. In the portraits, women are depicted as multiple confronted versions of Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary but repossessed to reflect Andean traditions. Piecing together past memories and current observations the project explores the influence of race and religion in shaping the perception and representation of Bolivian women.
Situated between documentary and fiction, the images describe an existence interconnected by physical and mythological elements, a dance between the Hanan Pacha (the upper world in Incan mythology) and the Uku Pacha (the under or inner world) where women experience potentiality, change, loss, decline, and death.
Marisol Mendez (1991) uses her camera to study the tension between truth and fiction, the tight relationship between what a photograph creates and the (sur)real it comes from. Unconcerned with image hierarchies, she combines lo-fi procedures with sophisticated photographic techniques to explore the dynamics between immediacy and intimacy, memory and identity.
Marisol received a BA in Audiovisual Communication at Universidad de Palermo, Buenos Aires and a Masters in Fashion Photography at the University of the Arts, London. She has exhibited across Europe, Argentina and Bolivia and her work has been featured internationally.
She was selected as the PHmuseum 2021 Photography Grant New Generation Prize winner and was one of last year’s recipients of the Michael Reichmann’s Project Grant awarded by Photolucida.