‘MADRE’ interrogates the whitewashed, phallocentric and colonial representation of womxn in my native Bolivia. The project is an exploration of the feminine as it wrestles with religious and cultural interpretations that are dogmatic and reductionist, confining womxn to either the image of the holy Virgin Mary or the sinner Mary Magdalene. Weaving together Andean folklore and Catholic iconography, the book spotlights the complexities of contemporary Bolivian identity and reflects on the country’s diverse and multifaceted culture.
‘MADRE’ also includes archival photographs from my family album that depict female relatives, on which I intervene to subvert their original meaning or add a new layer of symbolism. Ultimately, the archive functions as a bridge to reconnect to my matriarchal lineage.
Situated between fiction and documentary, the images paint a world interconnected by physical and mythological elements — a dance between the upper and inner worlds of Incan mythology. Here, womxn experience change, loss, decline, and death.
Preconceived biases or prejudices about the womxn in the portraits are challenged by their piercing gaze, which returns that of the viewer. I spent hours conversing with my subjects about patriarchal and one-dimensional representations of womanhood, and collaborating with them on how they would like to be photographed. The outcome is a protest in the face of unjust depictions that erase the nuances of what it means to be a womanx in Bolivia with an inherited past of colonisation, patriarchy and interlacing faiths and religions.
Marisol Mendez’s artistic practice dramatises the artifice of the photographic medium, unpacking the tensions underlying binaries of past and present, real and fictive, candid and staged, naturalistic and mythical. Her work questions hegemonic narratives and confronts them with the friction of the heterogeneous. Image-making is Marisol’s channel to make visible the tension between truth and fiction, the tight relationship between what a photograph creates and the (sur)real it comes from. Marisol Mendez’s work has been part of numerous exhibitions and festivals like Sharjah Biennial 15, Format Festival, Getxophoto, and Athens Photo Festival. Her images have been published worldwide including in Paper Journal, Balam and GUP Magazine. In 2021 her photographs were the cover of The British Journal of Photography and FotoFilmic. Mendez's practice has earned acclaim and received various awards like the 2023 Sony World Professional Award and the PHmuseum 2021 Photography Grant New Generation Prize. She was part of Vogue's Fashion 100 and the recipient of Photolucida's Michael Reichmann's Project grant.
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