I was recently interviewed by Laura de Vos for Subversión magazine
Patricia Ann Alvarado was born in Chicago about two decades ago. Her work, strongly conceptual and performative, relies on photography as the form to document it and share it with the world. She focuses on woman identity, both in private and public contexts. Through a minimal set up, usually using mixed techniques, she displays her explorations towards woman’s body and appearance –see her series I thought you said you liked long hair, FaNtAsY and Not quite there-, while also exploring some intimate processes and emotions such as shame, self-perception and guilt, as in I’m tryingggggg and lol, gurl wut r u hiding?
In her own words:
My work functions as both a questioning of and satirical commentary on attraction versus repulsion, ideals, and shame, while also investigating the paradoxical nature of standards upheld for women within patriarchal society. By visually exploring the absurdities surrounding these societal standards, I examine shifts between the problematic ideal, the natural versus the unnatural, and hypocritical guidelines set forth for women. I am interested in what happens when society’s ideal is ignored or defied, the negative and destructive ways in which society views femininity, and the ways in which physical alterations function as daily ritual.
This strong statement motivated us to get in touch with Patricia to find out more.
How did Patricia Ann Alvarado decide to become an artist? Tell us about that process.
I don’t think I ever really decided to be an artist, I think it just ended up that it was the only thing I was ever passionate about. I have a twin sister, and so when we were growing up, we were super competitive. She was really into sports, and so I was always like, oh I have to be good at that too. And I wasn’t… I was really awful, and it killed me because I felt so second rate. Fast forward to high school, I started taking art classes and was really into photography. I decided to go to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and I’m currently a Photography major with one year left to go.
Your work has a strong presence of mixed techniques, yet within a minimal set/mise-on-scene. Why is this?
Until about a year ago, I was really interested in photography because of its documentary qualities. The ability to “capture” a moment, an action, or some kind of genuine human emotion was so interesting to me, and I relied on photography to be truthful and honest. I began to feel frustrated with the medium, finally realizing that photography is not at all about honesty, but is instead about deceit and falsities. An image is altered from the moment it is created, and there is no photographic truth (in my opinion). My work has a presence of mixed techniques because I’m currently still grappling with the idea of photography, and what the medium does for my work. Right now, I’m interested in creating objects rather than working with images. Not only because it’s something I’ve never been able to do before, but also because I feel like that’s what my current projects call for.
A lot of your body of work focuses,on the one hand, in examining women’s public image, while on the other hand, we see self-exploratory works about internal feelings and self-perception. Why this focus on women, and since when have you been interested in such themes?
I am a fat, hairy, brown, queer woman, and I feel that all of these things are really important as identifiers for who I am. I’ve been interested in exploring themes about “identity politics,” especially concerning feminism and patriarchal ideals within society for around a year now. I use my own experiences, for example; being a young teenager in an abusive relationship, being a woman of color, being fat, etc. and attempt to create a more open dialogue that my viewers can relate to on their own personal level. My work helps me to deal with and make sense of things that I’ve been through and continually deal with, and it has also been amazing to meet fellow women who have had similar experiences and have been helped or inspired in some way by my projects. I feel that my agenda is obvious, but the questions that my work sets up are really what’s at the center of it all.
Is there anything else you would like to explore? Could you tell us about some work in progress? What are your plans for the immediate future?
I’m still very interested in exploring identity politics and (intersectional) feminism within my work, so at this point I can’t say what other topics I’ll explore in the future. For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a piece that compares Stanley Kubrick’s monolithic figure that appears in his film “2001: A Space Odyssey” to monoliths that exist for women within patriarchal society (mainly the idea that body hair needs to be removed on a regular basis). The pieces in this project are mostly created with materials that deteriorate quickly and are constantly changing such as soap and shaving cream, so I’ve been doing a lot of experimentation in my studio. I’m also working on a number of different performance pieces which will exist as videos. I’m interested in performance pieces that are repetitive with hardly any payoff in the “end,” therefore no matter when the viewer starts to watch and how much they watch, they’ll get the point. My immediate plans are to return to Minneapolis to finish my final year of college. Eventually I plan on going to grad school, and getting my own apartment, studio, and dog!
There’s no doubt Patricia is coming out with extremely interesting proposals. If you want to know more, you can go over to The Coven, a feminist art collective which she is part of, and you can see more of her work on her website and blog.
Hey, if you know any rad online magazines or submission things (particularly feminist ones, but I suppose that’s not TOO crucial) let me know! I haven’t submitted anything in a while and I’d love to start showing more of my current work. I really appreciate it!