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Art Guide Features I Mex-tli, Mexican Goddesses

See article in its original context here by Dylan Rainforth for Art Guide.

Yunuen Pérez and Sissy M. Reyes

Production designer Yunuen Pérez and cinematographer Sissy M. Reyes were friends in Mexico City before they moved to Melbourne and Sydney, respectively, around four years ago. While Pérez established herself in Melbourne’s independent theatre scene and Reyes worked in television they nurtured a project where they would have what Pérez calls “full directorship”. The results are the twelve powerful images on show in Mex-tli, Mexican Goddesses.

“We were looking,” Pérez says, “at indigenous cultures back in Mexico: the Aztecs, Mixtecs and many other different and ancient indigenous communities. We were very attracted to these storytellings and histories because we have a mix of that in Mexico: every single Mexican is part-indigenous and part-European.”

It’s no accident the show is called Mexican Goddesses. “The concept is strong female characters, dignified women who, regardless of the activities they are doing, are very powerful women.” Pérez says it was important for the duo to present empowered female archetypes, in defiance of what she sees as stereotypical depictions of “the Mexican macho man and the submissive woman beside him”.

“Another part of our interest was, as migrants to Australia, what does that mean for us? To come with this heritage and cultural background but to identify as part of the community here.” To emphasise this, while some of the images present archetypal portraits against deep black backgrounds, others show Pérez and Reyes in clearly identifiable Australian locations. (Early on in the collaboration they realised they did not want to use models, and all the images are “self-portraits”.) One such location-based image depicts the duo as washerwomen hanging their laundry on coastal rocks; across the harbour, Sydney Opera House is clearly visible.

The photograph encodes various aspects of art history and cinema to create a narrative. What’s interesting is that Pérez and Reyes work in fields where time-based narratives are central yet here they distil that to singular, suggestive images. “We try to find the stories behind the image.”


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