Maria Jose Navas Espinal
Selected artist from the group exhibition The Class of 2020
Machismo is defined as a strong sense of masculine pride, exaggerated masculinity. Growing up in Colombia, machismo is something of everyday experience. Culturally people believe that men have a primary role in society. Women stand behind them, not getting enough credit for all their hard work. However, a new generation of women has started a feminist movement around Colombia in which they highlight the importance and the value of being a woman. I identify myself as a feminist; however, I had never empowered this side of me until I had the experience of reading and discussing One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book’s principal female character, Ursula Iguaran is a strong physical and emotional figure. Ursula is the main inspiration for my work. My art aims to visually present the change in gender roles that women have been working towards in the world for the past 50 years. Through portraiture, I want to illustrate how different cultures, religions, or personal experiences (family and others) come together to be part of this change.
I photograph my friends and family in Colombia, and in the United States, where I currently reside. My subjects come from different backgrounds and cultures but I identify a life experience, an emotion, or a feeling with each of the women I portray. We have all been through an experience that has diminished us just because we are women, but we’ve also overcome sexism.
To make these photographs, I establish three rules for myself. First, ask these women to choose their own clothes. I want them to wear something in which they feel themselves. Second, they are photographed in their own safe and comfortable spaces. Finally, I ask my models not to smile at the camera, to be serious. My wish is to take away this idea of “the perfect woman” and show who they really are. I am using a medium format film camera with a square frame. The square format contributes to the composition by directing the viewer to the main subject. The photographs are black and white because I want to portray a striking sense of emotion and confrontation, through facial expression, dramatic highlights, and areas of deep black tones.
Maria Jose Navas Espinal is a Colombian based artist. She graduated from Drew University in May 2020 with majors in Studio Arts and Art History and minors in Arts Administration & Museology, and Photography. She studied abroad in Italy to extend her knowledge in Painting Conservation, and during last year worked at the United Methodist Archives and Historical center as a Book Conservator assistance. Her body of work is highly intertwined with feminism, projecting social and political problems against women.
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