Collection Artwork
A black and white photo, covered in a pattern of flowers and foliage, of a woman with a nude upper body posing with arms up against a dark background.
Flor Garduño (born Mexico City, Mexico, 1957)
Carla, México
platinum-palladium print
paper size: 17 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.
image size: 13 3/4 x 18 in.
frame size: 21 3/4 x 25 3/4 x 1 1/2 in.
The Jack Shear Collection of Photography at the Tang Teaching Museum
photographed in Mexico, North America
6/12 [originally an edition of 30, subsequently limited]

Installation views

Object Labels

What does it mean to be silenced, to disappear, to be labeled, to be misunderstood? What does it mean to know only part of a story? Jamal Cyrus’s canvas resembles sheet music or text with ostensibly confidential—or perhaps merely controversial—sections redacted, referencing state-sanctioned efforts to remove information and thereby potentially alter histories. Does the removal of information keep us safe, or does it keep us silent?

Zanele Muholi, the subject of her own portrait, nearly disappears into the background foliage, visible by the whites of her eyes, which gaze powerfully at the viewer. Hevi, Oslo is a declaration of Muholi’s beauty (and her strength) as a black queer South African woman. Wearing an Afro, covering her breasts, and melding into nature, she dares us to conjure stereotypes of black women, of the “exotic other.” What can we know of someone from a single image, after all? How many assumptions do we make before we realize we have made them?

While Muholi disguises her nudity with her arms, Garduño’s sitter displays her body in a gesture of pride and power as she opens her arms in greeting. Yet she is not a sensuous model intending to please; she remains in total control, delicately veiled by floral imagery, symbols of beauty and femininity. Muholi and Garduño offer two views on the female body, each at once displaying both strength and fragility. All three artworks ask: How much can we know based on what we see? How much truth can an image offer?

From the exhibition: Other Side:
Art, Object, Self (August 12, 2017 – January 3, 2018)

Flor Garduño’s intimate portrait explores themes of fertility and feminine beauty using floral imagery and the female body. In Carla, México, the model bares her nude body with outstretched arms and holds before her a delicate sheet of black floral lace. The lace disappears into the dark background, giving the appearance of the figure’s skin being overlaid with the floral pattern. The lace over her body suggests that she is both protected and empowered by the flowers that envelope her, vulnerable in her nakedness, and yet possessing all the beauty and resilience of a flower. She is not looking at the viewer, but she is aware of the viewer’s presence. She neither hides her body nor offers it for consumption. The age-old comparison between women and flowers has been used as a framework for colonizing and cultivating the female body. This portrait overcomes that narrative by placing the agency in the hands of the model and allowing her to define her own relationship to the floral imagery of the lace.
–Caroline Coxe ’20

From the exhibition: Lover Earth
Art and Ecosexuality (May 30 – August 23, 2020)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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