Many of the works in Flor Garduño’s oeuvre are visual explorations of the female form. Garduño’s photographs carefully delve into the fictionalised feminine ideal. Garduño’s work reconceptualises the human figure within the narrative of the conventional depiction of women. Her photographs have a dream-like quality, rooted in Surrealism, indicating a distinctive and personal aesthetic vocabulary.
Combining the sensual nature of femininity, underpinned by a Surrealist interest in the ‘uncanny’, Garduño uses the female body, and inanimate objects, as the canvas she uses to convey narrative. ‘I use the body to tell stories, to recreate myths and personal dreams’, Garduño states, noting of her preference for the nude, that ‘the intimacy that makes them blossom as flowers so their most profound emerges.’ Her study of the female nude is simultaneously powerful and delicate, revealing her approach to be one at once profound and poetic.
Garduño’s focus on the female form is heightened by an interjection of rich textural components that create ethereal compositions. This interjection works to unravel the artistic tradition of female representation. Vestido Elegante, Mexico, 1997, exemplifies Garduño’s approach. The composition presents a cropped torso of a female nude extending across the length of the photograph. Parts of her stomach and chest are covered by large, curvaceous leaves which extend from beyond the limit of the shot. Her right breast is exposed, as is her pubic hair. Similar to another celebrated photograph by the artist, Vestido Eterno, Mexico, 1999, natural elements such as flowers and leaves are pictured alongside the figure to frame the naked body, echoing the subject’s shape. Here, the leaves are curved to softly mimic the organic curves of her body. The inclusion of leaves so close to the model’s exposed genitalia is also reminiscent of historic modesty covers used for nude figures. However, this trope is inverted by her erect nipple and pubic area revealed by purposeful openings in the foliage.
This interplay between the natural world and the female form is enhanced by Garduño’s seamless blending of light and shadow, using dramatic chiaroscuro to create enigmatic compositions. La De Las Margaritas, Mexico, 1999, also represents this sensuous unity of light and dark. A female nude stands with her back to the camera against a roughly hewn grey surface. Her body is curved slightly to the left and her arms extend this gentle movement by holding her long, brown hair above her head. Her body, in a striking and powerful stance, is littered with the heads of small flowers, whose brilliant white petals are offset by the more muted tones of her body and background. The photograph hides the face of the model so that we have no choice but to completely focus on the dynamic bodily form and the adorned skin.
Women have long been portrayed, throughout art history, as mysterious nonentities, however, Garduño surpasses traditional representation. She displays women as enigmatic creatures, both powerful and self-fulfilled in their presence. Through her exploration of texture, shape and light, combined with her subversion of Western ideals of feminine beauty, her works reveals aspects of our shared unconscious and the power of the feminine
(By Ava Howard)