The work of Argentinian artist Ana Álvarez-Errecalde is at it’s core motivated and formed through her experiences as a mother; by the worries and joys of raising children and her concern for the world we will leave them. Ana’s gaze is frank and her images challenge the more established views derived from Art History and Hollywood, maybe mostly because they are not from a mainstream and male point of view. Asked in the Skype interview whether the ‘beautified’ should be dismissed over the ‘real’ she explained:
“I don’t think we have to get rid of one thing for the other. The problem that I see is that we only have this singular story being told and I think we have to be as plural as possible. Most of the popular imagery that we see of women comes from a male, heterosexual, occidental and patriarchal perspective.”
She recently completed a series of four photographic self-portraits created as a reflection on motherhood titled The Four Seasons. In Assent she stands alone in front of a flowering tree amongst its fallen blossoms allowing blood that alludes to a late gestational loss to stain her. She explained of that moment that it encapsulated an assent to this experience. With hindsight she states “though things were very hard, I was able to find a sense of hope and trust that allowed me to stop focusing on how difficult the situation was”. In accord, the other three portraits let the worries pervade, yet are filled with life. Without religious agenda, in Annunciation, she posed as Michelangelo’s ‘La Pieta’ with her son who has a severe neurological condition. The work Annunciation; reflects on the unconditional love, the ‘YES’ given to all that may come, however tough, once you decide to have a child. With her daughter as little red riding hood in Shadow she examines her role as mother, transmitting her own fears to her daughter; at once fearsome and protective. The balance of the mother-child relationship is pressed again in Symbiosis. Ana´s opinion in relation to motherhood is as far from the idea of Supermom as much as her idea of women is far from the idea of Superwoman. She does not consider motherhood as a superpower above the children but as an absolutely symbiotic relationship, where each being is complete but is reinvented and strengthened by the relationship established with each other. Reactions to the image brought to the surface the very puritanical views on breastfeeding she criticises. It was to be on the cover of ‘HipMama’, an alternative parenting magazine published in the US. But due to distributor reactions, the photo was censored. Ana and the magazine devised a red dot to cover her nipple with the words ‘No Supermom Heroes Here’, which only served to highlight the hypocrisy when compared to the large amount of magazines that utilize the nipple to sell.
Into the public imagination she has placed an unprecedented portrait of birth with Birth of my Daughter: a self-portrait diptych done during one of her home births. Enchanted by a dream of holding her newborn daughter still attached by her umbilical cord, she decided to realise the image. “I was thinking, ok, if I feel good enough I will do it, and if not, it doesn’t matter, the birth is more important. But the birth was amazing and it was just the way that I had envisioned it, I was feeling so strong, and had the feeling that I could climb the Himalayas with all the stamina, it was incredible.” Initially she did not intend to publish the images but after seeing the developed photos she asked herself why on earth nobody had shown her images like this growing up, why nobody had told her birth could be like that. “I was not a patient I was active, I was a protagonist”. In the photo she is clearly thrilled with her baby, she is in control and entirely in her natural state. “I want future mothers to know that this is also possible”.
The way we portray our lives and memories through photography also gains her attention, such as the ideal of the family album. Her series Egología, challenges this concept of our overly edited memories. With the series DSD, Migrant Islands, the difficulties of being an undocumented immigrant is explored by photographing these people in front of studio style backdrop that depicted what would be their aspired setting. Next to that is another image that included the bigger picture revealing their more sombre daily setting. This is an important topic for Ana being that she has lived in New York City and Barcelona for more years than she has lived in Argentina.
She said of her work “I feel like there’s some kind of responsibility or commitment because it might help other people to know that they are not alone in their experiences or desires”. Leaving a trail of imagery for her children and the world, Ana makes visible some untold stories and gives strength to our realities.
“Violence towards women begins with the repression of sexuality, the appropriation of childbirth, the interference with all vital cycles and the creation of manipulative roles. A negated mother will also negate her body and her presence to her children, so they will all ultimately conform to our unattended, unloved, and unnourished society. This violence consists in promoting shortcomings that trigger a disproportionate consumerism which is perverse and unsustainable. A fulfilled woman who accepts her body and finds pleasure in sharing it with her offspring is a revolution in her own right, because she stops being part of a establishment that feeds the enormous unsatisfied needs of future men and women.”