Elizabeth Carranza’s Remaking of Mexican Popular Icons

By 31 October, 2018

Elizabeth Carranza’s photography knits traditional and millennial practices to contemporary art expressions. Her colorful photography series-currently on display at The Jean Deleage Art gallery at Casa 0101 Theater, as part of the Perspectives group exhibition-,is a stimulating play of traditional Mexican iconography rearranged with new interpretations. The choreography behind Carranza’s Mexican Calendar Girl, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of The Dead) and Loteria (lottery, a bingo like game with images instead of numbers) series is dynamic. This body of work uncovers her culture’s versatility and adaptability to innovative visual readings. Her work has been published on the front cover of L.A. Weekly.

In this exhibition, Carranza is not bound to tradition. Instead she expands and stretches the boundaries of popular culture without ever snapping the link between reinvention and originality. As a first-generation Chicana, Carranza states, “I was not really exposed to a lot of our Mexican history and traditions because we were raised to assimilate into what was considered the American dream; financial success through the portal of education. Not until I began taking Chicano Studies classes at East Los Angeles College was my curiosity and pride furthered in my cultural roots.”

The remaking of the Loteria (lottery), the Mexican Calendar Girls and Day of the Dead series is a cultural affirmation that reveals her gained sensitivity and understanding of Mexican imagery and meaning through her studies and research. Carranza is fascinated with “the way life and death and its nuances are both celebrated in my culture.” As a young girl, Carranza identified the Mexican calendar girl as the perfect woman: beautiful, powerful and intelligent.

The wardrobe, the body painting and her colorful backdrops in this body of work all express a festive celebration. Every scene is meticulously arranged to the last detail as is her ‘Diablo’ (devil) Loteria image. Suited in black, red face and red hands, the young model devils-out a majestic image of a teasing Diablo resting on a jet-black ornate chair. The devil’s inviting stare draws one closer under the spell of a soft subtle light.

Appropriation seems not to be the case with Carranza, nor does she de-contextualize, strip or distort what inspired her since the beginning. She masters lighting and composition in ways that give her photography a cinematic style.

See more of Elizabeth Carranza’s work on her Instagram

Perspectives is on display at The Jean Deleage Art gallery at Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles

All images by Elizabeth Carranza

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