Alexa Torre’s digital photography series, “Mexica Utopia,” appears in Vol. 33.2 of The Southeast Review. Purchase the issue here.
Mexico is a singular country, but we need to find those different Mexicans: Mexicans that can find their own way of assuming their own membership. ‘Hecho en Mexico’ needs to be more than just a mark on an imported box.
One of the transcendental parts of us, as Mexicans, is our identity. The way that we are often characterized is through our euphoric patriotism, history, culture, faith, and mysticism in a very passionate way. This is a country full of folklore––dancing, dresses, and colors that express our cultural identity.
Our country seems to be losing that sense of self and passion, partly through interior conflicts and through the imitation of other countries’ influences.
In this project, I want to generate a greater social consciousness of the young generation of Mexicans, and of the integrity of our people, so we all can again fall in love with our country and culture and establish a greater identity.
“Mexica Utopia” is not only a project that tries to rescue the privilege of visual aesthetics and the mysticism that we sometimes don’t have––or being conscious enough to see or admire it. It’s also about taking those masks of complexity and what it is to be ourselves, while regenerating that identity that has been lost.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I am working on the religious theme in Mexico, that devotion that the people of my country have for the Virgin of Guadalupe, Jesus, and all the saints. It fascinates me to see their reactions, so this project has been more about approaching people and talking about what they believe.
Who are your artistic influences?
My influences have always been so many, but some of them are movements like sacred art, Surrealism, and contemporary art. Also artists like Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Graciela Iturbide, Manual Álvarez Bravo, and Chuck Close.
In this series, “Mexica Utopia,” the subject, usually a woman in a powerful stance, often covers her face by a mask or other beautiful cultural objects. Can you discuss the symbolism behind this artistic choice?
First of all I appropriate the traditional dresses of our native cultures in Mexico to convert these images into representative icons of my culture. Concepts like independence, freedom, and nation have always been related to women’s figures, so why not centralize my ideas on them?
What does the title “Mexica Utopia” represent? What kind of Mexico have you created within this series?
In these portraits, I use masks as sculptural supports. That helps me represent the scene or idea of my interest by creating aesthetic icons attractive for the spectators.
How does art touch or conjure the “transcendental” and the “mystical”?
Art since the beginning had a mystical function. When one touches aspects of symbolism, it opens other new ways to appreciate something. The same happens with a culture, tradition, language, or food.
In your artist statement, you write, “I want to generate a greater social consciousness of the young generation of Mexicans, and of the integrity of our people, so we all can again fall in love with our country and culture and establish a greater identity.” What is the social message that you wish to convey through your work?
Maybe it’s about the loss of traditions. When my grandma was growing up, this was normal—folklore, food, dresses, traditions—but now people are more self-involved, and involved in all of the new things that are happening around the world. They don’t care about and are blind to the beauty that surrounds us. In this project, I wanted a very contemporary and stylish look because of this. People are more engaged by the images and storytelling behind the photographs of Mexican icons.
Do you see the experience of art as a kind of falling in love?
I think art is a real falling in love because just taking a title and obsessing about it generates this desire to keep doing it, keep going, and keep pursuing that feeling.
How can art “regenerate that identity that has been lost”?
I don’t know if my art can regenerate that idea, but at least by looking at these images it gives you emotions, or makes you ask questions. I had good responses to this project in my country; people ask me about my work, and that’s something I like because, in some way, people have responded.
Alexa Torre is a Mexican fine-art photographer who loves to show her perspective of the world combined with her imagination. She has a passionate soul on the path of discovering and learning new things. Her website is alexatorre.com. Twitter: @alexatorre