2014 - 2016
The series Virgenes de la Puerta focuses on the transgender women of Lima, Peru who continue to be cast aside by the political and religious administrations for well over 500 years. They are consistently denied employment, assistance from government programs, both state and government-issued forms of identification, and are granted limited access to basic medical resources. They live burdened under the hostile atmosphere created by the agenda of the Church and the politicians who rule the patriarchy with antiquated concepts of masculinity and machismo.
We honor the diversity of the Peruvian culture by re-incorporating these transgender women into the cultural landscape and history of Peru. In direct contrast to their oppressor’s intentions, the work celebrates trans women and presents them as relevant iconic figures within the context of their native land. Influenced by 19th-Century Colonial painting, this series of portraits and tableaux incorporate cultural and religious iconography in an effort to pay homage to the resilience and beauty of these women to strengthen, empower, and embed a sense of pride within the current and future generations of Peru’s LGBTQ community.
In our process we worked closely with many Peruvian artisans in the design and production of the objects used in the images. For example, we worked with a local metalsmith who makes crowns for the churches in Peru to fabricate the silver and gold ones used in our images; as well as the 25-foot long veil in the image of Leyla was designed in collaboration with a local textile artisan who crocheted the piece by hand. The pink crown in Paola’s image was carved by woodworkers from the mountains. We painted the piece in traditional Colonial methods before burning it. It was important for us to surround the women with parts of their culture that were made by the hands of native artisans that have passed down these skills for generations, and it gave us both a better understanding of just how rich and layered their culture is.