05 July 2021

A Reconciliation with the Invisible in a Familiar Space

05 July 2021 - Written by PhMuseum

Through an intimate, collective catharsis channeled by family rituals and performances, Andrés Mario de Varona looks to re-examine the significance of death as part of the everyday while simultaneously reflecting upon the ambiguity of human conflict.

Contact is a reconnection to death through the practice of rituals and performance. I created ceremonies with family members, often incorporating the last article of clothing that was purchased, yet never worn by my mother before she died. I strive to compose a rich visual exploration of grief and loss; getting intimate with death against a cultural context that often gets swept under the rug, even though it is one of life’s few hard guarantees.

My family navigated into new transitioned roles and responsibilities, we created spaces that allowed us to confront the psychological and somatic shock that death delivers. In modern society, death is something that’s become nearly invisible and that’s typically told to us rather than witnessed. Contact builds a spiritual connection to death by re-inviting it into my home space. My family chose to reclaim death by working alongside it and questioning the lengths we go to sanitize it.

Contact evolved into new concepts when I moved to New Mexico. Since being here, I’ve been overwhelmed by the intensity of living. My preoccupation with death morphed into an obsession for life. This next chapter, TRIALS, encapsulates the frictions of reality, wounds from survivors, and the ambiguity of human conflict. As I connect with my feelings about these people, arenas, trials, and battles, I’ve begun to realize it reflects my own life.

Philosophically, I began thinking about the absence of conflict and the absence of trial as death. There’s a big sense of struggle and pain in life which is integral to existence. These photographs streamline all of our narratives into a visual record of indignation, healing, growth, and victories.

*The masks you see pictured throughout the TRIALS is a thermoplastic device of mesh construction used in cancer radiation therapy. The masks have been donated from hospitals around New Mexico.*

Words and Pictures by Andrés Mario de Varona.


Andrés Mario de Varona was born into a Cuban family and grew up in Miami, Florida. After pursuing journalism, he realized that he didn’t want to take pictures, but instead create them. His mother’s passing helped him discover a language true to himself and galvanized his need to know more about who he is and what he can express. The camera is his tool to measure cycles of indignation and healing, as well as our growth as human beings, and as a way to record victories. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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