Mundo Makers

Marcel Pardo Ariza Captures Love In 'Constructed Photographs'

In collaboration with

For Latinx Heritage Month, Cultured highlights a roster of contemporary artists that are reimagining Latinx identity in the on-going series Mundo Makers

Marcel Pardo Ariza is a trans artist and curator who creates images that invite us to abandon the domesticated visions of bodies, kinship, and intimacy we know well. Their practice centers on queer, trans, and non-conforming people, and embraces depictions of joy, care, and pleasure that are less broadly seen. Referring to their works as “constructed photographs,” Ariza draws our attention to the intentionality of their pictures. Each image portraying trans love, an act of pleasure, or an embrace between friends is thoughtfully composed and given presence through objecthood so that it may endure. Images like the ones Ariza makes are largely absent from the archives of traditional photography, and their work is both an acknowledgement of this and an attempt to assemble new visual histories for our future.

Marcel Pardo Ariza wearing Banana Republic photographed in their studio in San Francisco, California.

Weary of symbolic representation, the artist ensures that their work also does more than just broaden visibility. In installations, they deny people the ability to simply consume their works visually as images. Breaking up white walls with painted sections of color, installing groupings of photos of various scales at multiple levels, and transforming spaces by adhering images directly onto the architecture, Ariza generates experiences of embodied spectatorship that radically shift how their photographs function. No longer representations just meant to be seen, they become a part of the sites they inhabit—reminding those immersed in them that these expressions of care, love, and intimacy are real moments that unfold everywhere in our everyday. Ariza’s practice is deeply rooted in collaboration and every exhibition or project becomes an opportunity to slightly re-shape the structures that impede the possibility of lives centered on joy, rest, care, and pleasure. Over time, these changes may transform their photographs into a shared reality for all of us, and we’ll be better for it.