30 Under 35 2020

Martine Gutierrez Questions the Commodification of Diversity

Elizabeth Karp-Evans

Photography by Aubrey Mayer

Martine Gutierrez

Martine Gutierrez’s work incorporates imagery from fashion, film and advertising, referencing the industries’ visual languages while subverting the conventions that still inundate commercial imagemaking. Acting as muse and maker, her precise, cinematic photography and videos challenge public perception of identity by focusing on a subject adjacent to binaries of gender, beauty, race and class. Gutierrez is a selfmade star at the forefront of a generation witnessing broader representation than ever in the mainstream. She is also mindful of the inevitable drawbacks that can come with boundary-pushing success, “The doors of inclusion are opened more often now, but only to a select few,” says Gutierrez, “and, almost instantly, everyone feels the need to monetize what gets you through that door. That commodification of access is a disservice to diversity.”

To address this, Gutierrez embarked on a monumental, four-year project, Indigenous Woman, completed in 2018. Taking the form of a 124-page artist book-cum-glossy fashion magazine, and a subsequent exhibition at New York’s Ryan Lee Gallery, Gutierrez worked as editor, creative director and photographer, shooting the entire project in her mother’s backyard and at friends’ studios. “What it took to create Indigenous Woman has been part of my practice for a long time: making something seem effortless, bigger and more glamorous than what it actually is,” she says. “It was also a question of ‘who is the audience? Who are my advertisers?’ I was making every decision because I was the stylist, the makeup artist, the model. I am the client. That kind of autonomy is something that I had never found in the real world.” The project, and much of Gutierrez’s work, is not only about controlling every aspect of her image but also giving narrative agency to her and her audiences’ histories. Considered in its entirety, her practice is a present-tense pop-cultural archive, pivoting thousands of years of underrepresented and undocumented stories into the spotlight.