Culture

Queer Chicana Photographer Laura Aguilar Passes Away At 58

For Laura Aguilar, photography was more than just a way to express herself but an outlet for the world to see another side of being Chicana. Whether it was capturing her Mexican-American heritage or her identity as a lesbian, Aguilar was a trailblazer whose impact touched many in the queer Latino community. The 58-year-old Los Angeles photographer died on Wednesday morning due to end-stage renal failure, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Laura’s passing is a profound loss,” said Chon Noriega, director of the Chicano Studies Research Center, according to LA Times. “She had an ability to cut through the biases and habits of thought that makes us see a smaller world than actually exists. And she did it as an expression of the stunning beauty of the human body, including her own.”

Her photography chronicled the lives and identities of marginalized people of color including herself.

Aguilar’s images were featured in exhibitions across the country including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum, Artpace in San Antonio and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

Her work was trailblazing for many in the queer community because of the raw and powerful subjects depicted.

“Laura’s work a lot of time represents people that are marginalized and people that are oppressed or people that are invisible,” Sybil Venegas, a curator for Aguilar’s past exhibits, told LA Weekly. “Poor, large women of color — they tend to be invisible in society. Nobody sees them. They’re not represented in media.”

Fans of her work have taken to social media to honor her work and influence on their lives.

Some of her fans saw themselves in her work and could relate to many of the subjects depicted in her various work.

Laura Aguilar’s legacy will live on forever with her photographs and fans that she impacted with her work.

Just this past year her work was part of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA series whose theme was highlighting Latino work in Los Angeles. “Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell” at the Vincent Price Art Museum on the campus of East Los Angeles College, and her photography appeared last year in the two-part exhibition “Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.” 


Read: This Queer Immigration Activist Is Pushing The Boundaries Of Brown LGBTQ Art

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Kehlani Dresses as Both Prom King and Queen on Cover of ‘Playboy’, Talks Feeling Comfortable in Both Gender Roles

Entertainment

Kehlani Dresses as Both Prom King and Queen on Cover of ‘Playboy’, Talks Feeling Comfortable in Both Gender Roles

Photo via kehlani/Instagram

Kehlani has long been open about the fluid nature of her gender expression. That’s why it’s exciting that the R&B star is experimenting with different facets of her personality on the most recent cover of Playboy.

In a bold move, Kehlani appears on Playboy‘s latest cover dressed in both (traditionally) women and (traditionally) men’s clothing.

And as if one Kehlani isn’t exciting enough, the magazine cover treats us to two versions of this Oakland native. On the left side of the magazine, Kehlani is dressed up as a Prom Queen, complete with a resplendent gown and a tiara. On the cover’s right side, Kehlani is dressed in Prom King drag: her tie undone, her collar open, her crown askew.

She shared the picture to her personal Instagram page with the cheeky caption: “I always wanted to date me.”

In the accompanying interview, Kehlani talks about gender identity and expression, motherhood, and owning her sexuality.

When Kehlani was asked how she defines masculinity and femininity, Kehlani got refreshingly candid. “I’ve discovered that I’ve run from a lot of femininity,” she admitted. “I was way more comfortable in a more masculine space. I feel more masculine when I am in my stillness and I’m grounded in a quiet, contemplative mode.”

She then explained that she feels “most feminine” when she’s “being the mother of my house.” (Kehlani had a baby girl named Adeya Nomi in 2019). She also explained that she “feels her femininity” when she ‘s indulging in self-care, like soaking in a flower-filled bath, or doing a hair mask.

“My femininity makes me feel soft and gentle and tender and careful in a different way than my masculinity makes me feel,” she said. “I’m trying not to let it fall into the gender norms of feminine and masculine, but for me it does a tiny bit. But I also am very fluid in both of those settings.”

Kehlani has always been open about her fluid sexuality and gender identity.

In 2018, she tweeted: “Not bi, not straight. I’m attracted to women, men, REALLY attracted to queer men, non-binary people, intersex people, trans people”.

But of course, haters on the internet accused her of “queer-baiting”–that is, pretending she’s queer to get more LGBT fans and attract attention. In an interview with The Guardian last year, she revealed why the accusation frustrates her.

“I’ve had girlfriends in front of people’s faces, right under their noses, and they weren’t famous and so nobody cared to make it public,” she said. “So they automatically assume that I must like men more than women.”

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These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True

Culture

These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True

Lil’ Homies are one toy that we all remember. They little figurines were so much more to us than little toys that we got from toy vending machines. Adrian Ortiz is using them to create something magical and giving people a non-Eurocentric take on terrariums.

Adrian Ortiz is giving Lil’ Homies their own terrariums in which to flourish.

Ortiz understands the cultural importance of Lil’ Homies because it was one of the first times he saw himself represented, like so many of us. The toys were a welcomed moment of representation for Ortiz after spending so many years seeing so many white narratives in the media and toys.

“I started making terrariums with Lil’ Homies in them as the figures because I noticed how traditional fairy gardens were always representing white/European figures,” Ortiz told mitú. “I thought about how perfect they were in size. I wanted to dedicate my art page to the idea of people of color existing and participating in nature.”

Ortiz feels supported from his followers as well as his boyfriend. His art has been a welcomed breath of culturally relevant plant art in people’s social media feeds.

The ongoing pandemic gave Ortiz a chance to dive deeper into a hobby he already had: plants.

“I have always been into plants and nature since I was a kid and I began making terrariums and fairy gardens in the past year to deal with the pandemic like so many others,” Ortiz says. “There is something super special about making miniature tiny living worlds. I wanted to make fairy gardens but I ended up with something halfway between terrariums and fairy gardens but with cholos. So I created the ‘Brown People Indoor Miniature Gardening TikTok’ series on my tik tok account.”

Ortiz’s TikTok account, aptly named @botanical_homie, has more than 7,000 followers showing that people are really into the idea of Lil’ Homies living their fairy garden dreams.

The terrariums are another chance for people of color to be represented in the world.

Ortiz was in an arts school for middle and high school. In that time, the school fostered an understanding of racial injustices and introduced Ortiz to the concept of artivism, art as activism. It was, according to Ortiz, a moment when he realized that he wanted to dedicate his art to BIPOC.

“I grew up and live in Colorado and have seen the lack of access BIPOC have to outdoor activities like hiking and mountain climbing,” Ortiz explains. “These are white-dominated sports and activities that some POC never get to experience. I want to create a world where we can be anything and do everything, even if it’s miniature. A utopia for us to take back what is also ours.”

Ortiz is making the terrariums for everyone, even people who struggle to take care of plants.

Covid quarantining has forced so many people to think they make perfect plant parents. Yet, taking care of plants is something that doesn’t com naturally. Ortiz had to spend time trying to figure out what plants are the best for everyone.

“Part of my challenge in creating these terrariums has been figuring out what kind of plants people can keep alive. They all have different requirements so getting plants should always depend on your space and lighting,” Ortiz says. “I come from the generation of YouTube so I always say do research, it’s part of the fun. The biggest thing about having plants that people don’t realize is that you just have to pay attention to them, often. But again it depends, some plants are indestructible.”

Ortiz is happy to be able to create this art and hopes to make them more accessible.

“If you want to support me and my art work you can contact me via Instagram about commissions,” Ortiz says. “Shipping these pieces is not easy or ideal so I appreciate everyone’s patience as I learn and evolve. My goal is to work on larger installations and I’ll be putting out DIY kits in the near future.”

READ: If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

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