How Martine Gutierrez Turned Herself Into Cleopatra, Mulan, and Other Historic Heroines for a Public Art Venture in Bus Shelters Throughout the U.S.

The artist Martine Gutierrez was just 1 locked door away from Madonna—the icon she’d really…

The artist Martine Gutierrez was just 1 locked door away from Madonna—the icon she’d really like to photograph additional than anyone—while the queen of pop was executing for a Pride celebration at the Manhattan club Growth Growth Room. Gutierrez had a ticket, but was functioning late from photographing a shoot for Interview magazine. When at past she arrived, bearing a bouquet of roses, she advised the pitiless bouncer that she essential to give the bouquets to Madonna. The bouncer, nevertheless, was much too preoccupied with all the frenzied supporters punching, pulling hair, and clawing to get to their queen.

Gutierrez and her mates gave up and sought refuge at the nearby piers. “We instead unveiled the roses to the Hudson River and built wishes about what we want from New York,” she instructed Artnet Information. Commiserating aided the artist experience like she had achieved her icon. “Getting to know Madonna in particular person a person day,” must Gutierrez at any time be in a position to photograph her, “would shatter my ideal for who she is, and that would be nutritious for me,” she reported. Gutierrez has figured out that it’s typically a lot less interesting to seize iconic figures in the flesh than it is to conquer their mythology from the inside out.  

The multi-hyphenate artist’s sleek and mysterious photographs, in which she is the two the issue and the photographer, have not long ago made star-switch appearances in the Venice Biennale, the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, at London’s Hayward Gallery, and at the Australian Centre for Photography.

Now, “Anti-Icon,” Gutierrez’s new multi-town exhibition on the streets of New York, Chicago, and Boston transfers her enjoy amongst gaze and muse to the general public realm. For a sequence of photographs lining 300 bus shelters, organized by the General public Art Fund, the Brooklyn-primarily based artist reenacts 10 historic or mythological woman icons.

Martine Gutierrez, Cleopatra (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

“We know an icon like Madonna in her each and every form, but no just one thinks of Aphrodite or Cleopatra as a baby or as aged,” Gutierrez said. “Once all the things burns down, we will still run again to mythology for the reason that we will need it to make sense of our lives—this annotation of storytelling is even larger than the world-wide-web.”

Gutierrez, who is 32, shot her renditions of Cleopatra, Mulan, Queen of Sheba, Atargatis, Gabriel, Aphrodite, Girl Godiva, Helen of Troy, Queen Elizabeth I, and Judith past summer season at her mother’s house in upstate New York. There had been a drought that time, sapping the vitality of the usually lush landscape in a way that mirrored the pandemic’s effect on Gutierrez’s very own creative spirit. But soon after searching for inspiration in mythology, she understood that she, much too, could defy the constraints of her surroundings. The empty pool, in which she had presently moved a mattress to generate a personal room of her own, turned her studio, although the materials she discovered all-around the household turned into her props. Then she clicked on the timer. 

Gutierrez had in the beginning envisioned the 10 icons wearing gaudy costumes a single plan was even to build a series of faux perfume adverts for a fictional fragrance termed Anti-Icon. “But it felt improper to make something decorated during instances of scarcity,” she explained. Instead, cuts of tarp became Helen’s costume, influenced by 1960s Italy, and she hides her sultry expression in the picture at the rear of a veil of hen netting. In the meantime, the peonies Aphrodite clutches to conceal her breasts appear from a surplus at Gutierrez’s mother’s backyard garden. Mulan’s physique shield is manufactured of plaster, though gauze, mud, sticks, trash bags, cardboard, and zip ties substitute for Elizabeth’s crown, Gabriel’s wings, and other markers of feminine deity.  

Martine Gutierrez,  (2021), Boston. Courtesy the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery. Photo: Mel Taing, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY.

When we met in Brooklyn last thirty day period to go to some of the shelter images, which show up in JCDecaux ad areas, Gutierrez donned a pair of Tomb Raider-esque shorts, a quick shirt, and earthy sandals. “Don’t I search like Lara Croft these days?” she requested.

Observing her Aphrodite in a Clinton Hill bus shelter, Gutierrez screamed, “Oh my god she’s magnificent!”

The lady in the picture and the artist standing up coming beside her seemed really various, I mentioned. Gutierrez agreed: “That’s not me in there.”

The grandiose femininity of the trans system in the image contrasted sharply with the ad for Clint Eastwood’s new Western Cry Macho on the shelter’s opposite finish, which is why the commercial context for this function is so fitting. Beyond their gloss, the meticulously constructed pictures deconstruct woman sexuality and defy the default male gaze—while penetrating into a place reserved for commercial elegance. For Gutierrez, the trappings of celeb also signify a own ache: “When I was young, I believed if I were famous individuals would finally acknowledge me,” she claimed. 

Born to a Guatemalan father and a white American mom in California, Gutierrez steadily transitioned to a female id in excess of the years. Her follow has continuously reflected this self-construction equally as a woman and an artist through operates that incorporate her make-do artistic spirit with an innate urge for self-discovery. In Girlfriends (2014), her possess picture blends into frames with search-alike mannequins for Indigenous Woman (2018), she stars in a 124-site fictional vogue journal about Indigenous identity and attire. The images’ polished veneers disguise the found objects and unconventional backgrounds inside of them as they orchestrate illusions of both of those fact and fiction.

“There is nothing at all you see that is not true—as lengthy as it’s what you want to see,” Gutierrez claimed.

The artist considers curator Ralph Rugoff’s exhibition for the 2019 Venice Biennale a turning place in her job. It was also a time when she felt bodily gorgeous. Italians stored calling her Monica Bellucci, whose design in the 2000 drama Malèna ended up turning into an inspiration for her Helen. “Being a stunning girl cuts you by prosperity and class—you can be broke but persons will pay interest,” she mentioned. “Men imagine I am there for them, and to be built an item is a corrupting feeling.”  

Martine Gutierrez, Godiva (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

Natural beauty, as she figured out by making “Anti-Icon,” can also be triggering. The photographs’ public presence pressured her to shoot each individual graphic with her overall body areas strategically coated. “They’re nonetheless nudes, but various types,” Gutierrez explained. She avoids making use of the term “censor,” preferring “conceal” or “reveal” for a tiny much more thriller.

“If Madonna experienced a penis, she’d unquestionably present it to every person,” she laughed. (The queen of pop’s notorious Intercourse book of 1992 was in the artist’s mood board for the task.)

Posing for a man’s lens, even so, is an working experience Gutierrez avoids. “I’d critique myself to a diploma of self-bullying,” she claimed. On the other hand, Gutierrez’s own romance with working with the camera is even now a do the job in progress. She positions her entire body and expressions suggestively, someplace involving overall performance and acting.

“I am not self-aware plenty of to command my expressions nonetheless,” the artist reported. Working experience has taught her to test to fail to remember the lens and timer, and she critiques the success to obtain the times of authenticity.  

This month, another eyesight of Gutierrez will appear in public when the Whitney opens its commission of work by the artist for its billboard series across from the Significant Line. This time, Gutierrez is pictured hunting absent from the lens, dressed in colorful apparel with Indigenous styles and surrounded by collages of mother nature imagery. Like her other juxtapositions, the scene presents a hyper-stylized model of what could pass as an advertisement—the billboard is perched in excess of Manhattan’s posh Meatpacking District—as effectively as an overly performative show of a society, presumably for the default white gaze.

“I’ve formulated a sense of autonomy and self-confidence with security of not getting to barter my qualifiers for the sake of cashing in or relevancy,” she explained. “Moving by means of the world so intuitively, I want to be capable to make a little something only on my possess conditions.”   

“Martine Gutierrez: Anti-Icon” is on see via November 21, 2021.

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