For Martine Gutierrez’s current show at Ryan Lee Gallery in New York (on view through October 20), the artist created a large-format glossy magazine entitled Indigenous Woman. In the project, Gutierrez wore many hats—editor in chief, creative director, model, photographer, stylist, hair and makeup, and more. She celebrates Mayan Indian heritage, indigeneity, and the fluidity of self-image from front cover to back, and even the ads in between.
Whitewall caught up with the transgender Latinx artist about creating political, personal, and beautiful work that can travel, and therefore connect, beyond the gallery.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for Indigenous Woman? How long has this been in the making?
MARTINE GUTIERREZ: Over three years at this point. The magazine was conceived at the same time as my first billboard campaign in New York City. A public installation titled MartineJeans, made with support from International Studio and Curatorial Program.
WW: Why did you want to work through the frame of a glossy fashion magazine?
MG: Because everyone has flipped through a magazine. It’s a format that can travel without me, without a gallery, without the Internet.
WW: You work within all the roles—creative director, editor, photographer, model, stylist, and even, as you describe, schlepper. Do you see them all as one role, or is there one you really love?
GT: I see them all as one job. To make me into a glittering star, I gotta do it all, because no one else was offering to put me on the cover of their magazine. I love doing it, which is fortunate considering it’s still an obligation.
WW: We loved the series “Masking.” Can you tell me more about the inspiration and process for those spreads?
GT: Every notable fashion magazine has an iconic beauty feature, so I wanted to incorporate a kind of do-it-yourself face-mask spread that could speak to the practice of self care, but also the masks we wear. Not literal, but the figurative masks we hide behind. I love personifying identity as something alien or unfamiliar, it feels the most truthful.
WW: The editorials are full of color, fantasy, fashion, beauty…did you have a favorite to conceptualize and shoot?
GT: I like them all differently. But page 21 is most dear to me because I possess at least one thing from every cherished family member in the photograph.
WW: Indigenous Woman features both fashion editorials and ads (which you really have to do a double take with!). What was your approach for the ads, as they tell a different story from the editorials?
GT: The ads were an opportunity to be more outspoken, but also more explicit politically. They illustrate themes that are already throughout the magazine more directly.
WW: In the exhibition, certain images are blown up, framed specifically, grouped a certain way, etc. How did you want to translate the pages of Indigenous Woman onto the gallery walls?
GT: I wanted diversity in the gallery, a chance to acknowledge some of my favorite moments from the magazine.
WW: In a recent interview with Vice, you touched upon how emotionally taxing it is that your very existence is political whether you want it to be or not. How do you like to use humor to address that?
GT: I believe I said to Vice, “We’re living in an era where my existence is political whether I want to be or not. It’s really hard and emotionally taxing, and humor is my savior.” And it’s true, most days I gotta laugh to keep from crying.