Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum premieres major Laura Aguilar exhibition featuring self-portraits in Southwest landscapes

Phoenix Art Museum premieres major Laura Aguilar exhibition featuring self-portraits in Southwest landscapes

Phoenix Art Museum premieres major Laura Aguilar exhibition featuring self-portraits in Southwest landscapes
Sep, 12, 2023


Phoenix Art Museum premieres major Laura Aguilar exhibition featuring self-portraits in Southwest landscapes

Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature brings together for the first time five series of photographs by the late Chicana artist that examine the female body in dialogue with the natural world

PHOENIX (September 12, 2023) – This winter, Phoenix Art Museum (PhxArt) presents Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature, the first exhibition to bring together nearly 60 photographic works from five series of nude self-portraits by the groundbreaking photographer Laura Aguilar. Co-organized by the Center for Creative Photography, the exhibition considers how Aguilar used the photographic medium and her body to subvert Western beauty standards and upend the relationship between the female form and the landscape. Nudes in Nature is co-curated by Sybil Venegas, an independent curator and art historian, and Christopher Velasco, photographer, professor, and Aguilar’s longtime studio manager. The exhibition will be on view from December 16, 2023, through November 17, 2024 in the Doris and John Norton Gallery for the Center for Creative Photography at Phoenix Art Museum.

“We are excited to bring the profound and intimate work of Laura Aguilar to our audiences in Arizona,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “Aguilar was overlooked in her lifetime but played a pivotal role in elevating Chicanx and queer art within the history of photography, all while using the medium to interrogate important issues of mental health, gender, race, sexuality, and beauty. This exhibition builds on the Museum’s efforts to present diverse forms of artistic expression that enable visitors to see themselves represented in the galleries. Its presentation and the concurrent exhibition of Amalia Mesa-Bains: Archaeology of Memory also reaffirm our commitment to elevating the work of Latinx women artists during our upcoming exhibition season.”

Born and raised in California’s San Gabriel Valley, Laura Aguilar (1959-2018) created black-and-white portraits that visualize intersections of her queer, Latinx identity. Although underrecognized by the mainstream art world during her career, Aguilar expanded representations of historically excluded and marginalized groups of people from various communities across Los Angeles. The self-taught photographer eventually turned the camera on herself to consider the many factors that defined her identity as a Chicana and a lesbian who dealt with economic hardships, depression, and learning disabilities. Later in her career, she began to produce intimate self-portrait nudes in natural settings, creating various series within this framework that explore the inherent connections between nature and the female form.

Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature brings together for the first time nearly 60 photographic works from her series Nature Self-Portrait (1996), Stillness (1999), Motion (1999), Center (2000–2001), and Grounded (2006–2007). Across the exhibition’s featured images, Aguilar centers her nude body and those of other female subjects. They appear in repose or in contorted forms that mimic surrounding rock formations, plant life, and terrains. In contrast to the eroticized images of nude white women throughout Western art history, Aguilar positions her large, brown body as an object of desire in harmony with the natural world. How Aguilar’s body is perceived within these landscapes stands at odds with how female figures are viewed in cultural and social spaces.

“Select images from these series have been seen in numerous exhibitions over the past 25 years, however never before in a comprehensive exhibition that features the majority of works in these series together,” explains Sybil Venegas, who also organized the acclaimed retrospective Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell in 2017. “We are so excited to have participated in this project and are grateful to Phoenix Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography for organizing what may be the most significant exhibition of Laura’s work since Show and Tell.”

High-resolution photography can be downloaded here. To request interviews, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2117 or

About the Exhibition
Laura Aguilar: Nudes in Nature is organized by Phoenix Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography. It is co-curated by Sybil Venegas and Christopher Velasco, trustees of the Laura Aguilar Estate. The exhibition’s presentation at Phoenix Art Museum is coordinated by Emilia Mickevicius, the Norton Family Assistant Curator of Photography at Phoenix Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography. All exhibitions at Phoenix Art Museum are underwritten by the Phoenix Art Museum Exhibition Excellence Fund, founded by The Opatrny Family Foundation, with additional significant support provided by Joan Cremin.

Admission is free for Museum Members; youth aged five and younger; and Maricopa County Community Colleges students. Entrance into the exhibition is included in general admission for the public, including during voluntary donation times on Wednesdays from 3 – 9 pm, made possible by SRP and the City of Phoenix. For a full breakdown of general-admission prices and hours, see

About Phoenix Art Museum
Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 300,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

About the Center for Creative Photography
The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson is recognized as one of the world’s finest academic art museums and study centers for the history of photography. The Center opened in 1975, following a meeting between then University President Dr. John Schaefer and world-renowned photographer Ansel Adams. Beginning with the archives of five living master photographers—Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer—the collection has grown to include 270 archival collections. Among these are some of the most recognizable names in 20th-century North American photography: Lola Álvarez Bravo, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston, and Garry Winogrand. Altogether, there are over eight million archival objects in the Center’s collection, including negatives, work prints, contact sheets, albums, scrapbooks, correspondence, writings, audiovisual materials, and memorabilia. In addition to whole archival collections, the Center also actively acquires individual photographs by modern and contemporary photographers. There are currently more than 110,000 works by over 2,200 photographers. A library of books, journals, and exhibition and auction catalogues, including many rare publications, plus an extensive oral history collection, complements the archival and fine print collections. The combined art, archival, and research collections at the Center provide an unparalleled resource for research, exhibitions, loans, and traveling exhibitions. The Center has a full schedule of exhibitions, programs, and events designed to deepen an understanding of how the medium impacts society. For more details, as well as information on Center membership and ways to get involved, visit

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