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Ana Segovia de Fuentes


Ana Segovia de Fuentes, "¡ARROZ! 2", 22 x 30 cm, Óleo sobre lienzo, 2021; "¡ARROZ! 4", 22 x 30 cm, Óleo sobre lienzo, 2017; "Me he de Comer esa Tuna", Oil on linen, 112 x 72 cm, 2021; "Retrato", Óleo sobre liezo, 72 x 48.5 cm, 2021; "I Was Never Really Ready", Óleo sobre lienzo, 55 x 72 cm, 2021; "Silla Verde", 120 x 85 cm, Óleo sobre lienzo, 2021. Photo credit: Odette Peralta.

Q: How do you reveal identity in a portrait?

A: My main interest in portraiture has to do with how we can locate identity in unexpected places. We often think of facial features as the most important characteristic of identity, yet I believe that we can learn a lot about a person through their gestures, their costumes, mannerisms and their own stylizations of themselves. I try to dislocate the eye from the conventional aspect of portraiture (the face) and focus the gaze on these other markers of identity which can read as both “universal” or ubiquitous (it could be anyone) and specific at the same time: (this person dresses this particular way or holds their cigarette that way, etc.)

Q: What can a portrait as identity itself tell us?

A: I think portraiture has an innate polysemic nature to it. It speaks of both the way the portrayer thinks of identity, thus revealing something about their own identity, while at the same time it reveals how the portrayed is seen, read and interpreted by another. This dual reading is embedded in the portrait itself, pushing the meaning of being in multiple directions at the same time. You can tell a lot of things about at least two people when looking at a portrait.

Q: How does the construct of identity influence self-portraiture?

A: In my case, in particular, I think that every portrait I make is a little bit of a self-portrait in reality. In part because of that dual quality inherent in portraiture I was referring to in the previous question, but also in a more intentional way. Every portrait I make I am trying to dismantle an idea of what masculinity looks like to me. It's a sort of therapeutic way of understanding how gender is constructed. Painting allows me to “unlearn” these conventional gender norms by making their construction evident to me, by constructing the images myself. I can draw a line between that artifice of identity, understand it for what it is for my own sake, while understanding that these cultural artefacts of identity often house the more ambiguous and mysterious parts of ourselves. These inarticulable aspects of who we are are what gets “trapped” in the articulation of the portrait. It is the unsaid that is caught between what is said. I find the poetics of the inarticulable to be very queer in nature.

Q: How do you choose the moment to capture the time in a still, non-moving image?

A: I actually work a lot from film stills. Some moments are already chosen for me, ie. someone previously took the time to freeze the frame of a movie for whatever reason, whether it was publicity or archive. Other times I pause a movie myself at a spot I find intriguing due to its composition or something the character is doing. Once I settle on the image I mostly focus on the character or figure and articulate them in a way that says something new about that character and myself by extension. Oftentimes I crop the image to highlight the action or moment in media res, sometimes to highlight the dress or a detail of the character. This, I believe, charges the image with that dual quality that signals to the “empty” and ubiquitous aspects of identity as it imbues it with a sense of particularity as well. It is this dialectic I’m the most interested in.

Q: If you as a maker look at the portrait you made, do you see a reflection of yourself despite another person in the image?

A: Yes, as I said before, I think every portrait I make is a little bit of a self-portrait. Yet I’d also like to highlight the fact that I strive to make portraits that could be anyone, thus creating portraits that allow viewers to identify with themselves. Faceless characters appear often in my paintings, which I believe makes room for the viewer's own subjectivity to rush in and “fill in the blanks”. This I think subverts the idea of conventional portraiture that the “eyes are the windows to the soul”; that by looking at a 400-year-old Rembrandt we can connect deeply with our humanity as he gazes back at us. This no doubt is a powerful, powerful thing, but I wonder what happens when no eyes are looking back at us. We have no choice but to contemplate the rest of the figure to give us ques to figure out who it is we’re looking at. The faceless character begins to transform into something else, what we interpret is what creates its identity and informs our own.


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