Liliana Hueso: Personal Journey Made Universal
Written by Genie Davis
Artist Liliana Hueso’s work is, she says, influenced by her own personal journey. As such, its intimate, revealing, open-minded and open-eyed. She reveals life – people, cultures, sexuality – exactly as she sees it, and requires her viewers to look, recognize, accept and relate to differences.
As both an activist and an advocate, she reveals her own point of view through both her photographic work and her films. “My work is influenced by my personal journey… Shedding light on the parts of me that are often invisible as a queer bi-national citizen.” She grew up in both the U.S. and in Mexico and views the world through the lens of both cultures, a lens she terms “unique.”
Her current work, Lenchas y Marimachas, like each of her series, builds upon previous images because of her intensely personal approach to her subjects. In this case, the subject is butch-presenting queer women. “I previously worked on queer-themed video productions. In these productions, the focus was on the story from the subject’s perspective as opposed to an outsider’s perspective. This experience supported my goals of wanting to make sure that I was representing and creating visibility for the queer community,” she notes. “The primary part of this project is authentically depicting the subjects in their own environment. They are in their homes and places of work. They are genuinely showing you who they are unfiltered. These women are taking a stand to be visible in a world where they are marginalized,” she explains. “In the spotlight of the studio, they own the space unapologetically and shine in their own light.”
There is a brightness, strength, and glow to these images, which are bold and commanding, from the title – marimacha is slang for lesbian – through the conception and creation of each piece. The intimate, compelling portraits of women are intended to create visibility for queer and lesbian women who present as masculine but identify as women; the photographs reclaim space, name, personhood.
The result of Hueso’s work are forthright images of the women, inspirational portraits of people who otherwise might remain unseen or relegated to the shadows.
She relates that the project came about when she was living in Tijuana, working on her thesis for her masters in photography management. She’d previously lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 12 years. “This move was a shock to me emotionally and culturally. It made me aware of how my queer presentation was perceived in a different way in different regions of each country. As I began my research, I found there were no images that represented this community and me in a positive way. I decided to turn the camera on myself and others who present as butch.”
The result is a quietly passionate series that Hueso plans to make available for exhibitions in public spaces, including universities, nonprofits, museums, and galleries. “I would also like to publish a book with the photographs and the stories. My ultimate goal is to produce a documentary and a visual short to go along with the exhibitions.” She adds “As an artivist, I feel it is essential that the photographs are seen by as many people as possible as an education and visibility tool with a curriculum toolkit. In this way, they can facilitate dialog around butch-presenting women and create a shift towards positive acceptance.”
Past work has also been devoted to what the artist calls “shedding light on marginalized communities. My Frontera project focuses on life and the people of the border.”
While both photography and filmmaking are a part of her work, she does not find one more resonant than the other, and calls them both equally important. “In the last few years, I’ve had a focus on photography. However, I think that filmmaking extends the story of the photos, because not all photographs tell the entire story.”
With a documentarian’s meticulous and insightful approach and a powerful sense of strength, Hueso at the very least begins a story that’s a visual “page-turner.” Her viewers want to read on.