Martine Gutierrez's "Demons" and the Queer Latinx Experience


Martine Gutierrez is a transgender Latinx woman of Guatemalan descent. Her art spans genre and medium, dealing with topics and themes ranging from colonialism and racial prejudice to gender dominance and cultural appropriation. In 2019, she released Indigenous Woman, a 124-page magazine full of high-fashion spreads, artistic self-portraits, and satirical photos on modern consumerism. Photo series such as Masking and Neo-Indeo explore her identity as the eponymous Indigenous Woman. The feature that speaks most to her identity as a trans woman is Demons, subtitled Deities of the Ancient World Resurrected in Hair. Using elaborate hair sculptures, dramatic make-up, and an extravagant amount of accessories, Gutierrez portrays her personal experience of transness in the Latinx community. Influenced by mythology, history, art, and politics, her work reclaims elements of colonialism and cultural appropriation to portray the strengths of being a trans member of the Latinx community.

The name of the series is a reference to how European invaders classified Mayan and other indigenous deities upon their arrival in Mesoamerica. Seen as sacrilege and blasphemy by the Catholic Church and other religious authorities in Europe, these deities were often erased from public memory, with those who continued to worship them being punished. Many were successfully destroyed, only existing in modern day as images and obscure references in text. Others became absorbed into Catholic practices to help convert natives to Catholicism. Gutierrez's title is in and of itself a political statement, a reclamation of that which has been taken from her people. Her ancestors experienced traumas because of their race and religion, traumas similar to those she has experienced as a transgender woman. In one fell swoop, she tells the stories of both her ancestors and herself through a series of portraits that, though inspired by the divine, are vulnerable and candid.

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