Daniela Riojas’ Photographic Studies in Self-discovery

Daniela Riojas explores ideas of the figure in art, Latin American rituals, letting go of the past, and Jungian archetypes in “A Collection of Work,” a Fotoseptiembre exhibition comprising several bodies of material, including Being and Becoming, Dysplacia, Meiosis, Blood History and Portrait of a Woman Who Will Lose Her Hair in Two Weeks.

Riojas’ self-portrait series Being and Becoming takes on a different methodology, that of the portrayal of her various archetypal selves. These acts of discovery scrutinize a ritualistic component as the work discusses the journey of storm and rapture through the gilding commodification of the female body and domestic concepts. These scenes address Latin American and Mesoamerican rituals of eating gold and the altered state of rapture within a storm. Providing a contrast are more somber self-portraits of Riojas covered in flower and egg yolks—possibly symbolizing domesticity and child bearing.

At its heart, Being and Becoming is about role identification through questioning the inherent value of the female form. Looking at the figure in this way, Riojas denies the gaze of the viewer often counterpointing the beautiful with the repellent, such as saliva or body hair. This holistic view leads the viewer to questions about gender and beauty and their value within society.

Riojas’ exploration of the figure could be interpreted as a shedding of skin or discovery of growth within one’s self. In a recent studio visit, Riojas explained, “I noticed that people are scared of that process, of letting go of parts of themselves in order to find the new parts.” This act of self-discovery has led her down many paths. Riojas is a studio artist living and working in San Antonio. Her studio practice includes photography, multimedia production, writing poetry and performing onstage with her band Femina-X. Riojas moved here from Eagle Pass in 2007 and now owns the photography and production company ZaaZaa Productions. “A Collection of Work” incorporates many of these other elements of Riojas’ creative palette. 

Through her use of text, she often allows the viewer more insight into her thought process. In Dysplacia, Riojas questions the efficacy of the United States’ border policy with Mexico, referencing February 2, 1848 (the date of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). Text on top of the print calls attention to the surface problem while obscuring the imagery beneath. This allows the viewer to examine the issue by interrogating the different layers of the photograph.

One of the overriding themes within “A Collection of Work” is that of gestation. In Meiosis, Riojas represents this growth through depictions of written chromosomal sequencing and a poem, each of which reference the intertwining of chromosomes that create identity. This work is representative of the multiple rebirths we experience in our lifetimes. 

“A Collection of Work” travels the path of death and rebirth through the fetishization of the female figure, ritualistic rebirth, domestication and, once again, into death. This life cycle is important, as it is the human evolution from the female prospective. In Riojas’ own words, “Creativity requires a death within yourself.”

Daniela Riojas: A Collection of Work

Opening reception: 6:30-10pm Thu, Sept 18
Mercury Project
538 Roosevelt
(210) 478-9133
On view by appointment through Sept 28


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