Madre by Marisol Mendez (2023)

Handmade softcover with French flaps
Limited edition of 250 signed and numbered copies
Texts by Elisa Medde (English) and Cecilia Pavón (Spanish)
Kettle Stitch binding, hand sewn
25 x 17 cm
84 pages
44 images

Published by Setanta Books


MADRE interrogates the whitewashed, phallocentric and colonial representation of womxn in my native Bolivia. The project is an exploration of the feminine as it wrestles with religious and cultural interpretations that are dogmatic and reductionist, confining womxn to either the image of the holy Virgin Mary or the sinner Mary Magdalene. Weaving together Andean folklore and Catholic iconography, the book spotlights the complexities of contemporary Bolivian identity and reflects on the country’s diverse and multifaceted culture.

MADRE also includes archival images from my family album that depict female relatives, on which I intervene to subvert their original meaning or add a new layer of symbolism. Ultimately, the archive functions as a bridge to reconnect to my matriarchal lineage. Situated between fiction and documentary, the images paint a world interconnected by physical and mythological elements—a dance between the upper and inner worlds of Incan mythology. Here, womxn experience change, loss, decline, and death. 

Preconceived biases or prejudices about the womxn in the portraits are challenged by their piercing gaze, which returns that of the viewer. I spent hours conversing with my subjects about patriarchal and one-dimensional representations of womanhood, and collaborating with them on how they would like to be photographed. The outcome is a protest in the face of unjust depictions that erase the nuances of what it means to be a womxn in Bolivia with an inherited past of colonisation, patriarchy and interlacing faiths and religions.