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Estate of Laura Aguilar Donates Works to Light Work’s Permanent Collection

With enormous pleasure and gratitude, Light Work announces the acquisition of works from the estate of photographer Laura Aguilar (1959 – 2018). The self-portraits, consisting of two triptychs and four singular black-and-white images, represent Aguilar’s exploration of the lived realities of members of various marginalized groups, including women, lesbians, Latinas, the working class, obese people, and those with mental health struggles and learning disabilities. It humbles us to receive this gift of six photographic works from this extraordinary artist. We consider it an honor to join her estate and other art institutions in the stewardship of her artistic legacy through the sharing of these important works.

 In May of 1993, Laura Aguilar was an artist-in-residence at Light Work. This was a prolific period for Aguilar; she entered Light Work following the success of her iconic Three Eagles Flying and the series, Clothed/Unclothed. Aguilar applied for the month-long residency after her colleague and friend, Willie Middlebrook, completed his residency in 1992. He suggested that she create the body of work comprising 12 Lauras and Don’t Tell Her Art Can’t Hurt as a means to further influence her series of nudes in nature.  

Laura Aguilar, Center #70 (abc), 2000-2001, Gelatin silver print , 8 x 10 in.

Before Aguilar’s 2016 retrospective, Show and Tell, she wanted to create the Laura Aguilar Trust to protect her legacy. Aguilar spent time with co-trustees Christopher Velasco and Sybil Venegas to clarify her wishes for how to handle her work after her death. One primary goal was to make sure that her work found its way to institutional collections for future generations to study. Light Work is one of those institutions. Aguilar often spoke so warmly of her experience here and encouraged many aspiring photographers to apply. After her residency, Aguilar gave the Light Work Collection two of her Clothed/Unclothed prints (1993), the 12 Lauras, and three unpublished prints from her trip to Mexico. Since her death, the Laura Aguilar Trust of 2016 has placed her works in a number of collections. As a thank you, the Trust wanted to give Light Work a range of significant works that continued Aguilar’s legacy after her residency. This gift includes Windows (Nikki on my Mind) (1990), Center #70 (abc) (2000-2001), and selected images from the Stillness & Motion series (1999). 

Laura Aguilar died in 2018 at age fifty-eight, just as recognition of her work was gaining momentum. Her eponymous retrospective, Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell, at the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, California, was the breakout exhibition of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA: Latin American and Latino Art in LA 2017-2018 and also Aguilar’s last exhibition during her lifetime. Since her death, she has joined the ranks of other iconic female photographers.

Laura Aguilar, Stillness #30, 1999, Gelatin Silver print, 11 x 14 in.

“We are honored by the donation of work by Laura Aguilar,” said Dan Boardman, Light Work’s director. “Aguilar was a visionary artist who exemplifies our mission to support emerging underrepresented artists at pivotal early points in their careers. This gift will aid students, members, and visiting artists as they use our Collection for research and inspiration.” 

Header image: Laura Aguilar, Windows (Nikki on my Mind), 1990, Three Gelatin Silver prints, 8 x 10 in each

ABOUT THE COLLECTION

The Light Work Collection is an extensive and diverse archive that maps the trends and developments in contemporary photography. There are currently more than 4,000 works of art in Light Work’s archive. The Collection contains all original work, including color and black-and-white photographic prints, alternative processes, collages, installation pieces, artist books, portfolios, and publications. Online visitors will find early work by many artists who have gone on to significant acclaim after their Light Work residencies, winning coveted awards, exhibiting work in prestigious museums, and securing top gallerists to represent them. This noteworthy collection includes all genres of expression found in contemporary photography, including documentary, abstract, experimental, and conceptual work. The Collection has grown over the past four decades due to the generosity of former artists-in-residence and individual donors.

Explore the Light Work Collection online at http://collection.lightwork.org