Understanding ourselves often means looking at our parents and asking, What the hell happened?
Occasionally the answers, if there are any, yield humorous reflections. Other times, the responses can be frustrating and, even worse, infuriating. New York-based photographer and performance Viky Garcia creatively deals with this parent-child dynamic in her latest exhibition, Mother’s Milk, a series of photographs of surreal, tortuous, and occasionally funny tableaus bathed in milky white color.
In one photograph, Viky clutches a shelf amidst a mountain of household debris, in another, stuffs herself into a refrigerator full of bottles of milk, while her mother spits some of that milk out onto the floor. Other photographs find Viky wearing 3D glasses while bathing in milky water, or passed out at the kitchen table while her mother stuffs her face with a plate of endless pasta. As is the case with the film Punch-Drunk Love, the viewer doesn’t know whether to feel pity, laugh, or express some combination of these or other emotions.
Garcia tells The Creators Project that she was originally trained in experimental theater, and this working method had a significant impact on her life and vision as a creative. Her work has also been heavily influenced by her practice in sensory theater and the Japanese dance form Butoh. After moving to New York from Spain, these influences coalesced into her current body of work.
“Mother’s Milk is a project that explores the relation between my mum and I,” Garcia explains. “As a child, my mum wasn’t really there, and for a long period of time our relationship was pretty strained.”
“Being able to accept my mum led me to finally understand some aspects of myself that where unintelligible up until then,” she adds. “So much so that this is the first time I questioned whether I want to have children or not. The whole project brings up ideas of absence, lack of connection, emotional turmoil, and chaos.”
To make the tableaus white, Garcia began collecting objects and storing them in a basement. Every one of these objects was painted, including the basement itself. This became the sterile studio in which Garcia create most of the works in Mother’s Milk.
With everything assembled, Garcia’s mother took a flight to New York. And, proving her commitment to the project, packed her suitcase with only white clothes, including some from the 60s. Once on set, the two painted their bodies, with Garcia lighting the scenes and shooting the photographs with a remote.
“Each picture is almost a theatrical duet between me and my mum,” Garcia says. “We could therefore explore interaction and emotion while I shot the picture.”
“Nonetheless, the space was really limited as the composition of the shot is really precise,” she adds. “Go just a few inches could make a huge difference and destabilize and unbalance the whole image.”
It seems fitting that the integrity of the shoot was teetered on this edge of destabilization, just as Garcia’s life with her mother once had. And the theatrical nature of the shoot means that, at least as far as Garcia’s maternal relationship is concerned, the notion of whether life imitates art, or vice versa, is thoroughly confused.
Mother’s Milk originally launched in New York last year as a pop-up solo with Subject and Ludlow Studios. Its most recent exhibition is at Galeria Contrast in Barcelona, which is also painted white. The show runs until July 2nd.
Click here to see more of Viky Garcia’s work.