Cecilia Portal

Who do you think I am?

Profiled, Who do you think I am? is a site specific art installation of digital color photographs printed on clear repositioning vinyl of scale size portraits taken from behind, such that the back is the only form of identification. Without the reference of the face, how we typically ‘identify’ others? The series forces the viewer to take different recourse. This body of work poses the questions, Who is the "other" and how define the “other”?” How do we perceive the “other” if can’t see their face? Do we pass a judgment on people we see?

The idea of doing a series of faceless portraits in a different context has been simmering since 2002. I began photographing this series in 2011 at an Albuquerque South Valley community event where I set up an improvised booth and invited the event goers to pose.

As an immigrant artist, issues of identity are present in my artwork. How are we and where do we belong? Through my immigrant experience I have learned to root myself in people rather than things. People can migrate with you, but things must stay behind. This knowledge is reflected in my work that centers on the human figure and symbols of the body.

Profiled, Who do you think I am? derives from the earlier project “Con el Corazón Partido" (With a Split Heart) www.mujeresnm.com, a collection of black and white portraits and oral history recordings of Mexican immigrant women living in New Mexico. Undocumented women participating in the project worried that “la migra”; the US Immigration and Naturalization Services could identify them and retaliate against them. To them, showing their face was risky, and so they were faceless portraits. Documented women, however, had no risks in being visible. This experience brought me explore and take even further the idea of faceless portraits.

My creative process navigates between my conscious and subconscious mind: some images begin with ideas, while others are born in my dreams. As I pursue very specific subjects; ideas gestate for a long time before they transform and materialize in the photograph.