© Andrés Mario de Varona

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Andrés Mario de Varona

Santa Fe, New Mexico. United States

Artist Statement

This project, TRIALS, streamlines all of our individual narratives into a visual record in which all collaborators (including myself) are depicted as a living memorial, meaning we are enacting and becoming testimonies to events that once happened in our past lives. By viewing ourselves as a living memorial, we acknowledge a person’s history, what they are going through now, and how they will be moving into their future. Our bodies serve as personal monuments - representing our dedication to time spent healing, accepting and transforming. This visual record is a tool to enter the collective human experience, in which art is used as a celebration within the midst of intense life changes, and acknowledged as a victory against the harsh realities of living. My images don’t provide answers or resolutions, instead I want this project to be a point of departure into language. By working with the body to present the frictions of reality, wounds from survivors, and the ambiguity of conflict, we can begin to access areas of thought which are more difficult to speak on, yet can be expressed visually.
TRIALS unknowingly began the day I met Marcia Reifman. We were seated next to one another at the Eldorado Library for a photo club meeting, and I was allured by her presence and her voice. I knew within a few minutes that I wanted to photograph her and that I needed to ask her. I reached out to Marcia a few days later about making pictures with her. She asked me why I was interested in photographing her and I told her it was because of her voice, and her look. I had never heard a voice like hers before - androgynous, earthy, slow and poised. Full of mystery. She was 74 at the time, and she was wearing all black converse, her hair was braided in these colorful ties, and she had a sweater vest with a tank top on. It shook me up because it felt like she was my age, not just in her appearance but also in her spirit, and her activeness.

Marcia told me that she didn’t always used to speak this way, or sound this way. One day she told me to call her phone and wait for the voicemail. I let it ring until I finally heard someone on the other line. It was a very clear, bright and reassuring voice, and in some ways totally opposite to the one she has now. I remember being stunned and confused, but it was also when I began to start grasping the disconnect she has to her new voice. She told me that more than ¾ quarters of her tongue was removed in a 13-hour surgery due to stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma, and that the most agonizing part of it all was the treatment, and the part of recovering. The procedure was followed up by 66 radiation treatments administered daily with concurrent chemotherapy. By interpreting these feelings in my own manner and trying to put myself in Marcia’s shoes, we began to speak in vulnerable ways we hadn’t before, which led us to question who we are to one another and who we are to ourselves, all while making photographs about it.

© Andrés Mario de Varona

Andrés Mario de Varona's Portfolio

© Andrés Mario de Varona

Artist Biography

I was born into two Cuban families and grew up in Miami as a first generation Cuban-American.

Being interested in images and writing, and pressured to take a more practical approach, I pursued a degree in journalism. However, I realized that I did not want to take pictures, but instead create them. Little by little I learned to speak a language true to myself. The death of my mother helped me discover this, and it galvanized my need to know more about myself and what I am capable of expressing. After graduating, I moved to New Mexico. Since living in the desert, my obsession with death morphed into an obsession for life, and I became eager to learn what it truly means to connect with others.

I’ve had to ask myself why I am attracted to illness, and intensity. I believe my own sense of loss and unfairness has made me want to see other people who have experienced profound loss, or that are going through a painful change in themselves.

Art is my tool to measure cycles of indignation and of healing, our growth as human beings, and as a way to record victories. What I create is an attempt to enter the collective human experience, as well as an access point into myself.



© Andrés Mario de Varona

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