Adriana Lestido

Getting involved with the landscape

Adriana Lauría.

In Mexico exhibition, Adriana Lestido presents two series of photographs taken in the country in 2010. One of them, The water boils – shot in the month of June- captures aspects of this extraordinary city, near Oaxaca. The other, Mexico - which lends its title to this exhibition- is a commissioned work by her colleague Patricia Mendoza, who invited her to extensively record the landscapes of different areas of that country, in recognition of the International Year of Forests declared by the United Nations in 2011.

The water boils is the result of a hiatus, short break taken by the artist after participating in an exhibition with other Argentine colleagues. Her love for this high mountainous landscape, characterized by natural pools carved out of the rocks dizzyingly close to the edge, and overshadowed by enormous and overwhelmingly petrifying waterfalls, is highlighted in each shot by the sensations that each image evokes. Lestido assures us that the very journey to this location was already awe inspiring. Ecotourism is popular there, wit a completely different system from the international hotel industry. The hostels provided are quite simple, just enough so as not to disturb the natural environment. It is a sustainable system championed by the local community, not without resistance.

Lestido’s photographs from her series The Water Boils exude an in depth contemplation of the environment: the artist is at one with the landscape. The joy of what she observes is transmitted by the sensuality with which she dwells on the rocks’ textures, in the eternity of the water’s reflection interrupted by the broken image of a desiccated tree, in the mist caused by the prevailing intense humidity, which is intent on blurring contours and shapes. A rock formation that looks like a barren planet, interrupted by the net curvature on the abysmal cosmos, which far below, comprises the verdant foothills. A crown of fencing protects one of the wells that fades into a silver aqueous vapor. Like a huge animal, sluggish and near death, a whitish stone lies at the edge of the pond encircled by rain.

Everything seems a bit strange; everything appears bathed in a metaphysical atmosphere, whether by the few people who barely glimpsed in the fog or the water’s curved horizon that hides the union of the tree with the soil. The weather captured and illustrated by the gaze of Lestido, in which she also suggests evidence of her own presence: the subtle composition of bundled clothes next to the laced-up boots that occupy the center of an uncertain surface punctuated by undulating reflections, still manages to exude an immense, yet simultaneously quiet solitude. However this strangeness is not the product of the discovery of the symptoms of the sinister nature of everyday life, but rather a loving and amazed gaze, both reflected and savoured, even though an uncertainty arises here and there in response to the contemplation of the sublime.

The Mexico series appears to have another tone, where Lestido uses a report story as her starting point. However, the register of situations and realities has been transformed by a perceptive vision of how nature manifests itself and by a shrewd insight in order to capture the human essence.

As a diary anchored in images, the photographs appear entitled according to their specific location, the circumstances and date of the voyage when the shot was taken. The misty and tranquil sunrise in the highlands of Durango with the imposing lofty trees parade before our eyes. In those coniferous forests, there is a large variety of wood species, ripe for exploitation, some very unique like the durangensis abies, a native spruce. Soon the men appear, in their task of felling and transportation, they must circumnavigate narrow mountainous roads of high alttude, and whose approach to their work makes use of the forest in a sustainable way. The replanted trees create a view of pines in their early stages of growth portrayed as characters whose plumes grace the sunlight. The image was taken in San Juan Nuevo de Michoacán, in the south of the country whose native populations who implemented forestry methods years ago, who strive to preserve the natives forests and their sustainable use.

The contrasts pass in a continuity without any interruptions: to the disciplined rows of cultivated specimens, appears in a contrasts scenario the image of a horse in a natural space and free as the gallop to which it is released. The reservoir where trouts are reared alternate with the ferns wall that grows thick like the air, Like trees in which epiphytes weaves and breaks the lights that adorn them. Courtship of the sun that flatters the tops as much as the grasslands, creating the contrast to highlight the incredible mask accidents drawn by a dry trunk, which reverberates in the young oak’s leaves trying to find their place in the wilderness, disintegrating itself in bundles when pass through the foliage, accompanying the wisps of smoke from a bonfire turned on by man.

Bonfire that promotes a reflections about the advantage that many people obtain from forests or the jungles. From the Zapote’s trees growing in Quintana Roo, at noon in the south of the Yucatan Peninsula, it is extracted, from pre-Hispanic times, the resin with which is made the chewing gum that Mayans and Aztecs used to clean their teeth, but also to distract hunger and thirst. These “tappers” meant a huge export business for much of the twentieth century, providing tons of this material, essential for the industry that developed in North America, until the advent of synthetic gum. This usufruct currently survives as a regional work in organized cooperatives groups that continues - like centuries ago - climbing on tree trunks with their machetes to practice them V-shaped cuts where the milky liquid collected at the base, which will then be cooked long flowing in pots in the heat of the fires.

From the jungles of Quintana Roo are also the deep and impressive perspectives of a mahogany five times centenary that remembers how this species, coveted for its precious wood like ebony’s wood, was nearly extinct by indiscriminated logging to which it was subjected since the mid nineteenth century, today contained for an adaptive management plan for it’s permanence.

And between so much splendor arise the blackened faces of those working in charcoal ovens in Durango. There exists the major manufacture of this product widely used in the country, in the United States and in some European nations to which they export it. In this state there are more than three hundred thousand hectares of forests owned by different communities and major enterprises for it’s use are structured on the customs imposed by these social organizations. The manufacture of vegetal charcoal, made in craft or brick kilns, it is a significant source of employment and income for the region, although the concern about the balance between tree species and it’s preservation and the integrity of the environment it is present throughout the hole process. However, Adriana Lestido provides to this images an intensity that realizes the hard treks, perhaps revealing the poor working conditions. The bodies tensions present in each images, the penetrating eyes and deep light contrasts contribute to charge the compositions of a dramatic content that never fails to manifest dignity, as a result of a respectful and understanding encounter between the artist and this subjects.

The forests and jungles of Mexico and it’s biodiversity are one of the largest reserves in the world, and it is possilbe to hear the heartbeat among them of thirteen million human beings who necessarily must develop awareness about habitat conservation which means the fare of their own life. Perhaps the most compelling evidence was in 2011 when, in Durango, low temperatures decimated large areas of vegetation, a situation that prompted need to replant the toughest affected area with native species such as oak trees – vegetal charcoal raw material – more resistant to harsh winter. Natural adaptation it is natual matter but also it’s a human obligation to observe and protect it. Such reflections were, largely, the objective of this photographic essay, which Lestido assumed with responsibility and freedom that her constituents show her, but also with the baggage, unavoidable in ther case, sorrounded by a poetic gaze.