Gallery: Male Art Student Transforms Into His '70s-Era Mom For Senior Thesis
If I were to draw inspiration from my mom's 1970s life for a photography project, I'd need a bucket of turquoise eye shadow, a Quaalude or three, late-trend disco bell bottoms and a tight perm.
Fortunato Castro, a 27-year old art student in New York City, gets by with less cliche and more creativity in his stunning senior photography thesis that has become the talk of Gotham's Art World this week.
"At first I think I was hesitant to make these images because I’m not a woman and I don’t want to be a woman," he says about the project. "I’m not a drag performer. And I think, being a gay man, it’s very easy for someone to put you in that hole—like, That’s a man who wants to be a woman, which isn’t what this work is about at all. I’m very protective of my mother, and I think it was really important for me to make the images as honest as they are, because they’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. And my mother isn’t perfect. I think because the images are sort of about a false reality, the only element of truth I could have is that vulnerability."
Growing up in California, Castro listened to stories from his mother’s youth in El Salvador, where she lived until coming to the States at age 25. “I remember her stories were so vivid, and I would feel like I was her in that moment,” he told the Cut. “Those stories are what made her my mother, in my mind, even though I didn’t actually experience them.” For the series — which is titled Some Girl, Some Where — Castro studied photographs of his mother from her twenties and re-created the scenes from her youth. The result is part Leigh Ledare, part Cindy Sherman: a study on the mutability of social identity and appearance, as well as the uncomfortable but invertible relationship between family and sexuality. The Cut spoke with Castro about gender, drag, and the challenges of representing your mother’s sexuality.