Collection 1980s–Present

Laura Aguilar. Access + Opportunity = Success. 1993 216

Gelatin silver prints, Each: 19 15/16 × 15 15/16" (50.6 × 40.5 cm). Geraldine Murphy Fund. © 2024 Estate of Laura Aguilar

Writer, Therí Pickens: My name is Dr. Therí Pickens. I am a professor of English and I'm a writer. You're looking at a work by the artist Laura Aguilar, called Access + Opportunity = Success.

The work is a sequence of five images of cardboard signs, displaying dictionary definitions to communicate something about disability, and homelessness, and the possibilities for multiply marginalized people in the United States. In three of the five images, the artist is holding the sign. So she is also a part of the formula.
The artist is asking what does access, and opportunity, and success look like for a larger-bodied, queer Latina, working in the 70s and 80s with auditory dyslexia, and diabetes, and kidney disease, and lack of health insurance?

One of the questions I think the artist is asking us to consider is whether the formula works all the time? And what's your relationship to that formula? At what points have access and opportunity been taken away from you? At what points have they been given to you? And in exchange for what? If they cost you nothing, then your road to success is going to look a lot different than the person for whom they cost everything.

You're looking at art that's vulnerable, that is unflinching. It isn't necessary to be an art historian to get it, but I think what you get is largely dependent on how vulnerable you're willing to be before the photographs.