Martine Gutierrez. Indigenous Woman. 2018. Offset print magazine and chromogenic print, 16 1/2 × 11" (41.9 × 27.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist and Ryan Lee Gallery, New York, NY. © 2024 Martine Gutierrez

A model on the bright red cover of a glossy magazine regards the camera intently, her lips formed into a runway-ready pout. The words “Indigenous Woman” run in two lines across the top of the page. The silver cursive script recalls the iconic font of Interview magazine, founded by American artist Andy Warhol and British journalist John Wilcock in 1969. Indigenous Woman is not, however, available by yearly subscription. Rather, it is a 128-page art book by the artist Martine Gutierrez.

Playing the role of a cover girl, Gutierrez poses with a large plush muñeca quitapena, or worry doll, from Guatemala, where her father was born. Said to banish troubles when placed under a pillow at night, and given to children to ward off nightmares, muñecas quitapenas are linked by oral tradition to the goddess Ixmucane, a prominent figure associated with fertility and wisdom in the Mayan creation myths. A glamorous life-sized version of the doll, Gutierrez sports colorful, metallic tinsel pompoms on top of and at the ends of braids, retouched in a vibrant shade of green. In the magazine’s “editorial” page, Gutierrez notes that Indigenous Woman is “dedicated to the celebration of Mayan Indian heritage, the navigation of contemporary indigeneity, and the ever-evolving self-image.”1

Martine Gutierrez. Indigenous Woman. 2018

Martine Gutierrez. Indigenous Woman. 2018

“Art has to be adjacent to other systems or industries beyond the art world to be accessible.”

Martine Gutierrez

Editor-in-chief, photographer, and model are just some of the roles Gutierrez adopts across the publication. As a creative director, she crafts advertising campaigns for shoes, perfume, jeans, sunglasses, and other imaginary luxury goods using the visual vocabularies of patriarchy and cultural appropriation used to sell real world products. As a fashion designer and hairstylist, the trans and Latinx artist contests the gender binary and false perceptions about cultural authenticity in lavish, multipage spreads. The theatrically staged environments and self-styling recall Cindy Sherman’s examination of the gendered gaze in mass media. And the references to publicity recall Hank Willis Thomas’s appropriated magazine advertisements aimed at African American consumers, drawing attention to the perpetuation of culturally constructed stereotypes. Yet Indigenous Woman evades direct comparison. As Gutierrez said in a Forum on Contemporary Photography held at MoMA in 2022, “I don’t think this project actually summarizes well, but I do know art has to be adjacent to other systems or industries beyond the art world to be accessible.”2

The serial and segmented form of a magazine allows Gutierrez to move across photographic genres and to weave expanded notions of gender and race throughout its pages. Critiquing the visual legacies of colonial and patriarchal oppression, Indigenous Woman responds to the art world’s equivocal embrace and simplification of identity categories. A “self-produced anthology of heritage,” Indigenous Woman is Gutierrez’s way of “asking what an art exhibition can be, and in this case, what happens when it’s a magazine.”3 The four self-portraits that have newly joined MoMA’s collection bring her images from the page to the walls, emphasizing the shuffling exchange between so-called highbrow and popular culture that is at the core of the project.

Martine Gutierrez. Neo-Indeo, Cakchiquel Calor, p20 from Indigenous Woman. 2018

Martine Gutierrez. Neo-Indeo, Cakchiquel Calor, p20 from Indigenous Woman. 2018

Neo-Indeo Cakchiquel Calor, p20 from Indigenous Woman

The first of several fashion editorials in Indigenous Woman, “Neo-Indeo” presents a fashion line constructed out of traditional and modern Guatemalan textiles. In the first full-page photograph, Gutierrez turns her back toward the camera—her face is in three-quarter profile—showcasing her scarf, blouse, and skirt traditional to Cakchiquel communities, Guatemala’s third-largest group of Indigenous Maya peoples. In an interview at the center of the magazine, Gutierrez remarks, “What I’m presenting is a living contemporary culture, not just a buried history.”4 In other spreads, she mixes Guatemalan traje (traditional costumes), some inherited from her paternal grandmother, with shoes, accessories, and clothes from luxury fashion brands. A caption dutifully notes all the details for the curious reader.

Demons, Tlazoteotl ‘Eater of Filth,’ p92 from Indigenous Woman

Indigenous Woman’s hairstyle feature “Demons” bears the extended title: “Diabolized Feminine Devotion: Aztec, Mayan and Yoruba Deities of the Ancient World Resurrected in Hair.” In each portrait, Gutierrez sits at a table painted the same color as the backdrop. Her bright textiles and ornate jewelry are set pieces for elaborate hairstyles, kept in place by a mix of wire, hairspray, balloons, and glue. In the work in MoMA’s collection, Gutierrez impersonates Tlazoteotl, described in the accompanying text as “eater of filth, Aztec deity of the underworld, adulterers and sexual vices. Also seen as the Goddess of forgiveness and purification, thought to transform pain and suffering into gold.”5 Tlazoteotl, like other deities in the series, did not have a prescribed gender, and was subsequently vilified by Christian European colonizers. “At its core it’s an historical fear of non-binary bodies,” Gutierrez says in the interview.6

Martine Gutierrez. Demons, Tlazoteotl ‘Eater of Filth,’ p92 from Indigenous Woman. 2018

Martine Gutierrez. Demons, Tlazoteotl ‘Eater of Filth,’ p92 from Indigenous Woman. 2018

Martine Gutierrez. Body en Thrall, p120 from Indigenous Woman. 2018

Martine Gutierrez. Body en Thrall, p120 from Indigenous Woman. 2018

Body en Thrall, p120 from Indigenous Woman

In the final editorial in the magazine, “Body en Thrall,” Gutierrez poses with a series of mannequins, all in various stages of undress and representing a variety of skin tones. The title plays on the near homophones of “in thrall,” to be under someone else’s power, and “enthrall,” to beguile, a slippage meant to evoke histories of conquest. Set in an idyllic summerscape of coves, hammocks, gardens, and pools, the series subverts, in Gutierrez’s words, “one of the oldest storytelling conventions—the white male adventurer who ‘discovers’ the indigenous woman i.e. fertile land.”7 Though her collaborators are mannequins, Gutierrez’s often sensual, and often tender compositions offer “a contemporary reorientation of fluid bodies whose oppression is nuanced through intimacy and inequality.”8

Hyundai Card First Look: Martine Gutierrez is on view at MoMA June 1 through fall 2024.

The Hyundai Card First Look program is made possible by MoMA’s partner Hyundai Card.

  1. Martine Gutierrez, “Letter from the Editor,” Indigenous Woman (2018): 11.

  2. Martine Gutierrez, Forum on Contemporary Photography, “Are New Pictures Possible?” The Museum of Modern Art, October 13, 2022.

  3. ibid.

  4. “Interview: Demi-Celebrity Martine,” Indigenous Woman (2018): 86.

  5. “Demons,” Indigenous Woman (2018): 92.

  6. “Interview: Demi-Celebrity Martine,” Indigenous Woman (2018): 88.

  7. “Body En Thrall,” Indigenous Woman (2018): 102.

  8. ibid.