In Dreams — Symbols and Rituals in the Photography of Flor Garduño

Flor Garduño
Ocotal II, México, 1987 © Flor Garduño, image courtesy SOL . LDN

By Shira Wolfe

Opening on 15 February 2024, SOL LDN’s pop-up exhibition Flor Garduño: In Dreams (Selected Works 1982 – 2022) brings the first solo exhibition of acclaimed Mexican photographer Flor Garduño to London.

Garduño has been producing a body of work since the 1980s, combining a fascination with the people, traditions and nature of her native Mexico with a Surrealist, Magical Realist approach, filling her photographs with signs and symbols and often zoning in on the power and magic of the female body. Garduño belongs in the tradition of strong Mexican female artists who dive into Mexican folklore and everyday life from a female perspective and imbue their discoveries and images with rituals and symbols—from Frida Kahlo and María Izquierdo to her fellow contemporary photographer Graciela Iturbide.

Flor Garduño’s Path Towards Photography

Born in Mexico City in 1957, Flor Garduño studied visual art at the Antigua Academia de San Carlos, where she was greatly inspired by her teacher Kati Horna, a Jewish-Hungarian Surrealist photographer who had left Europe in the 1930s due to the rise of National Socialism. This Surrealist influence would permeate Garduño’s work throughout her career. After she left school, Garduño worked for Manuel Álvarez Bravo, one of the most celebrated Mexican photographers at the time. It was in the darkroom with Bravo that she learned the formal techniques of photography, but the development of her own artistic style began accelerating when she started traveling all over Mexico and discovering different rural villages and environments. 

Flor Garduño photo
Canasta de Luz, Guatemala, 1989 © Flor Garduño, image courtesy SOL . LDN

Traveling Across Remote, Rural Mexico and Developing Her Style

At the beginning of the 1980s, Garduño started working for the Department of Public Education. For her work, she was sent to remote, rural areas of Mexico to photograph local communities for schoolbooks. These travels allowed her to experience the many facets of Mexico, and to learn more about the lives of Mexico’s indigenous people, inspiring her best-known photographic project Witnesses of Time, which won the Kodak Award in 1992. Through expressive black-and-white, Garduño’s style emphasizes the poetic, symbolic, and ritualistic. Diving into the realms of the subconscious, she celebrates the imagination and the spirituality that are integral to the traditions of indigenous communities in Central and South America.

Pavoreal Flor Garduño
Pavoreal, México, 1999 © Flor Garduño, image courtesy SOL . LDN

Recurring Themes in Flor Garduño’s Work 

Garduño’s images often evoke this essence of a dream world while depicting all the complexities of women—their beauty, their suffering, the injustices they face, and their unwavering resistance. Garduño also frequently explores the theme of liminality, between human and animal or human and plant. In the photograph Pavoreal (1999), we see the magical and surreal image of the legs of a woman emerging from underneath a peacock. Many of her subjects are also adorned with large leaves or flowers. In Canasta de Luz, Guatemala (1989), a girl stands with a large basket filled with white lilies, balancing on her head. Surrealism and Magical Realism both play a part in these suspended images where subjects, especially the female ones, hold hybrid identities and are imbued with the very power of the vegetal or animal elements they are paired with. 

Mythology, spirituality, and rituals guide us through the blending of portraiture, landscape and documentary photography that makes Garduño’s work so powerful. In Ocotal II, México (1987), we see a group of girls huddled together by a lake, all dressed in white gowns and white veils while one loses her veil in the wind and runs after it. This image is a poignant metaphor for the secrets of girlhood and the borderland between childhood and adulthood – once again a liminal space that many age-old rituals deal with and help to process. 

Garduño photography
Septimo Sello, México, 2017 © Flor Garduño image courtesy SOL . LDN

Flor Garduño at SOL . LDN

A selection of 20 works by Flor Garduño realized between 1982-2022 will be on view at the SOL LDN pop-up exhibition In Dreams in Notting Hill, London, from 15-20 February 2024.
SOL LDN is an online photography platform, which organizes several pop-up exhibitions every year in London. The exhibition is a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of Surrealism and Magical Realism in photography, and above all to experience a deeply sensitive portrayal of the multifaceted people of Mexico and their traditions, rituals and ties to nature. Garduño’s work is held in the collections of MoMA, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, and many more.

Visit Flor Garduño: In Dreams (Selected Works 1982 – 2022) at 230 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LJ

Opening hours: Thursday to Tuesday, 10:00 – 5:30.

Relevant sources to learn more

More articles from Artland Magazine you may like:
The World Through The Lens Of Graciela Iturbide
Female Iconoclasts: Frida Kahlo
Lost (and Found) Artist Series: María Izquierdo
Land of Dreams – Interview with Shirin Neshat
The Fantastic Women of Surrealism

For more information about Flor Garduño: In Dreams (Selected Works 1982 – 2022) at SOL . LDN, see:
SOL . LDN website

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