Reimagining portraiture as a playful practice of deconstruction, Karen Navarro’s visual puzzles remind us that identity is a fluid and multifaceted process.
The Constructed Self (2019-2021) explores themes of identity and self-representation through unconventional portraiture. Using digital photography as a foundation, I transform traditional prints into three-dimensional objects by cutting and incorporating tactile elements such as wood, paint, and resin. The labor-intensive techniques I apply to create these sculptural objects not only allow for a physical deconstruction of my images but also become a form of meditation that reflects my efforts in trying to reconstruct and make sense of my own identity.
Like a puzzle, my identities intersect coming together to construct my multiple sense of Self. Although I do not appear in the pictures I see the works as self-reflective and it’s very important for me to show the diversity within my models.
Some of the pieces that make up these dimensional portraits can be rearranged and displayed in various ways to express the notion that identity is a social construct. At once colorful, surreal, and minimal, my constructed portraits invite the viewer to challenge their own perceptions and biases, by highlighting the complexities that makeup who we are.
Why the Critics selected this work
Karen Navarro’s practice explores ideas of selfhood as a social and cultural construct. By transforming two-dimensional prints into sculptural objects, Navarro at once dismantles the essentialist idea of fixed identities while photographically offering her subjects the opportunity to reconstruct their own through her playful and kinetic process. Employing vibrant colors and patterns and geometric constellations, Navarro’s work mimics the shape-shifting nature of identity.
—Alona Pardo, Curator, Barbican Art Gallery
See more of this work, and read the insightful interview with the artist by Liz Sales.