The Comalli Series

The word “comalli” comes from the Aztec Nahuatl for griddle or comal. As the fourth generation of a family of Mexico City-based portrait photographers, my work seeks to find new meanings in portraiture. I became interested in looking back to the time of the Spanish conquest in America (16th century), to see how Mexicas or Aztecs portrayed themselves during this critical period in our history. This mixed media Series is inspired by the Mendocino Codex (housed at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford), which references of the use of a comalli (griddle in náhuatl), a household tool that has been used for the same purposes in Mexican homes since that time.

Working with several used comalli and portraits of contemporary Mexicans, I intent to represent contemporary women and men from my country and make the analogy that as the wrinkles on a person’s face bear witness to the passage of time, the stains on the comal are a sign of its years of use.

The production of the art works in this Series begins by printing the portraits utilizing Hahnemuehle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth paper and Epson archival pigment inks with protective spray. I then embed into the prints physical elements that have been used in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times, together with objects from Mexican daily life which are hand-constructed, such as tissue paper, sack cloth, cardboard, plastic fabric, hammered brass, luffa vegetable sponge, metal fiber, jerga cloth, amate paper, agave thread, corn husks and feathers. Materials are attached with archival glue and tape. – Lou Peralta

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