The unique and sensitive eye of Ruth D. Lechuga

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Ruth D. Lechuga's (1920-2004) look at the workshops, faces, pieces and work spaces of the artisans from 1956 to 1982 are exhibited in the exhibition Solar of light and time. Creators in the eyes of Ruth D. Lechugain the Photography Archive Museum (MAF), made up of 37 snapshots that are part of the legacy included in the UNESCO Memory of the World national registry.

For this occasion, details Lizbeth Ramírez Chávez, director of the MAF, “we decided to exhibit a series of images referring to the topic of trades, due to its particular technique that, although it is an anthropological and ethnographic look, allows us a different approach to trades. such as pottery, ceramics and textiles”, from his lesser-known perspective, who since his arrival in our country, in 1939, with camera in hand, toured the diverse and multicultural Mexico with amazement.

The images, some of contemporary printing and others made by Ruth herself, propose a tour of the work spaces of the artisans, based on a dialogue that encourages reflection on the role and importance of creators in innovation, vitality, and richness of popular art, work that, paradoxically, has been made invisible.

“What it shows us about textiles really catches my attention, because it shows us the women who extract pigments from cochineal grains. She has very interesting photographs of that entire process, as well as the ceramic and pottery work, she portrays them and shows them to us through her eyes.

“However, she herself commented that she did not want to be a photographer and that she did it for pleasure. But when you see that her lens and her eye were so sensitive and unique, we understand the ability she had to transport us to the moment, the community or the people she wanted to show,” she highlights.

And although she recognizes that Ruth D. Lechuga's work as a promoter of Mexican popular art is fundamental, she assures that, in her case, she leans towards her visual work.

“Everyone recognizes Ruth because of the collection housed in the Franz Mayer Museum, with its collection of toys, miniatures and masks, but suddenly I feel that her photographic work has not yet been widely publicized. For me it was very important to approach this part of photography, to disseminate and give visibility to the Ajaraca Foundation, which is in charge of safeguarding her photographic collection,” she says.

It should be noted that the Ajaraca Foundation has been in charge, since 2016, of preserving, cataloguing, digitizing and disseminating the photographic collection of Ruth D. Lechuga. This collection, which has great artistic, historical and anthropological value, includes more than 28 thousand photographs that portray popular art, traditional festivals and the daily life of many communities in Mexico between 1948 and 1991. Five years later, the collection was distinguished by the national registry Memory of the World of UNESCO.

What do these photographs tell you? “It is important, because, although he visited almost all the states of the Republic, he shows us the trades, but he also tells us about this cultural wealth that we have in the country, through the faces of the people. In those places, not only the person in the trade was shown, but also the workshops that were taught.

“Ruth toured more than 200 communities, imagine the wealth. We are talking about a collection of more than 60 thousand photographs. So all of Ruth's heritage does have a very strong weight and that is why we were interested in showing the jobs, the women, the workshops, the faces, but it also takes us to the festivals, the ceremonies, the traditions and the customs," she asserts. .

How would you define the style of the visual artist? “I would dare to say that I see Ruth with a very strong influence from Mariana Yampolsky, because when I see her work, her journey and her foreign perspective, it gives you another aesthetic, with that anthropological and ethnographic part. Furthermore, it seems to me that Ruth leaves us to reflect on what happens with these communities and how, sometimes, in our hands we have a basket, a clay, a rebozo and, suddenly, we are not so aware of the work behind it, of What happens with those hands and with the workshops?

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