Arts, On Campus

Andrew Mroczek’s Lecture Discusses Recent Series on Capturing LGBTQ+ Discourse in Peru

Andrew Mroczek, director of exhibitions at Lesley University College of Art and Design, has had the opportunity to see his works exhibited throughout North America, South America, India, and Italy. 

Mroczek discussed his latest two series, Virgenes de la Puerta and Padre Patria / Fatherland, in a lecture hosted by Boston College’s Currents series in Devlin Hall on Thursday. Mroczek’s two series of artwork center around the LGBTQ+ community in Peru and are collaborations with Juan José Barboza-Gubo, a photographer and professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. 

“The advantage to creating a series of photographic portraits is that a person’s existence—their humanity—cannot be ignored,” Mroczek said.

The lecture opened with Mroczek giving a short biographical background to the audience. After receiving his bachelor of fine arts in photography at The Art Institute in Boston at Lesley University, Mroczek turned away from creating visual art and instead began training as a curator. He said he credits his curator training for reigniting his creativity. It was also during this time as a curator that he visited Peru for the first time and met Barboza-Gubo, according to Mroczek.

Mroczek said this visit gave him and Barboza-Gubo the impetus to begin working on their first collaborative series, Virgenes de la Puerta, a showcase of transgender women in Lima, Peru.

“The series incorporates cultural and religious iconography in an effort to make apparent the resilience and beauty of these women and to strengthen, empower, and embed a sense of pride within the current and future generations of Peru’s LGBTQ community,” Mroczek said.

Mroczek presented several of the photos he and Barboza-Gubo took of women who volunteered as models. Some were naked, while others were dressed elaborately, often in traditional outfits. While displaying each of the photos, he gave a brief description of the women involved. Mroczek said some had died, some had moved away, and some were in hiding. He said most of them had suffered violence at some point in their lives.

The work they did for Virgenes de la Puerta inspired Mroczek and Barboza-Gubo to begin their next series, Fatherland / Padre Patria. This series explores the effects of violence inflicted on members of the LGBTQ+ community in Peru.

“We understood that a common thread among violence experienced by being trans Peruvians was the devaluing of their lives by the public, the corrupt police, politicians, and lawmakers under the direction of the church, and their physical absence could be represented by the actual places where their lives were taken from them,” Mroczek said.

Mroczek said it was difficult to locate the sites that he and Barboza-Gubo photographed. Mroczek said incidents of violence against the LGBTQ+ community were frequently covered up by authorities, and the dislike of the LGBTQ+ community within Peru was often so strong that neighbors refused to talk about the deceased. Mroczek described one instance in which he took almost four days to locate the site of a murder by connecting a mural on Google Maps to one that had been briefly shown in a news report.

Mroczek said all photos for the two series were collected by 2019. What remained was to write a monograph for “Padre Patria / Fatherland.” Mroczek described this as one of the most difficult steps in the artistic process. 

“I was actually writing the introduction for the book,” he said. “Revisiting each image, and I was back there standing at each site where the murder or suicide had taken place 30 times over, again and again.”

In order to do justice to the work he was engaged in, Mroczek said he found it necessary to go to graduate school. After discussing the two series of artworks, Mroczek spoke briefly about some of his other interests he had explored at Lesley University while pursuing his master’s in visual arts. 

“I was curious about power.” Mroczek said. 

Mroczek said pursuing this interest brought him to explore topics such as humanity’s power over domesticated animals, the use and abuse of power as shown in Marina Abramović’s performance art, and the intersection of power and human sexuality in the BDSM community.

Mroczek said in pursuing all of his interests, he is motivated by his empathy for the downtrodden.

“I began to realize that the pull, meaning the impulse that drove me to create, came from … a need to help the oppressed, the vulnerable, or the neglected,” Mroczek said. “Because in part this is an experience that I shared with them in some capacity.”

April 23, 2023