Mara Magyarosi-Laytner is a Detroit based artist, educator, and alternative process enthusiast. A graduate of the College for Creative Studies Photography and Art Education Departments, her work typically pairs experimental photography methods to explore identity and mental health through a symbolic and poetic lens. She has spent the past few years advancing her education through graduate studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design – first, with her MA in Arts Administration in 2016 and currently as a MFA Candidate in the Photography department with an anticipated graduation date on June 2022.
The artist and her work has been shown in many spaces across the United States and internationally, most recently in the international Anthologies 2 and Liquid~Sky exhibitions at Praxis Gallery and Photographic Arts Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the international Bloom exhibition at the Midwest Center for Photography in Wichita, Kansas, the New Visions 2021 exhibition with the Texas Photographic Society, and in the Contrasts Exhibition through LoosenArt Gallery in Rome, Italy. She has also been featured in multiple articles and periodicals, including “A Women’s Thing Madness Issue #12” alongside noted artist Carrie Mae Weems and New York Times Best Seller Edan Lepucki.
“They convinced me
I only had a few good years left
Before I was replaced by a girl younger than me
As though men yield power with age
But women grow into irrelevance
They can keep their lies
For I have just gotten started”
An Excerpt from Timeless by Rumi Kaur
The Untended Garden is an exploration of my own personal coming of age as a woman seen through the metaphor of a garden. Throughout the beginning of my thirties, I’ve spent so much time questioning who I am and why I see myself in that way. Self-portraits paired with experimental abstract imagery are how I am processing through those ideas. I’ve been told throughout my entire life that there was a certain set of “perfections” I had to uphold to be an ideal woman. Many of those ideas clash with my own, and this fracture of thought is where this exploration began.
My work emphasizes texture both through the recording of the initial photograph and the rerecording of the materiality of the image transfer in the print. Skin, hair, petals, and paper can parallel and the textural quality of each can be subdued or emphasized. By experimenting with different photographic methods and processes, I am using those processes to reinforce symbolically what a garden can be. The garden continuously shifts throughout the season. Seeds, beginning growth, roots taking hold, stems and leaves reaching high, different flora throughout time, and then an eventual death, just to repeat again. Photography works in a similar way – the initial thought floating, capturing light physically, aesthetic choices, the materiality of the physical print, and then back to the thought, or new thoughts, again.
What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?
My photographic choices are to deconstruct the garden and concentrate on my own identity, along with the myth of what “women should be.” The idealized vision of women is entrenched throughout society. Ever since Eve and her pursuit of forbidden knowledge, “ideal” women have been objectified throughout history as fitting neatly within the box of society’s standards. The idea of stay quiet, stay pretty, and stay in line has even been perpetuated by some of the most influential women photographers. Julia Margaret Cameron, although a constant inspiration of mine, often chose women in beautiful dresses with soft expressions in her photographs, which plays into these stereotypes. The Untended Garden work was my own personal response to those ideas. The texture of the photographic transfer creates a layer between my skin and those who would view it – both to work against the idea of perfectionism in the body and to maintain a separation. The flowers placed on the image emphasize that separation, creating the physical and mental space between.