Cara Romero

<br /> Cara Romero. Chemehuevi, born 1977. Kaa, 2017. Digital photograph; archival pigment photograph. 49 x 42 in. Courtesy Cara Romero. © Cara Romero.
Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Kaa, 2017, Archival pigment print on legacy fibre photography paper, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bequest of Virginia Doneghy, by exchange, and gift of funds from Christopher Cardozo, 2019.64, © Cara Romero


[Speaking Chemehuevi] My name is Cara Romero. I am a contemporary fine art photographer. I’m from the Chemehuevi Valley Indian reservation in the heart of the Mojave Desert. We’re on the California side of the Colorado River.

So the title of the piece in this show is Kaa, and most of my photographs are named after the women that I photograph to give the woman agency. And I wanted to create a piece that personified clay woman. So I reached out to a clay artist, and that’s Kaa Folwell. I’ll never forget the time she came to the studio and I was interviewing her about, you know, are you comfortable with this and do you like the concept?
And she said, “Cara, I would pose in a paper bag for you.”

And the reason that that was important is because it meant that young women trusted me and native women trusted me, and the way that I’m photographing and what I’m doing with some of my editorial work in Indian country. Our women are exploited. They’ve been objectified, they’ve been stolen, and we have a big epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. But there’s also a way to do figurative art and to empower ourselves in a right way.

She’s painted in clay from my reservation, and her hair is flipping back. And we were able to capture that motion at 1/8000 of a second. And that really lends itself to the emotion of the piece. That moment where the clay chemically changes is just that fast. And I think what’s interesting about the design is it was just no contest, when we laid the geometric lightning design over the top and I thought that was really interesting because she actually uses that in her modern day pottery.

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We do not yet have a Native-language translation of this text.


Cara Romero (Chemehuevi) collaborated with her model, Kaa Folwell, an artist from a renowned family of Santa Clara potters, to develop this image that personifies the spirit “Clay Lady.” Clay Lady provides Tewa potters with clay. She represents empowerment, and though she is warm and inviting, she is unpredictable when fired. Folwell’s hair, captured at 1/8000 of a second, embodies the moment clay chemically changes to a hard solid. The Ancestral Puebloan design overlaying her body represents “how the spirit of clay . . . [is] passed down . . . through thousands of years,” Romero says. “There’s a way to do figurative art and to empower ourselves . . . I think it’s a . . . powerful shift for a woman to be behind the camera.”