The Honduran artist Alma Leiva lived in one of her native country’s most violent cities, San Pedro Sula, until she moved to Miami with her family at the age of 14. In 2007 she received her BFA in Photography/Electronic Media from the New World School Of The Arts in Miami, Fl before she completed a MFA in Photography/Film, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA in 2011. Leiva has received multiple fellowships, awards and prizes for her complex, interdisciplinary and highly political work; it explores the culture of conflict in her homeland and the effect it has on the innocence of those forced to endure the bloody realities of modern-day Honduras.
“(My work) has to do with the coping mechanism among individuals who have to live under extreme violence and it’s inspired by the current social situation in my native country and the way that the immigrant has to deal with those issues.”
For Leiva, places and territories always coincide with psychological realms. In her installations and resulting photographs, entitled “Celdas”, she makes visible a country and a culture characterized by extremes: the ruthlessness of the Honduran Narco-economy confronted with the everyday survival strategies and cultural practices that constitute the soul, heart, culture and essence of a society.
Leiva tells Honduran stories in all their complexities. These are stories of a society made of juxtaposed cultures, one that is not exoticized in an ironic and critical way, with the aim of removing it from any possible narrative encapsulation. Instead, Leiva’s careful, tender and poetic installations of prison cell-sized “safe heaven” homes are authentic and immediate. She installs those rooms and photographs them as mirrors, reflectors, connectors that challenge common perception and stereotypes without being critical of some of the implicitly gendered and hierarchical cultural practices.
Leiva’s work is interdisciplinary as she combines photography, video, and installation. For the most part, her art consists of constructing and photographing of the installations, which she then disassembles again. In addition, she has also been working on a video series entitled “Through The Looking Glass,” which is composed of found footage that delves directly into the violence captured on film across Central America. These films are effective, powerful and disturbing, and express the artist’s abhorrence for this vicious status quo.