Yampolsky, Mariana (1925—)

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Yampolsky, Mariana (1925—)

American-born Mexican photographer, artist, and writer. Born on September 6, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois; became a Mexican citizen in 1955; University of Chicago, B.A. in humanities, 1945; La Esmeraldo, 1945–48; studied graphic arts at the Escuela de Artes Gráficos, Mexico City, 1948–49; studied photography with Lola Alvarez Bravo at Academia de Saint Carlos, Mexico City; married Arjen van der Sluis, in 1967.

Selected writings:

Lo Efimero y lo Eterno del Arte Popular Mexicano (editor with Leopold Méndez, 1974); La Casa en la tierra (with Elena Poniatowska, 1981); La Casa que canta (1982); La Rafz y el Camino (with Poniatowska, 1985); Tiacotalpan (with Poniatowska, 1987); Estancias del olvido (with Poniatowska, 1987); Bailes y Balas (with Poniatowska, 1991); Haciendas Poblanas (1992); Mazahua (with Poniatowska, 1993); Traditional Mexican Architecture (with Chlöe Sayer, 1993).

Selected individual exhibitions:

Imagenes del Medio Oriente, José Velasco Gallery, Mexico City (1960); Casa del Lago, Mexico City (1976); Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City (1976); Museo de la Alhóndiga, Guanajuato, Mexico (1976); Madurodam, The Hague, Holland (1978); University of Manchester, England (1979); Galería Cannon, Milan, Italy (1983); Photographers' Gallery, London (1985); Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (1986); Las Estancias del Olvido, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, and Centro Cultural, Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura, Toluca, Mexico (1988); Eternal Mexico: Photographs by Mariana Yampolsky, Queens College, City University ofNew York (1988); Galería de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (1989); Richland College, Dallas, Texas (1989); Altars and Idols—The Life of the Dead in Mexico, University of Essex, England (1990); Sin Fronteras Gallery, Austin, Texas (1991); Club Fotográfico, Mexico City (1991); Al Filo del Tiempo, Curare, Mexico City (1992); Haciendas de Hidalgo, Fototeca del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Pachuca, Mexico (1992); Constructores de Sueños, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, Mexico (1992); Mazahua, University of Groningen, Netherlands, and Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Mexico City (1993); Casas Acariciadoras, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City (1993); Traditional Mexican Architecture, The Hafnarfjödur International Arts Festival, Iceland (1993); Mariana Yampolsky, A Retrospective, Zelda Cheatle Gallery, London (1993); Encuentro de Fotografía Latinoamericana, Caracas, Venezuela (1993); Mariana Yampolsky, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1994).

Selected group exhibitions:

International Year of Women, Mexico City (1975); First Latin American Photography Colloquium, Mexico City (1978); Hecho en Latinoamérica, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (1980); Latin American Photography, Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland (1981); Artists of Mexico, Kunstlerhau Belhanien, Berlin, Germany (1981); Artists in Mexico, Galerija Bih, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (1982); 10 × 10: Contemporary Mexican Photography, traveling exhibition shown in Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, and New York (1982); Exhibition of Mexican Photography, Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway (1982); Photography as Photography, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City (1983); Portraits of Distant Lands: Aspects of Contemporary Latin American Photography, Sydney, Australia (1984); La Fête des Morts au Mexique, Musée de Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Musée des Enfants, Paris, France (1985); Third Latin American Colloquium, Havana, Cuba (1985); Inside Mexico, Sicily, Italy (1986); Retrato de lo Eterno, Museo de Arte Moderno, Bogotá, Colombia (1986); Ten Mexican Photographers, traveling exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico, shown in New Delhi, India, and China (1987); Images of Mexico, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany, Messepalast, Vienna, Austria, and Dallas Museum of Art, Texas (1988); Diverse Images of Mexico, Mexican Fine Arts Museum, Chicago, Illinois (1988); Exhibition for the Quincentennial of the Discovery of America, Huelva, Spain (with Lola Alvarez Bravo and Flor Garduño, 1988); E Ora di Messico, Galería Il Diaframma, Milan, Italy (1988); Realités Magiques, Hotel de Ville de Nivelles, Brussels, Belgium (1988); Polo Donna, Galería Civica d'Arte Moderna, Palazzo del Diamante, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Palazzo, Massari, Ferrara, Italy (1989); Graciela Iturbide and Mariana Yampolsky, Museum of Anthropology, Ferrara, Italy (1989); Between Worlds: Contemporary Mexican Photography, Impressions Gallery, York, England, Camden Arts Centre, London, and International Center for Photography, New York (1990); What's New: Mexico City, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (1990); Women in Mexico, National Academy of Design, New York, Museo de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico, and Centro Cultural-Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (1990); Other Images, Other Realities—Mexican Photography since 1930, Sewell Art Gallery, Rice University, Houston, Texas (1990); Festival of Photography, Arles, France (1991); Encountering Difference—Four Mexican Photographers, Woodstock Center for Photography, New York, and Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, California (1992); Photographic Mexico 1920/1992, Europalia, Brussels, Belgium (1992); El Hechizo de Oaxaca, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City; Marco Museum, Monterrey, Mexico (1992); Oaxaca—Magia de México, Kunsthal Museum, Rotterdam, Holland (1993); On the Elbow, Witkin Gallery, New York (1993); La Escritura de las Fotografias, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Frankfurt, Germany, Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt, and Book Fair, Bogotá, Colombia (1993); La Mujer en México, Musée d'Art Moderne, Liège, Belgium (1993).

A Chicago native, Mariana Yampolsky was born in 1925 and earned a bachelor's degree in humanities from the University of Chicago in 1945. She then moved to Mexico City where she took art classes at La Escuela de Pintrua y Escultura (School of Painting and Sculpture, known as La Esmeralda) from 1945 to 1948, and studied graphic arts for a year at the Escuela de Artes Gráficos. During that time she also joined the Taller de Gráfica Popular, which designed posters, book illustrations and other commercial art aimed at a popular audience. She worked at the center until 1958, curating exhibits of the group's artwork, many of which toured abroad, and making engravings. Yampolsky also created illustrations for newspapers, magazines, and children's books. She began experimenting with photography in 1948 both on her own and with Lola Alvarez Bravo .

In 1951, Yampolsky helped found the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, and in 1955 she became a Mexican citizen. A versatile artist, she also illustrated for several newspapers, including El Nacional, Excelsior, and El Día between 1956 and 1962, and helped Carmen Toscano make a documentary film about the Mexican Revolution. Yampolsky's experience qualified her to advise the Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana regarding a book about José Guadalupe, a distinguished printmaker. She also began working on her own books. Yampolsky co-edited, with Leopold Méndez, Lo Efímero y lo Eterno del Arte Popular Mexicano, published in 1970. For this publication, she performed extensive research and photographed popular art throughout Mexico. Yampolsky married Arjen van der Sluis in 1967. The following year, she was an official photographer for the Mexico City Olympics.

During the early 1970s, she organized graphic materials for a series of children's textbooks developed by the Mexican government. From 1978 through 1981, she continued to illustrate both children's books and art books. In 1981, La Casa en la tierra, Yampolsky's first book dedicated solely to her photographs, was published; it contains an introduction by Elena Poniatowska . Like La Casa que canta, published the following year, the subject was Mexican Indian architecture. Estancias del olvido, her book on the once-grand haciendas that make the fermented beverage called pulque, came out in 1987. Through her images, she reveals centuries of child exploitation in those factories.

Yampolsky has exhibited widely throughout the United States, Mexico, and abroad, in both individual and group shows. Her exclusively black and white photographs capture ordinary people and places that exhibit seemingly common but truly extraordinary emotions. Captivated by the architecture of the countryside and the people who inhabit it, she once said of her photographs, "Manipulation, nostalgia, and the exotic do not interest me." In a piece for Contemporary Photographers, her frequent collaborator Poniatowska notes that Yampolsky's way of looking at life is her major contribution to Mexican culture.


Evans, Martin Marix, ed. Contemporary Photographers. 3rd ed. NY: St. James Press, 1995.

Heller, Nancy G., and Jules Heller, eds. North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century. NY: Garland, 1995.

Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. NY: Abbeville, 1994.

Cyndia Zwahlen , editor and writer, Phoenix, Arizona