Ricas y Famosas features an array of twenty color photographs from Daniela Rossell’s provocative series. The large-scale images are shown unframed and adhered directly to the wall. Unlike their mode of presentation, the people and homes captured are anything but modest: vaulted ceilings drip with chandeliers and marble floors are dotted with animal skins and gilded furnishings.
Confronting the viewer from these spaces are the women and girls who reign over them. Whether reclining on couches or lying on floors, full bosoms and made-up eyes respond to the camera’s dare to attract. The series could be thought of as a record of the moment—the sitters adopt the poses and postures frequently seen on the pages of Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and other fashion magazines. While commercial products are not the focus, these women do seem to be in the business of selling something: perhaps themselves and their lifestyles.
The lifestyles featured appear particularly extreme when juxtaposed with the pervasiveness of Mexican poverty. Against such a backdrop, the series becomes a study of affluence, taste, consumption, and greed—so charged that some in Mexico City feel the works have challenged the taboo against critiquing the upper classes. Does the critique transcend cultural specificity? San Antonio is close enough to the border that some may be familiar with the controversial nature of the riches and status of those pictured. How does the series resonate differently in Texas than it has in Mexico or would in Ohio?
The images in Daniela Rossell’s Ricas y Famosas provide a window into a world that many will never enter. The palatial houses and enticing women raise questions about wealth and identity in Mexican culture. What are the women trying to convey about themselves? Is there a culturally specific line between honesty and ostentation?