Spotlight: Liese A. Ricketts Captures Faith and Fear in Peru

By David Schonauer   Wednesday May 8, 2019

After college, Liese A. Ricketts moved to Peru, where her father was born.

She married and had two children but eventually returned to the United States to complete her MFA in photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She went on to teach photography at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools for 26 years. “I have remained in the States, although I visit Peru frequently, as I identify strongly with my Latina roots,” she says.

In October 2016, a retrospective of Ricketts’s photography from Peru was exhibited in the Palacio de Torre Tagle in Lima. Her visit to the city coincided with the month of El Señor de los Milagros, one of the most important religious celebrations of the year in the country. It features a massive procession — the largest of its kind in Latin America — honoring a 350-year-old image of a black Jesus which was painted by a freed slave. The image has been venerated since an earthquake destroyed the church in which it was created, except for the wall on which it was painted.

“I spent three weeks photographing in and around the event, using a Rolleiflex with T-Max 400 and 100 black-and-white film,” Ricketts says. “No single image expressed what I learned during the period. I realized that what I had to express was better served by making photo collages and constructing mixed-media housing for the images.”

To provide context for the work, Ricketts composed an unconventional introduction — a fictional account of twin sisters, Credo and Quietus, born in 1846 and “dedicated at birth to El Señor de los Milagros.”

“These sisters represent the conflict between Hope and Fear, opposing emotions that generate such intense religiosity in the faithful,” Ricketts explains. “‘Credo’ means ‘To Believe’ and ‘Quietus’ means ‘Death.’”

The expansive project, suffused with beauty and mystery and named “Credo & Quietus,” was chosen as a winner of the Latin American Fotografía 7 competition.

“The elements in the collages come from the work done in Lima, with some additional visual components,” says Ricketts. “The constructions in which they are housed are not available in documentation yet, as they are in process — a long process that is taking time.”

“I have been working as a photographer/artist for almost 40 years, and I am as committed to expressing my ideas through photography, using any and all appropriate tools, as I was when I finished grad school,” says Ricketts. "Currently, aside from some very recent works of political resistance, I am creating a series using my photographs to explore some boundaries about women’s identity.”

See more of Liese Ricketts’s work at her website.


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Dispatches from Latin America