De Pura Cepa
Story by Sandra García
This all seems…familiar.
The women beam invitingly from a retro space that seems to speak of a time long past, while winking at a distinctly modern sensibility.
Who are they?
The vivid photographs hang at APT78, as part of “Pin-Up de Pura Cepa,” an exhibition brought by The Peralta Project and The Dip-sters, and feature a bevy of women, of all hues and sizes, enjoying a specifically colorful moment in the spotlight.
In the title, “de Pura Cepa” refers to “pure-bred” or “from the core.”
Modeled in specifically 50’s and 60’s pin-up attire, make-up and poses, the female subjects are nattily dressed and flawlessly presented.
But look closely – there’s more than “cheesecake” here.
There’s a woman on a motoconcho [a small motorbike], and one with a tambora. One woman holds aloft a cigar; another woman is surrounded by tubers she will soon be grating.
“Dominican culture is very rich in symbols and humor,” explained photographer Alina Vargas. “[This] was a new way of portraying people, but most of all, women. And women these days, we want it all.”
Vargas owns the only studio in the Dominican Republic focused on pin-up photography.
And she likes to use regular women, not models, for her pieces.
“This is a visual celebration of the variety of Dominican beauty and culture. Using regular women as models, the statement becomes clear: Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes and colors,” said Vargas.
The 32-year-old artist was born in Moscow to a Ukrainian mother and a Dominican father. In 1993, her family left Kiev, to live in her father’s country.
“It was difficult for us to get used to [the] customs as a family during the first years, but today, I consider myself Dominican,” she said.
This past Thurs., Mar. 7th, Vargas’ work made its debut in New York at APT78, with local artist Tony Peralta as host.
“This is important for WashingtonHeights,” said Peralta. “Dominicans in New York have their own perception of how we are in the Dominican Republic, but [we] are multitalented people,” he added. “It’s important to see Latinas of different sizes and shades.”
Desiree Browne, 25, arrived from Boston to check out the exhibit.
“I really, really love pin up photography and art work,” said Browne, who is of Panamanian heritage. “I collect vintage clothes from the forties, fifties and sixties. It’s an entire lifestyle that I’ve come into in the past couple of years.”
“I love that they stay true to the ‘cheesecake’ style. These photos are very feminine and elegant, but still very sexy,” she remarked. “They have a certain sense of humor, and they definitely tell a story about Dominican life.”
Yelaine Rodríguez, 22, has been dressing in pin-up outfits since she was 17.
“Every time I go to the Dominican Republic people think I’m a little weird,” said Rodríguez, who was dressed in a light blue 50’s-inspired dress and short bangs. “Having her do this [can help make others see] this is sexy and not vulgar.”
Although Vargas has photographed Latin American icons like Oscar de la Renta, Andy García, Luís Fonsi, Ismael Cala and Armando Correa, she feels her her pin-up work has been the most significant to date.
“’Pin-Up de Pura Cepa’ is a visual poem to the beauty of Dominican women,” said Vargas. “No matter the size, no matter the color.”