Everything is in the eye of the beholder. As a viewer of art, we get to judge, and decide on whether something is shocking or amusing. Take the photography of Mariano Vargas for example. Some of you may think—“ah, this art is just another guy monopolizing on the naked female form.” But then, there are those who can see beyond the sexual themes and appreciate the entertaining juxtaposition of High Renaissance art and women playing the dual role of the Madonna & Whore which Mariano Vargas is a master at creating.

copyright: Mariano Vargas

The nude female form has never lost its sex appeal, especially in art. From ancient history, to modern day celebrity, women are worshipped for their form and beauty. It is evident Mariano Vargas is fascinated by the combination of art and women. As a child, he spent hours perusing his grandfather’s art book collection and liked the paintings featuring ladies with porcelain skin and long, flowing locks.

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One of the most compelling pieces is Woman with a Snake. A bare-breasted woman is photographed from the side with her translucent and pale skin contrasted against her auburn hair, which is wrapped up in an elaborate up-do and adorned with braids and pearls. Draped around her neck is a green serpent. As well as its aesthetic value, this piece draws on Biblical sources to remind the viewer of Eve’s temptation.

“I want to emphasize contrasts between the religious and the profane, the everyday and the magical.” — Mariano Vargas

copyright: Mariano Vargas

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As a teenager, he began painting from photographs of girls from his school. However, when painting could no longer quell his passion for more expression, he began using photography which he masterfully blends together with painting. A lot of his subjects are friends, or chance meetings, and each of them have their own interesting story. Each of his images are tastefully erotic. There is subtle amusement as our attention is drawn away from the obvious sexual themes and diverted toward the absurdity of old and new.

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Occasionally crossing the line of being gratuitous, Vargas pushes boundaries with his colorful aesthetics and challenges the way we look at nudes. His highly posed portraits, although looking forced and unnatural, perhaps are intended to make us feel uncomfortable. It gives us the opportunity to focus on the whole image rather than parts of the woman.

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