BTJ studio resident Laura Anderson Barbata is an artist who was born in Mexico City, and now works in Brooklyn and Mexico City. Since 1992 she has worked primarily in the social realm, and has initiated projects in the Amazon of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Norway and the USA. Among them is her ongoing project, The Repatriation of Julia Pastrana, initiated in 2004. In this book you learn the history of Julia's brief sad life, see artworks inspired by her, and Laura discusses the repatriation and burial of Julia Pastrana, the 19th-century indigenous Mexican woman exhibited in life and death for her excessive hair.
Born in Sinaloa, Mexico, Julia Pastrana (1834–1860) was a gifted singer, musician and dancer who could converse in English, Spanish and French. She also suffered from one of the most extreme cases of hypertrichosis terminalis on record and severe gingival hyperplasia: her face and body were covered with thick hair and her jaw was disproportionately large. Pastrana toured North America and Europe billed as “The Ugliest Woman in the World.” After her death, her body was exhibited throughout Europe and the US. Until her recent repatriation to Sinaloa, her body was kept at the University of Oslo, Norway. Pastrana’s story raises issues around beauty, ownership, science and racism, human rights, colonialism, sexism and indigenous rights. Artist Laura Anderson Barbata has brought together scholars and experts from various fields to explore these and other topics as they relate to Pastrana’s extraordinary story.