This story is part of “Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser,” a special collaboration between rafa esparza, Image magazine and Commonwealth and Council. See how the whole project came to be here.
The story begins in Elysian Park, at night, in 2018, when rafa esparza transformed his body into a lowrider car. The project was — as it often is for esparza — a collaborative one among friends. Mario Ayala painted his entire body a highlighter pink, in the style of the classic lowrider Gypsy Rose. A golden plaque reading “Brown persuasion,” designed by Tanya Melendez, hung from esparza’s behind. Elysian Park was the perfect place for Fabian Guerrero to document this transformation — a historic site of lowrider and gay cruising. It was the ideal place for esparza to interpret lowrider car culture through a queer and feminine lens, one that he felt was lacking when he was growing up in Los Angeles, zipping down Whittier Boulevard with his brother and cousins. He called the performance “Corpo Ranfla.”
Fast-forward four years later, esparza returned to Elysian Park — this time, as a lowrider cyborg. Friends and family surrounded him, including esparza’s parents and sister, as well as artists, gallerists, and curators like Paulina Lara, Anita Herrera, Gabriela Ruiz, Maria Maea, and Franc Fernandez. They were celebrating esparza’s performance “Corpo RanfLA: Terra Cruiser,” the latest edition of his project, during which he will become the lowrider cyborg and invite people in his community to “ride” him at Art Basel Miami. At Elysian, esparza brought only a hint of his futurist armor: a stunning chrome-plated arm. He wore a white, billowing dress designed by Bárbara Sánchez-Kane, the Mexican fashion designer whose clothes are like elaborate expressive sculptures and defy gender. Guadalupe Rosales and Karla Ekatherine Canseco, both of whom will be participating as “riders” for esparza’s performance, also wore Sánchez-Kane — Rosales in a black, striped suit, and Canseco in a pair of pants printed with faces that hold your gaze. Another of esparza’s friends, Timo Fahler, wore a signature Sánchez-Kane blouse with a large hole cut into the fabric, exposing where the heart lies. The designs matched the bold and tender spirit of the day, all documented by legend Estevan Oriol.
In these photos, Oriol picks up where Guerrero left off in 2018. If the next chapter of “Corpo RanfLA,” captured in the place where it all began, feels from the future that’s because it is. For esparza, community is the way forward. Sánchez-Kane and Oriol are the latest to join this cyborgian journey. They won’t be the last. (When some people on dirt bikes and ATVs cruised by the shoot, esparza invited them to take part.) In Miami, there’s no telling who might pull up. Just slide through the fair and see for yourself; the community will be there, tickets in hand, ready to ride.