How to Call Your Mother

In a series of annotated photographs of his mother, Dominic Bellido ’24 reflects on his relationship to the traditions of family, science, and indigenous Peruvian culture through visual poetry.

It’s difficult to talk about family. Even when I’m not writing, I struggle to align words with the murky clouds of memory tangled around the image of my mother. To tell the story right, I needed image and text to work together.

Inspired by two of Wendy Red Star’s series, 1880 Crow Peace Delegation and Apsáalooke FeministI annotated photographs of my mother, performing a historical intervention by layering my own drawings and poetry onto the pictures. Just as Wendy Red Star uses red marker and personal commentary to pry open a dialogue between herself and the historical figures of each piece, I sought to uncover the complex family legends that accompany my mother through every photo. 

Dominic Bellido, I. Mamá Graduating, 2022. Inkjet print and marker on digitally-manipulated paper. 13.5 x 20 in. (34.29 x 50.8 cm).

Graduating in 1993 from the National University of Engineering, my mother worked as a chemical engineer in various ink-making companies until 2000, when she moved to the United States with my father. She continues her work here, remaining a senior chemical engineer at her current company that deals with finding renewable energy sources. My mother’s dedication to learning, her unyielding strength, and her duty to family push me to keep telling our stories.

Dominic Bellido, II. Mamá Working, 2022. Inkjet print and maker on digitally-manipulated paper. 13.2 in x 20 in. (33.5 x 50.8 cm).

The brief poems on each piece discuss about the distance between me and my mother, telling stories from our lives circumscribed by looming forces of life and death. The annotations in red and blue marker invoke broader ideas of maternal history, as I utilized Incan Tocapu designs and topographical linework to represent the Peruvian culture both inside and outside her body.

Dominic Bellido, III. Mamá Calling, 2022. Inkjet print and marker on digitally-manipulated paper. 13.2 x 20 in. (33.5 x 50.8 cm).

This project is a love letter to my mother, to her work, and to all the women in my family that have ever felt that sunlit need to celebrate their own lives.