Repost: Bethel Patch, by Rich Kirby. June 21, 2019 | Updated June 21, 2019

“It’s definitely a specialty,” the photographer said, “because self-portraiture is very difficult to do, especially if you’re trying to do it really well.”

And that’s the way Cudzilo prefers to do it. The critics concur. Her photo series “The Edge” won first ace in the self-portraiture category in the 13th Annual Julia Margaret Cameron Awards. The Magazine, that arbiter of all things related to the southwestern art scene, named her one of their “12 New Mexico Artists to Know Now.” And the high-end Gerald Peters Projects in Santa Fe has cleared its walls to give her work a solo showing for the whole summer. For a photographer, it’s all pretty much the closest thing to being on fire that doesn’t involve actual gasoline.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Self-portraiture has been Cudzilo’s focus since she was 16, but back in Bethel she also did commercial and beauty photography for clients, as well as work as a makeup artist. You need to eat.

This self-portraiture fixation is more force of habit for Cudzilo than anything else — it’s been her craft since square one. Her head, she said, was “brimming with ideas from a young age,” before she knew any models. She also collected the vintage clothes she featured in her shoots, and she said she found it difficult to find models to properly fit into them. Self-portraiture became the photographer’s only option.

But get to know Cudzilo’s art and you realize that although the portraits are all of her, none are of herself. The women in Cudzilo’s work are characters, their story playing out across whatever landscape the photographer has chosen. She travels everywhere with a suitcase or backpack full of vintage clothes, matching whatever backgrounds she stumbles upon with the appropriate frock and wigs.