Ruth Prieto Arenas speaking in front of her displayed photographs.
February 21, 2023

Ruth Prieto Arenas’s Safe Heaven

Panteras Negras and Safe Heaven share the lives and labor of immigrant Mexican women in intimate detail.

Ruth Prieto Arenas’ photographs provide intimate glimpses into the public and private lives of Mexican immigrant women in New York’s service industry.

Selected images from the Panteras Negras series depict the eponymous restaurant, dimly lit and warmed by deep red walls, where waitstaff serve drinks and supply tableside company to patrons, mainly immigrant men, for the time it takes to finish a drink. For this brief period, loneliness, isolation, or longing for home is replaced by a transactional community. Prieto Arenas describes the conceptual draw of this milieu as “intimacy without sex.”

Images selected from the Safe Heaven series invite viewers into the personal living spaces of the same women, revealing aspects of their domestic, parental, spiritual, and emotional lives, as well as the vibrant hues that conjure memories of home. 


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