María de Lourdes Flores Gruben

My family comes from Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Mexico—an eighteenth century town that was suddenly inundated by the Rio Grande because of the construction of Falcon Dam in 1953. Every so often the water subsides. The old stone buildings reappear and I can see the remains of the old Hotel Flores. One of my mother's uncles owned that hotel. During the 1920s my mother used to go to dances there.

To give an emotional sense of the end of Guerrero in a rush of water, and of a long-gone border life, I use an etching press to force women's clothes to adhere to heavy gauzy fabrics around the painting, or stick parts of old fences to it—the same materials that wash up after a flood or that can be found at the scene of a wreck or a crime.

The works I present here are part of a series that I began in 1995. I imagined myself looking down on the banks of the Rio Grande. I visualized figures, dresses, flowers, animals, and veils floating down the river.

In slide #10, I cut a dress shape with jagged lines and glued it to the surface that represents the water. The brown and black bands on either side are intended to evoke the texture of mud mixed with mesquite. I pressed monoprint images into the paper and the fabric. I placed one translucent layer over another. I covered sections of the monoprint with (real) lace and chiffon. Once reason I used these fabrics is so the viewer can see the printed and pressed images underneath. Instead of creating illusions of space receding towards a horizon line, I prefer to use a shallow skin with images pushing themselves out of it. This dress is desperately trying to save itself. The scene is agitated and I arranged the materials over each other in a way I hoped would create that sensibility.

In slide #11, the mood is calm but the veil and dress that figured so importantly in the previous piece appear again in this one. The veil and the dress are floating down the river as the water rises and covers the Hotel Flores. I envisioned two thirteen-year-old girls by the edge of riverbanks, gossiping about the boys they met at a dance that evening—not in those days. Through the medium of collage, I can create abstract landscapes, rivers, and figures that are real and imaginary. These images are about emotion and I want the emotion to be looking you in the face.

My influences in art—

As a child, I often traveled with my family to visit cousins in Mexico City. We almost always went by car or train, so I could watch through the window as the color and textures changed. The first art in my experience was not in museums, but in Mexico's cathedrals and monasteries, street corners and traffic circles, and in pre-Columbian ruins. I learned my first lessons in Mexican history from the murals of Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco. Throughout the Guerrero Viejo series, I referred to collages by Pablo Picasso, Persian battle and adventure paintings, and my mother's letters of the dances at the Hotel Flores.