Irene Cruz: Muses inspire her Universe
Text by Naiara Valdano
“Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world.”- Arnold Newman
Muses… What a poetic and mysterious job! Women those, according to Greek mythology, could inspire chords of a song, verses of a poem or brushstrokes of a painting. Even if some people considered them nymphs, many saw in them deities, to whom one should devote with favors and gifts to have their help. These goddesses-muses kept their power over the centuries and numerous legends about them originated until the earthly world gained more prominence. Shortly after, the more contemporary artists slowly forgot about them to seek inspiration a bit closer. Muses were not deities anymore, so they became wives, lovers, neighbors, friends, and people, more tangible and relatable. Many realized that “The best muses are flesh and bone!” just like Rubén Darío himself asserted.
The artist and photographer Irene Cruz (Madrid, 1987) might as well have followed the Nicaraguan poet and his contemporaries in her latest project in a subtle and sublime format, almost magical. Under the title, The Muses, the artist gathers a series of images in which she captures women with whom she has crossed paths over the years and that, in some way, she drew inspiration from. And this way to photograph them is, to say the least, interesting: she asks them to craft a performance art piece outdoors and takes pictures of them, creating authentic visual records of their actions, just as natural as they are poetic.
Thus, the artist creates portraits to pay homage to the importance (and carnality) of her muses, while keeping her trademark visual style and personal universe. In fact, in this new series, just like in her previous Mär, What Dreams Are Made Of, Heimat or Urlaub, one can clearly feel that dreamy, bucolic and surreal atmosphere that covers every corner. Her pictures remind us of those imprecise, blurry and confusing seconds we sometimes find within our dreams. We are unavoidably drained towards the world in which reality and fiction merge, memories and the present time, life and dreams, etc. A world which, somehow, seems familiar but feels mysterious and distant. Just like a dream, we know that everything before our eyes can vanish and perish any time, that is, until the next night-time.
All of this mystery, the utopia, is reached by means of two fundamentals in Cruz’s inner world. First, it is important to mention the almost cinematographic use of natural lighting; that sunset or sunrise dim light that the artist excels at capturing with such ease in all of her photography series. A light that becomes another emotional element; one that gets us to feel something and teleports us to the aforementioned world between real life and stories. In The Muses, just like in the rest of her œuvre, that aesthetic and malleable light appears to engulf and overwhelm us.
Second, in The Muses, those enigmatic blue-greenish landscapes also come to be visible. These familiar scenarii we have seen before, also feel like a mirage, unattainable visions. Landscapes, where nature has a special place, want to somehow make us feel nostalgic and melancholic, but also a cool, damp void. Citing the artist: “It is a place of mystery, covering the early night-time or late dawn. I summon the empathy of those staring at it. I feel attracted to those empty cold landscapes that get us to reflect.”
Just like in other projects (e.g. Habitat, Inner Tales or Stimmung), the landscapes present in The Muses are inhabited by these ghostly women. Stripping off their clothes and surrounding them with flowers, Cruz faces the carnality of women whose warm colored bodies contrast their cool surroundings. Even then, they do not lose their poetic, bucolic and dreamy aura: they are not goddesses, they are flesh and bone women, but they can take us further and beyond, get us dreaming. They somehow remind me of the women captured by Ellen Kooi or Amanda Charchian, i.e. real women, but out of this time, earthly figures that seem to never age, shrink or disappear after being photographed at the right moment.
Women without a face, without identity, that embrace their loneliness and wishes, their longing and vulnerability. In this occasion, Cruz avoids getting in front of the camera (just like she has done frequently before) to escape personalizing all these emotions into her own figure. But still, these images cannot help but be quite autobiographical: the artist projects, without intention, her own vulnerability through these women. They are her muses, after all, represented by childhood friends and acquaintances with whom she shared stories, secrets and little details.
Cruz herself also reflects on this: “It is said we photographers use people we take pictures of as mirrors images of ourselves, or even better, that we photograph ourselves through the models, and I think this is something we can never fully break through.” But in spite of that unarguable connection between the artist and her muses, there is something curious in this particular work. While in her previous series, such as Blumen, the models are voiceless body doubles for the artist, in The Muses, the subjects have been able to weigh and decide on the final results. It is the models themselves who decided which flowers they would use to ornament their bodies, which body parts they wished to show and the poses they wanted to perform. The reason behind this change is simple, as the artist stated: “This series wants to smash the notion of the classical muse, whose only duty is to serve the artist.” Thus, she has achieved to leave behind that image of models- objects without a voice, without a choice, that look inert or uninterested. Even though this series represents Irene Cruz’s inner universe, the models have decided upon the direction of the pictures, having an opinion, a voice, and personal interests.
But there is something else that we can easily overlook: these images portray not only the biographical side of the artist and the freedom of the muses but also our own reflection. Many of the women in The Muses are faceless, they are not individualized, taking us beyond to identify ourselves with or within them. Cruz makes each one of us recognize ourselves in them, our own muses, our own friends, our influences.
The talent and sensitivity Cruz possesses, allows us to become viewers and protagonists simultaneously, magnifying the mystery and the enigma. Maybe that mystery is the key reason this Madrid-born woman was chosen as the most prominent emerging artist by the online platform Why on White. A force to reckon with, we should keep track of to find where she will take us next, and to see if those muses help her to keep amazing us.
Irene Cruz (Madrid. 1987) is a photographer and video-artist, living and working in Berlin. She studied Advertisement & Public Relations and Audiovisual Communication at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. After this, she took part in the International Masters at EFTI, specializing in Conceptual Photography and Artistic Creation, and in the course Narrative effects of light (Cinema Photography Direction). Light is a very important part of her work, which makes her explore and experiment in the Northern Europe countries. Irene has taken part in over 300 international exhibitions and festivals (at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Project Art Space, NYC; Kunsthalle and Deutsche Oper, Berlin; and the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, to mention a few). Her work was also exhibited at international Art Fairs such as ARCO and Art Madrid, Positions Berlin, and Art Basel. In April 2017, Irene was the invited artist of La Quatrième Image Art Fair in Paris. She has won several art prizes and was awarded by the International platform Elmur.net as the best video artist of 2014. Her artworks are part of major international art collections. You can find out more about Irene here.
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