collectors that her work is “cutting-edge.” She is excited that the paintings are getting national attention, and is glad collectors have already bought a few pieces from the Guerrero Viejo series in advance of her upcoming show. But creating a stir is not the purpose of her work. In fact, she has been reluctant even to give interviews. “I don’t like to talk a lot about what I am doing, because overanalyzing and explaining myself cuts me off from my creativity. I lose my intuitive momentum. If people are on the right wavelength they’ll get what I’m doing without a lot of explaining.” Although Gruben raised two daughters in Dallas with her husband William \(an of her adult life in the city, her paintings derive exclusively from life along the border. They draw primarily upon her childhood experiences in Laredo, as the daughter of the sheriff of Webb County. She acknowledges that she may be the only artist painting on the currently popular topic of Guerrero Viejo, but she bristles at the notion that her work is “trendy.” To her this series fell together naturally, out of her own heritage. “I almost feel guided to do this,” she says, and she believes there is a spiritual side to everything she paints. Marilu Flores Gruben is most pleased that the wider world is finally taking notice that the Falcon Reservoir was not a blessing for everyoneand she intends to leave her own unique documentation of what happened to Guerrero Viejo, the city of her ancestors. Marilu Flores Gruben’s Guerrero Viejo series will be shown in part in a sevenwoman exhibit opening at the Conduit Gallery in Dallas on May 11, with plans for a full showing this fall. She was one of five Texans represented in “Encounters,” an international exhibition in the Jansen Perez Gallery in Los Angeles. Her work has also been shown in the Galeria Arte, A.C., in Monterrey, and one of the Guerrero paintings is in the permanent collection at Eastfield Community College in Texas. Gruben also teaches art at the Greenhill School in Dallas. Claudia Loewenstein is a freelance writer based in Dallas. Haunting, Mystical, Quiet A Fragmentary Portrait in Light and Voices BY LOUIS DUBOSE GUERRERO VIEJO. By Elena Poniatowska and Richard Payne. Houston: Anchorage Press. 91 pages. $55.00. 1 ” f a dam could be built, why not a levee?” Richard Payne asks in the introduction to photo essay of forty-nine prints that documents what remains of Guerrero Viejo, Tamaulipas. Payne went to the Mexican colonial city, abandoned since it was partially flooded by the impounded Rio Grande in 1953, and took his pictures “alone, in an atmosphere haunting, mystical, and deathly quiet.” There is undoubtedly a mystical quality to many of the black-and-white prints he selected to publish, beginning with the haunting eyes staring out of the whitewashed face of a fractured statue of Christ and ending with a nostalgic look through the front and back archways of a colonial houseas much a lingering, loving glance into the past as a photograph. Payne’s photographs are intimate. Some are executed in miniature: a closeup of a weathered wooden cross that lies over the grave where it once stood; a fragment of a stone architrave lying in front of the dilapidated building that once supported it; pans hanging on the wall of a kitchen abandoned forty-four years ago. Others are compositions on larger canvases, like his haunting two-page portrait of the faade of Guergero’s colonial baroque church. And Payne’s sense of composition is extraordinary, as is his understanding of the artistic possibilities found in very limited natural light. Payne, a master architectural photographer from Houston, also photographed the town’s last remaining residents: Dona Julia Zamora Villarreal, a resolute octogenarian framed by the post and lintel of her stone house; and Eulogio Medeles Hernandez, a bronzed and handsome goatherd sitting on a tire in front of his stone house. Together, the photographs create some sense of what the town, founded in 1751, must have been in 1953, when four thousand guerrerenses walked to the cemetery to say a final goodbye to their dead, stood in the municipal plaza as the Mexican flag was lowered for the last time, then moved on to the architecturally barren wood and cinderblock of Ciudad Mier, Nuevo Guerrero, and Miguel Aleman. The bilingual text accompanying the photos was written by Elena Poniatowska. Poniatowska, a journalist 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 25, 1997
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.