Spanish photographer Linarejos Moreno is at a slight disadvantage when discussing her research project at Rice University: She can't say the word "ruins." It comes out sounding like "wings" or "ewing," anything but "ruins." Normally, that wouldn't be a problem for most artists; it's just one word, after all. The trouble is that ruins are the focus of her dissertation. "It's the theme of my PhD," she tells us in a lilting accent, "but I never say it correctly. I try and try, but I can't."
Moreno moved to Houston a year and a half ago along with her husband, who was relocating here for business. There was some flexibility about exactly where in the United States the couple would land, and Moreno chose Houston because of its lively photography scene. "Both FotoFest and the Museum of Fine Arts, [Houston] are here. That's what attracted me." Once she was here, she was awarded a Fulbright grant to do research at Rice University. She's focused on the ideas of loss and absence, hence the images of ruins in her work.
What She Does: "I'm artist," she says simply, dropping the "an" as she speaks. "I make photography, but I am artist. Right now I am also making research at the university, but I am artist."
Moreno uses her photography, much of which is large-scaled, as the basis for installations. During ''Tejiendo los restos del naufragio/Weaving the Remains of the Shipwreck -- Photography by Linarejos Moreno,'' a recent exhibit at De Santos Gallery, Moreno exhibited oversized photographic images printed onto burlap she had made by hand. "It takes me one month to make the burlap for each one." There were also installations which incorporated string, fabric and prints. The show was very well received, and prompted gallery owner Gemma de Santos to say, "I never saw anything like this until I saw her work. This kind of work is pretty new to the city, actually.''
Why She Likes It: Moreno says there are several distinct activities involved in creating her art, some of them requiring a lot of interaction, some of them solitary. "I need both things, to interact with people and to be alone."
She was a painter before she became a photographer and she says she photographs in a very painterly way. "When I make the photographs, the way I work is very cinematographic. I find the places I like, then I find a project I would like to do in that space. Then I look for the people who are related to those spaces. That's an adventure, to uncover the history of that place and the people who were there, the memory of real buildings and spaces that have disappeared."
Preparing her prints of those images is a very solitary activity. "When I'm preparing the canvases in the studio, it's very relaxing, meditative. I'm putting white over white, over and over. Then, when I am installing, that is always very busy and never the same as the time before. There are lots of elements; there are the photographs, the burlap, the gallery also has its own energy, its own history. Installing is like being a symphony conductor, finally putting all of the different elements together."
What Inspires Her: "Memory inspires me. When I find a place where people have lived and worked, it's like finding their footprints because they leave part of themselves behind. For me, that's very exciting."
It takes Moreno one or two years to go from idea to exhibit, so the things she's seen in Texas haven't had enough time to fully mature in her work. "I've encountered important ideas and subjects since I've been here, but I won't start to work on them until next year. I'm still finishing up my work from Spain."
If Not This, Then What: "That's very difficult. Being an artist, it's like being born to be that and just that. I think being an artist can be very difficult sometimes, but it would be more difficult for me to have a job where someone else would be telling me what to do. I think really, it would be impossible for me to do something else, but if I had to, maybe I would create museum exhibits."
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If Not Here, Then Where: "I would live in Andalusia. I'm from Madrid, but my family is from Andalusia. To me that's the most wonderful place in the world. I've created a lot of my work there less than 20 kilometers from my parents' home, which is very funny because I've lived in a lot of places. It might not be where I was born, but it's the place I come home to."
What's Next: "I'm going to be working on the Freedman Home project, in the Bronx. It's going to be rehabilitated and I want to capture that process. And also my thesis at Rice, it's a lot of work."
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