Marina Cruz’s latest one-woman exhibit, Forget Me Not, feature 11 portrait paintings in oil. The portraits are based on photographs that were obtained in old furniture stores and antique shops in Bulacan. The photographs date as far back as the 1920s-1950s. “I am interested in looking at old photographs, [examining] the gaze of the person, serious, enigmatic, and mysterious.”
Cruz says Forget Me Not is a continuation of her 2008 series, “Lest you forget.” After doing paintings on home interior spaces Home is the place that you will leave (2009) and dresses Un/Fold (2009), she decided to go back to capturing people’s most intimate expressions. Before, she drew inspirations from personal photographs, including those of family members, like she did in Kambal (2005) and Recollections (2008). Cruz notes, “Now, I removed myself [from the picture], and depicted a more general view of a portrait. These paintings offer somewhat glimpses of someone’s personal history, though already lost in context. Now it is re-presented, re-captured, and re-interpreted.”
Cruz recreates such early 20th century portraits in “Angelita’s First Communion,” whose title was lifted from a note written at the back of the photo; “Three Young Ladies in Cavite,” in reference to a photo studio in Imus, Cavite; and “Uno Ano Nino,” which got its title from the note at the back of the photo, saying that the child was then one year and two months old.
For her, the biggest challenge was “to capture not the image of the person, but the aura and the gaze.” Time, too, was crucial, as she waited for the oil on the canvas to dry before applying other techniques, such as glazing with a tinge of umber.
Such fascination with the past can be traced to a fond childhood memory that she can recall as if it were yesterday: Cruz was about to turn four years old, and her grandfather told her he had a special present for her. She remembers being so excited she could not sleep that night. The next morning, however, her grandfather died, and she never got to see what her grandfather intended to give her. “That instance, I think, made me curious about discovering, excavating, looking at cabinets, objects, dresses, photos…that became my inspirations in my art-making.”