The Duality of the Cosmos: Water and its Landscapes

Interview of Guadalupe Aguilar by Ernestina Yépiz, translation by Dianne Hofner Saphiere

This article first appeared in Spanish in the online magazine Fogones: La poética del paladarI share this translation here because Guadalupe is a terrific local artist whose work I much admire. I encourage VidaMaz readers to get to know her work. Guadalupe also makes and sells kombucha here in town.

The installation in Culiacán Photos by the artist

The work of Guadalupe Aguilar, together with and in each of the creations that compose it—which in each one is complete also—establish a dialogue, almost an intimate conversation, with the landscape, poetry, writing, the creative process and creation itself. In this context her artistic vision is to permit yourself to be touched by the subtle, experiment the sublime and get a hold of the ungraspable: that which is so fleeting that we can only feel it and make it our own at the instant or sum of moments of the aesthetic experience.

Guadalupe Aguilar holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and a Master’s in Art History from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of UNAM. Her creative production has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In her work as a contemporary artist she explore the relationship between art and nature; she does the same with philosophy and poetry. In her work she uses forms of expression and manifestation including installations, video, weaving, writing, drawing and sculpture.

Several exhibitions stand out in her artistic career: Über das gluck or The way of the possible, at the Cultural Institute of Mexico in Austria in 2005; The water in a thread in the Kunsthalle Krems, Austria in 2006; Words in flight, in La sala Naranja in Valencia, Spain in 2007; in 2008 Agudeza or Acuity at the Huuto Gallery in Helsinski, Finland; Inverted shipwreck in Culiacán, in 2011; Filiform Suns in the Contemporary Gallery at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana in Mexico City in 2012; Armonía or Harmony in the Gaals, in Culiacán, Sinaloa in 2016; Rangoli-Solitaire in Mysore, India in 2016.

Currently, in one of the galleries of the Museum of Art of Sinaloa, Guadalupe Aguilar is exhibiting Azul profundo or Deep Blue, a sculptural piece in which she dialogues with the marine watercolors and drawings of Maestro Edgardo Coghlan. That very intimate conversation is the theme of this interview. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

What sparked the idea of creating Deep Blue?
It all started with my reflections and readings on our inner consciousness of time, precepts taken from the philosophy of Edmund Hüsserl, primarily. The idea initially was to make a cut in the surface of the sea, with the aim of detaining the incessant coming and going of the sea’s dermis, but not it an image but rather in an object, and that is how the piece came to be. I now live so close to the ocean that these past two years I have reflected on the infinity of its surface and all it holds.

The environment and the landscape always influence.
Yes, although if I go a bit further back, I believe this idea began to germinate in my mind in 2006 or 2007, when I lived in front of a mighty river. The movement of the current got me to thinking about the fleetingness of nature and its ephemeral forms. So, I captured these thoughts in a video and sculpture. The project was titled, El agua en un hiloThe water in a thread, and it was comprised of two reticular cuts in the flow of the current, where the common thread between the two pieces, the video and the sculpture, is the Danube, in a cube and in pixels.

Certainly, contemplating the water in a thread leads us to the abstraction of thinking about the flow of time.
Yes, both pieces pose an exercise around the idea of time and invite us to think about the present, the result equates the internal weight of the past and the future. The here and now.

Why did you choose the Masin (Museum of Art of Sinaloa) for the Deep Blue exhibition?
In 2011 I exhibited the Otra forma or Other Form there, a piece measuring two square meters and consisting of a grid of pins as a support for geometric parts of the plant world. There I saw for the first time the marinas that Master Edgardo Coghlan made, which tour part of the Sinaloan landscape and geography. Since then, I have dialogued with his work and Deep Blue is the result of that conversation. I consider, moreover, that it is important to explore the Sinaloan landscape, which during this long confinement has been denied to us. It is a good moment to revalue our environment and promote its care.

Does Deep Blue mark a distance from your previous work? I ask not in a conceptual or thematic way, but rather for the type of materials you utilized: paraffin, crystal, metal, steels cables and LED lamps.
Distance in the sense of moving away from, no. I actually think that I always repeat myself, including with the type of materials. In addition to the piece described in question one, that corresponds to an installation exhibited in Kunsthalle de Krems, Austria in 2006, I’ve also made drops of resin and clung to the idea of stopping the path of the water drops. Once I made rain with needles and other times sculptures of resin or paraffin. The drops of resin were never exhibited, but the persistent rain of needles was part of the Soles filiformes exhibition which took place in the Contemporary Gallery of the Cloister of Sor Juana.

I had the opportunity to see your poetic-conceptual, visual and auditory proposal. I remember you used paraffin. A lot of time has passed since then.
Yes, quite a bit, I believe; it was in 2012.

What was the last exhibition you had prior to Deep Blue?
I believe Deep Blue is an obvious continuation of the exhibition mounted just a few months ago in Bauprés Gallery in Mazatlán, which included objects that detain the fugitive forms of the landscape surrounding my Mazatlecan habitat. That exhibit was entitled The Permanence of the Ephemeral.

What artistic projects are you currently working on?
A huge imprint of the tormented sea and on stopping the mind.

Must-See Secret in Vegas

James-Turrell-Las-Vegas

Photo from Turrell’s website

If you happen to travel through Las Vegas you really need to see Akhob, an incredible light art installation by the renowned James Turrell. Photographers, designers—anyone who works with light and color—as well as anyone interested in perception, psychology, brain science or spirituality will delight in this space. It is amazing, completely immersive and otherworldly, and it’s free. But you will need a reservation—only six people at a time are permitted into the installation every half hour.

Photography is not permitted once you’ve entered Akhob, so photos in this post are borrowed from the Internet—if they are yours please let me know so I can credit you! Two-dimensional photography does not do justice to this multi-sensory experience that bathes the visitor in gentle yet vibrantly colored light. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

First you enter a very dark reception room, designed to let your eyes calm and adjust. Two attendants dressed in white provide brief instructions such as don’t touch the walls (they stain easily), no food or drink, no photography, and ask you to sign a three-page release of liability form.

From there you walk down a dark corridor to a foyer at the base of a staircase. There is a round portal at the top of the staircase, making it seem like the entrance to a temple. Six chairs along the wall, three at either end, are where you will leave your belongings and remove your shoes, putting disposable shoe covers on your feet.

One at a time, you will be asked to ascend the stairs—there is no handrail—and enter the installation. One attendant goes first, and the second brings up the rear. Each person can begin going up once the last person has stepped over the portal. It’s eerie entering the chamber, hard to see the step into the portal, and hard to know how deep the step over is.

Once inside the portal the floor is flat (though it did feel angled), so walking around is easy. There are three chambers, Turrell calls them “ganzfelds” or “light fields,” each with a circular passage connecting it to the other. At the far end you look into the third chamber: a drop off into what seems to be a void. Of course no one may step beyond the second chamber. There is a sensor in place that, we were told, is hooked up to an alarm, to prevent people from falling.

Most people seem drawn to that second chamber, from which you marvel looking into the third. Subtly changing colors of blue, green, pink, red, orange, purple and yellow envelop you in the illusion of fog, provide you the experience of flying or floating, of peace and stillness, of being in the womb, in heaven or in space. Walls, floors and ceilings disappear and reappear; space and distance bend and blend. It is disorienting and liberating, relaxing and energizing. For me the experience was very much like meditation.

The color comes, apparently, from three places. Inside the round doorways of the first two chambers are circular lines of light that change color, while there is also an unseen light source from the third chamber. They blend together seamlessly to make edges and distinctions disappear.

From that second chamber you can also look back on the first. I would have sworn that the door at the top of the stairs, the one through which we entered, was closed. It was black and flat, locked off. But when I approached it to verify, it was, indeed, still open. I could see the stairway, the chairs and our worldly goods below, right where we had left them.

W Magazine describes Akhobin this way:

“For decades Turrell has created meticulous environments where the interplay of light and space renders basic perception a transcendental experience. Monumentalized as a master of quietude and subtlety, his work is surprisingly at home in Sin City. As a neon playground awash in a sea of nothingness, the extreme juxtaposition of barren beauty and unchecked consumerism affords his destabilizing projects maximum impact on over-stimulated tourists.”

Visitors are requested to maintain silence inside Akhob. The silence and stillness are a powerful aspect of the experience. You will be standing the entire time; I can see that chairs would ruin the visual cleanliness, and staying mobile adds to the full experience.

You’ll find Akhobon the upper level of the Louis Vitton store at Crystals at City Center—very private and secret. To make a reservation, call (702) 730-3150. Address is 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S. NOTE: Reservations are normally booked six to eight weeks ahead, but they do have occasional openings if you’re lucky. They are open Thursday through Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Children under age 15 are not allowed.

We had seen and enjoyed another Turrell installation, The Way of Color, one of his numerous Skyspaces, at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas a couple of years ago. Akhobwas night and day better. While the Skyspace plays with your perception and is fascinating, Akhobfeels much more transcendental, transporting your mind and spirit to other realms.

If you can’t get in to see Akhob, you can view another Turrell exhibit at Crystals, built into the ceiling of the monorail platform. You can view the rotating light on the platform itself, or from inside the shopping center through the geometric Libeskind oculi that are cut into the walls.

As for me, the next place I want to go is Roden Crater, once it opens, located in the Painted Desert of northern Arizona where I grew up. Turrell is transforming this cinder crater into a light, color and sky-viewing space reminiscent of the ancients but updated with modern technology.