Something that I lived

The 9.99 Gallery has the honor of presenting again the work of the artist Isabel Ruiz, this time in the Project Room. It is a selection of works on paper belonging to different periods of her production titled “Something that I lived.”


It was in the eighties with engraving that Isabel Ruiz began to study art at the Universidad Popular; and later, she worked on painting and performance as well. However, she has never ceased to call herself an artist who draws, for in engraving, which interests her the most is precisely the first sketch—the drawing—, that design that captures the first emotion, the first idea. Each of her works responds to something that she has lived, especially the events of misfortune and distress of her day, so each piece is a refuge where Isabel opens up and is sincere and finds healing and a space for catharsis. “All my work is about how to create something appealing out of horror,” says the artist.


In works like “Te espero” (I’ll wait for you, 2010) and “Se me hizo tarde” (I’m late, 2010), from the series Fluídos Urbanos (Urban fluids), the artist’s obsession with both the engraving process and her country’s social reality becomes apparent; for even though her work is considered far more poetic and personal, it never moves away from being critical: an interesting dialogue that generates parallels with the production of the Mexican artist Teresa Margolles.


The works mentioned above are based on pictures of bus driver killings in Guatemala City that Isabel found in newspaper photographs and television. From these images, what she rescues is the blood spots that appear on the scenes. She saw them as drawings. These, later became marks on a canvas like graphic abstractions of a violent and cynical event.


The literary is also an element that never abandons her work, so the triptych tells anonymous stories with phrases alluding to what these bus drivers may have said or heard before their imminent end. The last picture in each one of the triptychs is the documentation of these drawings placed in downtown storefronts to be found by pedestrians as stories on display that are not alien to us in the street.


Isabel was part of “Imaginaria” in the eighties, a group of artists that served as a place to experiment and formulate ideas about the role of art in its social context. But for her, her work transcends the local; it speaks of pain, loss,


violence, and universal horror. Her work is a personal proof that pain can become a metaphor. Thus, pieces such as “Homenaje” (Tribute, 1982) are real references to her life and times. “Homenaje” is an engraving of the early eighties, dedicated to her cousin, a doctor without borders disappeared by the Honduran army in 1982. His body was found inside an empty tree trunk, and that story, like many others, never left her memory. That is why branches grow out of the figure, as if “the body was multiplying in nature,” and the head in profile sticks out his tongue to a square coffin, as is the world in which we live. At the same time, the etching is the color of memories: a sepia illustrating the passage of time and remembrance; it was used as the front cover for the book “Señores bajo los árboles” (Lords under the trees, 1994) by Mario Roberto Morales, published by Editorial Cultura.


Isabel’s critical awareness is also reflected in the “Gráficas de emergencia” (Engravings of Emergency, 1982–1996) series. Here the artist presents us with characters that seem beasts. These are not just creatures, but representations of social ills such as fear, greed, or the same political figures who appear as underworld figures or dancing bulls who tell local stories and traditions. “I see a society full of monsters,” says the artist. So Isabel, without timidity, but never from a political propaganda position, invites us to reflect on a social emergency, and for that she starts from a context that has not changed in its entirety, but that continues rooted in an ancient identity that uses dance, music, and visual arts as a means of personal healing that also serves to communicate, record, and report its history. “I do not work without the basis of something real,” says the artist. “Everything I do, I work on it because it responds to something I experienced, but that anyone can live too,” so this Project Room is a journey not only through her work but also her life.