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The Muses



Who really belongs to oneself? Not even time has denied the unscathed step that prevents it from staying. It just gets carried away and happens. Perhaps we could think of the foam crawling the beach, blurring in sweet caress the fine thread of existence that becomes one, a single journey; turning from the shades of the swinging that breaks in waves, the good desire to look for the craving of being. Where I am is where I exist.  

   Thus, nothing is totally owned by anyone, nor has it ever been. At birth we inhabit an unpostponable wink. A sigh that means the great opportunity to be one, to mutate into the moves of a cry so plural to the invader inspiration, once acknowledged. That which is true is disposed to the feet of the whole world, the soul with which one looks, the memory without a tendency to forget its plots. One isn’t what it’s been seen, one has seen what it is.

   Irene Cruz invites us to look from the deep within, right from the edge of silent phrases she translates through her muses, the well-known figures. Authors of an inspirational breeze turned into friends. They all gather together and mark a precept of becoming the same delicate identity. It is the name given to all, silky skin in the flesh with the right dress, and their favorite flowers resting on the linings that scarcely delimit their earthly body, from a landscape filled with bluish haze and colors of rare hours, at the eternal autumnal forest. They make one feel the sweetness of the perfume that bathes them and slides down their neck, binds the limbs with carelessness or rests on the preferred turns of desire; crowning their hair or waiting for the next movements, foreign to any fear.

  Epitome of a muse are the muses alike. The task is simple: to heighten the desire of perpetuating the immensity of the environment of an artist, who will dedicate to see beyond everything and freeze moments in contexts that do not expire. The thrill of thinking within the refuge of truth.

 Creation in pursuit of being as far as life can reach. If one understands that to look does not obey to clear notes, first sights and facades, each image of the glitter presented by Irene gives us her reflection: the impulse to leave portions of the soul-artist in each one of her shots. For it is well known that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, Irene portrays her muses without a face capable of returning that audacious stare to the longing spectator. So, the cycle cannot be broken (perhaps), and prevents from delving into distractions. It might be a good chance to think that she would do so to make clear that this dissected moment is the world that inspires her, the world she sees on daily basis and implies new creationist overturns.


It is the world to which she adheres to, so the urgency of showing beauty without shelter never leaves. That world is the one she looks at. That world is all her through a lens, and on this fragile line she dedicates her career to reinterpreting silences, to dress quiet nudity with the flowers of a life, to imitate herself in the figures of women who walk beside her for the fortune of meeting each other; raising natures, giving a well-deserved treatment to the consciousness of the body, to the whisper of the earth and the embrace of a tree; to the water that despairs to take its channel in time.


    Words are revealed as an alluring relief converging in calm. Because trying to solve the few encounters throughout these years with the passion revealed, shortens within distance. Perhaps we all are them, the muses renamed in images of candles that once pointed the path to poetry, or whatever these letters seem to mean. Let that be the only truth: not knowing how to stand still and put on the whole ground as a shoe, or belong to the time that means beauty.


Christian Chávez Plascencia

My dear imaginary friend

The Muses - Photobook 

February 2017


Photographs/ Fotografías: Irene Cruz

Prologue/ Prólogo: Christian Chávez Plascencia

Translation/ Traducción: Christian Chávez Plascencia & Juan Yuste

Languages/ Idiomas: Spanish + English



Under the title, The Muses, Irene Cruz gathers a series of images in which, she captures women with whom she has crossed paths over the years and that, in some way, she drew inspiration from. And this way to photography them is, to say the least, interesting: she asks them to craft a performance art piece outdoors and takes pictures of them, creating authentic visual records of their actions, just as natural as they are poetic. 


Naiara Valdano




The photographs of Irene Cruz (Madrid, 1987) weave stories ranging from documentation to fabulation. The body, nature and light together forge a poetic that seeks to seduce and destabilize the viewer equally. The fragile balance between the premeditated and the unexpected functions as an essential spring of a visual work that, far from offering finished stories, proposes scenes that only give rise to speculation, the unknown and doubt. It is not, however, a strategy of concealing the essential meaning of the image, but a commitment to the semantic capital gains offered by working with the reverse of the obvious.  

Most of Irene Cruz's work is structured through series that unify content, although they in turn establish complicit nods between them. Her latest work, under the title "The Muses", maintains the link between nature and female body that we find in other projects of the artist. However, perhaps we are in one of Irene Cruz's most outstanding proposals, capable of combining an exquisite aesthetic modulation of the image with a coherent performative development: the artist seeks women who are or have been close to her affective circle, invites them to total nudity and, located in nature, weeds on her body a slight mantle of flowers chosen by the model itself. With this containment of expressive resources and a high narrative potential, the artist manages to make the fabulation pure enjoyment while the eloquence of the pose and the calm gestures seem to become a metaphor for the desire to live according to the norms themselves. In this way, in the face of the traditional idea of the muses and the male gaze who has historically built them, those shown to us by Irene Cruz insist on being the builders of their own fantasies themselves. 

A nomadic creator, located in a constant international movement that has in Madrid and Berlin its main nuclei of residence and work, Irene Cruz displaces in her images the density of the metropolis and returns to a nature in which the human being is not an outside that observes, but a reality rooted in the inhabited space itself.  In this series, the body is also transformed into a fertile territory where the conflicts of subjectivity are expressed and which, in addition, is positioned as an area of counter-hegemonic resistance. Irene Cruz's muses do not show her face to the camera but, rather than a concealment strategy, it is a deliberate poetic escape that places the symbolic seat of identity in the arcadian union of body and nature.

Carlos Delgado

“Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world”. 

Arnold Newman (1918 – 2006).


Muses... What a poetic and mysterious profession! This was the name given to the women who, according to Greek mythology, were capable of inspiring the chords of a song, the verses of a poem or the brushstrokes of a work of art. Although some considered them to be nymphs, many saw them as true divinities who had to be showered with favours and gifts in order to obtain their help. These goddess-muses retained their power for centuries and numerous legends grew up around them, until a time when the earthly world began to gain ground. Gradually, more contemporary artists began to forget these divinities in order to seek inspiration much closer to them. The muses ceased to be divine and became wives, lovers, neighbours, friends, more earthly, more tangible, closer people. Many realised that "the best muse is the one in flesh and blood", as Rubén Darío himself said.  

The photographer Irene Cruz (Madrid, 1987) seems to have followed the philosophy of the Nicaraguan poet and his contemporaries in her latest photographic project in a subtle and sublime, almost magical way. Under the title Las Musas (The Muses), the artist brings together a series of images in which she portrays some of the women who have crossed her path in her life and who have been, in some way, inspirational. And the way she portrays them is, to say the least, interesting: Irene invites these women to perform in the open air and photographs them at that moment, creating authentic visual records of their actions that are as natural as they are poetic.  


The artist thus manages to create portraits in which she pays homage to the importance (and carnality) of her muses while maintaining, without a doubt, her very characteristic personal universe. In fact, in this series, as in Mär, What Dreams Are Made Of, Heimat or Urlaub, one breathes that dreamlike, bucolic and unreal atmosphere so frequent in all her production. Thanks to that surrealist air that permeates every corner, the photographs remind us of those imprecise, blurred and diffuse seconds that we sometimes reach in dreams. Inevitably we are transported to a world in which reality and fiction, memory and present, life and dream are intermingled... a world that is somehow familiar to us, but at the same time so mysterious and distant. As in dreams, we know that at any moment all that is before our eyes can vanish, fade or wither away until the next night. 


All that mystery, all that utopia, is achieved thanks to two fundamental elements in Irene's world. Firstly, it is important to mention that almost cinematographic control of light, that light of dawn or dusk that the artist is able to capture so easily in all her photographic series. It is a light that becomes another emotional element, an element that helps us to feel and teleport us to a dream world halfway between reality and fiction. In The Muses, as in the rest of his works, there is a light that is so plastic and malleable, so real and so distant, that it traps and distresses us.  

Secondly, in The Muses there are also those enigmatic blue and greenish landscapes that Irene usually chooses. They are familiar, recognisable scenes that we have come across before, but at the same time they seem like mirages or unattainable visions. They are landscapes where nature plays a special role and which, in some way, aim to make us feel melancholy and nostalgia, but also coldness, humidity and emptiness. As she herself says, "it is the place of mystery wrapped in the early evening or late afternoon. I appeal to the beholder, to their empathy. I feel an attraction to this kind of cold, empty, thought-provoking landscape. 


As in other projects (e.g. Habitat, Inner Tales or Stimmung), these landscapes present in The Muses are inhabited by almost phantasmagorical women. By undressing them and surrounding them with flowers, Irene confronts the very carnality of these women whose warm bodies contrast with the coldness that surrounds them. Even so, they do not lose their poetic, bucolic, dreamlike aura: they are not goddesses, they are women of flesh and blood, but they are capable of taking us beyond and making us dream. They remind me, in a certain way, of those women portrayed by Ellen Kooi or Amanda Charchian... real but timeless women, figures of flesh and blood who seem not to age, not to diminish, not to disappear after having been portrayed at the right moment. 

They are women without a face or identity who, in some way, confront their loneliness and their desire, their melancholy and their vulnerability. On this occasion Irene avoids putting herself in front of the camera (as she has so often done) so as not to personalise all the emotions in her own figure, but even so these images are still somewhat autobiographical: the artist shows us, even if she doesn't want to, her own vulnerability through other women. They are her muses, after all, represented by old friends and acquaintances who have shared stories, secrets and details with her. 


Irene herself reflects on this in the following words: "they always say that we photographers use the people we photograph to make a mirror of ourselves, or rather, that we photograph ourselves through our models, and I think that this idea cannot be completely broken". But despite this unquestionable connection between the creator and her muses, there is something very curious in this series: while in other works (such as Blumen) the models were simply doubles of the artist herself without their own voice, in Las Musas the portrayed have been able to vote and give their opinion on the final result. The models themselves are, in fact, the ones who have decided which flowers should decorate their bodies, which parts of the body they wanted to show and, on some occasions, with which poses they wanted to appear. And the reason for this change is simple: as Irene explains, "what this series wants is to break with the idea of the classic muse at the service of the artist or photographer". She wanted to get rid of the image of these models-objects without a voice of their own, without opinion or choice, who seem inactive and indifferent. Although this series undoubtedly presents Irene's inner universe, the models have directed the images as much as the artist, presenting her voice, her tastes and her interests.  


But there is something else that at first glance may escape us: these images not only show the artist's autobiographical air and the muses' small freedom, but also our own reflection. Many of the women portrayed in The Muses are faceless, they are not individualised, making all of us viewers go further and identify with them. Irene manages to make each one of us recognise our own muses, our friends, our influences and even ourselves. 


Irene's talent and sensitivity allows, in a way, to make us voyeurs and protagonists, spectators and portrayed, increasing the mystery and the enigma. Perhaps this mystery has been the key to why the Madrid-born artist was recently named the most internationally renowned emerging artist by the Why On White platform. She's a wonder who, without a doubt, we must follow the trail to see where she takes us and if those muses that accompany her help her to continue surprising us.

Naiara Valdano




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