Originally from Florida, Lauren Moya Ford grew up in Texas and recently moved to the city of Vigo in Galicia, the northwest region of Spain. Her exhibition New Hands on Old World Flowers is a comprehensive record and thoughtful reflection of her time spent in Spain. Her experiences there manifest themselves in the form of paintings, drawings, video, books, ceramics, quilts, and even performance. Ford’s book Passage reads like a travel journal—a series of observations that casually transform into poetic recollections, much like the exhibition as a whole.
The intimate environment created in the gallery is truly palpable. There are no artificial lights, only giant windows pasted with images cut out from books and magazines—reminiscent of an adolescent’s bedroom wall, or at least mine. The outside light shines through them to reveal the text on the opposite sides. There are several tables covered with globs of dry wax and full of small metal holes for candles that were once lit. The fresh flowers that sat in Ford’s handmade vessels during the opening reception are beginning to darken, droop, and dry up.
The perimeter of the gallery has been bisected by a horizontal line of brightly colored paintings, only interrupted by two cyanotype quilts that have been imprinted with the shadows of various leaves and flowers and are lined with bright orange fabric. Long strips of tacked-together fabric dangle from the ceiling, creating two long, skinny pillars, while three very tall wooden structures that look patched together with clay hold candles on top. The lovely clumsiness to these raw pillars and the exhibition as a whole (the unrefined ceramics, hand-sewn quilts, crudely cut pieces of paper) makes it all feel honest and human. In the center of the room are two long tables lined with several books, as well as a video wherein Ford goes through individual photographs, describing her memories associated with each capture.
“These are flowers that grew outside of the place where I worked. When it was springtime, we did a pagan festival where we covered the children with branches and flowers, and we paraded down the streets behind an old man playing the bagpipe.”
“This plant was growing all over the room of someone I loved. I tried to bring the light in by turning this curtain and twisting it and putting down a rock. I remember him complimenting me for that idea.”
“These plants were on a patio in a small town. We took a train to get there, and it was raining so much that when we looked out the window from the train it looked like we were floating on water.”
The film’s vantage point from above frames only the photographs piled on a wooden table and Ford’s hands shuffling them from either side. Her fingers trace the lines of the vines and stems and flowers as she recalls them. Similar images of hands reaching out to various plants recur throughout the exhibition.
Placing yourself within a foreign culture for a year, you will obviously learn a lot about that culture, but what Ford truly conveys in New Hands on Old World Flowers is what you learn about yourself in relation to that culture. An identity within the environment it was cultivated begins to bleed with those surroundings; however, when placed in a new environment, that identity can become quite isolated and insular. Every interaction and moment becomes punctuated by an alien reference. These moments are now bound to these new surroundings and in turn are sculpted by them.
Rebecca Marino is co-editor of Conflict of Interest. She also works as a visual artist and curator in Austin, TX. Marino is the gallery director at Pump Project, where Lauren Moya Ford exhibited in the 2015 Teen Artist + Mentor exhibition presented by The Contemporary Austin.