Thursday, September 25, 2008

luisa rubines - de oca a oca

Speaking of talented photographers, I was pleasantly surprised last week to discover a Luisa Rubines website up and running.

I met Luisa on my 2003 Camino. In All the Good Pilgrims, I described her as "a tornado with ringlets, an angular, intense young Galician woman, always halfway to somewhere." At that time, she was taking pictures for an exhibition on the theme of the esoteric Camino; more specifically, on el
juego de la oca, "the Goose Game," the popular European children's board game (ancestor of our Snakes and Ladders) with roots in the Renaissance, which many see as an allegory for the pilgrimage to Santiago. Fittingly, we first met up in Logrono, where each of us was conducting our own inquiry into the life-size Goose Game that is laid down in stone in the plaza of the church of Santiago. We kept bumping into each other (it might be more accurate to say, "Luisa kept whizzing by me") all the way to Castrojeriz, where I hung up my walking shoes for that year.

When I reached Santiago in October 2004, Luisa's exhibition - De oca a oca polo Camino de Santiago - was on at the Museum of Pilgrimages. The 63 photos, displayed back-lit in the darkened gallery, presented the Camino as a magical and mystical journey of personal transformation. In the penultimate photo, just before the pilgrim/goose is reborn as a swan, the pilgrim/photographer leaves behind the bonfire of her old self and wades naked into the ocean at Finisterre to be born again. Leavening the seriousness of the theme were the king-size dice and the spiralling labyrinth of el juego de la oca on the gallery floor, which extended a playful invitation to the viewer to join the game.

The exhibition was a joy. I looked forward to following the trajectory of Luisa's career, even if from across an ocean. Yet when I started writing my book and went looking for her on the Web, I found that her old site was out of service. All the matches turned up by my Google searches turned into dead ends. (Ah, our wanderings in the labyrinth of the Internet!) From time to time, over the past three years, I have sent out Google search parties, but never with any results.

And then last week, I decided to give her one more Google and opa! There she was! With only 8 Camino photos, her website is not as generously illustrated as one would hope. But there is a capture of Luisa's complete juego de la oca gameboard, as well as samples of her other work - colourful images of Cuba, dire photos of the homeless children of Mexico's slums, and a black-and-white gallery entitled Galicia profunda - "deepest, darkest Galicia"...

I'll send this to Luisa. With luck she'll get back to me with some explanation of where she's been hiding - and what's coming up next.

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