Claudia Ruiz-Gustafson | Dark Woods

Growing up on the arid coast of Lima, Peru, my encounters with the woods were rare and anticipated occasions. On Sundays, my family traveled to the outskirts of the city with baskets packed with food, drinks and colorful picnic blankets to encounter a landscape packed with tall pines and fragrant eucalyptus trees. It was very different from the scenery we left behind. We invented games, discovered secret hidings, and spent countless hours immersed in the woods surrounded by the sweet smell of the forest. Going back to the city at night, I had the feeling of crossing an invisible threshold, always having trouble adjusting to the reality being reimposed.

Since ancient times, before oral traditions were written into fairy tales and legends, the woods has been a threshold place, a symbol of the unconscious. The woods as a metaphor for entering the unknown, the spiritual world which humans must penetrate to find answers. This body or work depicts the woods as that place of magic, loneliness, healing and sanctuary, where rituals and ceremonies take place, where play and imagination run free, where we can return to our primal selves and find who we truly are.

Walking
in the middle of
my life, one day,
I got lost.
Dark woods,
creatures I thought I knew
but didn’t,
rituals I seemed to imagine
but couldn’t,
I didn’t stay lost
for long,
the sun peeked out
too soon,
and then I saw the path
to nothingness.
Seven for a secret never to be toldMaybeRecess TimeSun Dance #1Sun Dance #2A woman named PerlaYou who saved meGraceWaiting for a kissThe StarThey always leaveI never saw the frogSearchingStill HidingMoon Dance #1Moon Dance #2ShapeshiftingIf I couldThe ReturnDreaming