Miami Humidity Inspires Maria Lino's Video Art, "All About Water"

For Miami artist Maria Lino, water is a treasure that we seek for both internal and external survival. "It safely cradles us in the womb and supports us as we float on its surface. It can also overpower us regardless of our physical strength," she says.

"Water can be a barrier between two destinations, and as an artist navigating two cultures separated by a body of water, it has defined my sense of isolation and connection, of safety and freedom."

This Friday night at 7p.m. Lino is opening "All About Water," her solo show of video-based work at Little Havana's alternative space, 6th Street Container, where she is exhibiting a fluid series of images conjuring her love affair with H2O, the most abundant compound on the planet.

Maria Lino
Sirens Waters Three Channel Video Still

Lino's process is dynamic and interrelated to her daily activities. She observes and records the landscape and the cityscape and their reflections in any appearance of water: morning dew, rain, puddles, or the ocean. Lino, who has recently received a Fulbright grant for a project in the Andes, spoke with Cultist last week about her current series of works and the inspiration behind it.

Cultist: What is the inspiration behind your work?

Maria Lino:  The inspiration behind the "water/agua" series is the humidity in South Florida. I feel that we live in a soup. Another determining factor was when I visited La Paz, Bolivia, a mountainous city in a landlocked country. I realized then that I did not understand the concept of being away from the ocean, since I've always lived in port cities, Havana, New York City, Miami.

The human body in water has somewhat of a dialectical nature. On one hand the aquatic environment seduces with the sense of experiencing weightlessness while on the other it can evoke oppression leaving one gasping for oxygen. What is your take on this? Do these thoughts enter your image making process?

Yes, this thought enters the image making process of the "water/agua" series. In a way, that's why I started it, because sometimes the humidity in South Florida makes me feel that I am already underwater, and I need to gasp for air. It's a strong feeling, although I can breathe perfectly well. I do love being in water, but I don't like so much atmospheric humidity.

I can't tell you my secrets. I actually don't have underwater photography/video equipment, and I really don't do much underwater shoots. Basically, it was for the "Sirens' Waters." The "water/agua" series also deals with rain, dew, humidity, etc. The challenges are: 1. I can't be out in the sun for too long, because I have very fair skin and sunburn easily, 2. The sun is so bright in South Florida that oftentimes it is difficult to see what I'm shooting when I'm at the beach. I just trust my visual intuition, and I'm a very good editor.

Where do you find your models and how do you get them to relax when shooting underwater?

Another secret, but I give all the credits to Cristina Molina, one of the swimmers and a very talented artist herself. She is a former student of mine from FIU, and I often hire her to be my assistant. The swimmers in "Sirens' Waters" are not professional models. I asked Cristina to find three young women who could swim well. They had to be young and pretty, because they represent "sirens/mermaids" that lure us to the sea. To make them relax, I just told them to have fun.

How long do you stay at a site--in the water--typically during a shoot?

As long as it takes. For "Sirens' Waters," we went three times for about three hours each time. For the rain pieces, it's more dynamic, since I go around when it's raining with my camera looking for good footage.

"All About Water" Friday, June 17th at 7 p.m. 6th Street Container (1155 SW 6th St., Miami.) Free to the public. Call 786-587-5279 or visit 6thstreetcontainer.com.

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