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Lost and found: an exhibit

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PHOTOGRAPHER-artist Ritz Marie stands next to some of the manipulated photographs which make up her exhibit Lucid Dreams at Pineapple Lab Gallery. — NICKKY FAUSTINE P. DE GUZMAN

THERE IS a Sarah Geronimo in all of us.

For those outside of the pop culture loop, know that the singer broke down in the middle of her most recent performance, crying: “Why do I feel empty?”

Photographer-artist Ritz Marie asked the same question. It was during a dark episode in her life when she was lost that she found art, and the result is an exhibition called Lucid Dreams, which is on view at Pineapple Lab Gallery in Poblacion, Makati City until May 19.

Aside from the show of more than 30 manipulated photographs, she has a self-published journal titled The Journal of Lucid Dreams, which is an extension of the exhibition.

“Both are about the experiences that everyone goes through. It was more of a dark place I was in before. I have like ‘letters to the wounded ones’ or ‘dear darkness’ and ‘shadow play.’ I am writing the letters to the abstracts that I couldn’t understand before. It is so personal, yet universal concepts and feelings. Sometimes I think, this is too personal, who would want to read it? Pero parang okay talaga (but it seems OK really), I want to share it,” she said of her works.

Her journal-turned-book and her exhibit feature headshots of models and friends that Ms. Ritz has worked with during her stints in New York and in Toronto when she studied at York University.

The works on sale (P13,000 each) are manipulations of her photographs, which are “virtually framed” with oil on canvas paintings from her friends. The titles of her works have prose pieces that go with them. Her favorite, The Hero Piece, shows a picture of a man, a friend, and has a caption that says: “To all the boyfriends I never had: You may have not given me the love I wanted, but you loved me the way I needed. I am grateful for you being a vessel — that poured inspiration over my life. Through the divines of you, I truly felt what love should be.”

“It’s one big exhibition of hugot,” she said, smiling, using the popular piece of slang meaning excessive feeling.

“I am sharing the times in my life that were not so sparkly, like quarter life crisis and depression. You don’t know what to do with your life. I just had to let everything out. There were times I was feeling low, and writing was my therapy. When you’re depressed, you don’t want to shoot photos, you only wanted to be alone — and writing was an exercise in solitude. I learned how to enjoy my time with myself,” she added.

Ms. Ritz does commercial, fashion, and advertising work, and discovered her love for photography in the 2000s.

When asked her thoughts that photography and photo manipulation as a technique are not “art,” she shrugged and said: “I think sometimes people can overdo it (manipulation), and I do not know where the line is drawn, but I think photo manipulation is a vehicle for expression. If it is beneficial to furthering the meaning of art, use it, but if you just want to show that you have skills in manipulation — a lot of people can do it anyways — I think you have to draw the line.”

In a much better personal place now, she said: “I am slowly realizing who I am. It did not come easy. I am in a great place now, and I hope to sustain that.” Art was, is, and will always be one of her therapies. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman