Monday, April 1, 2013

In Loving Memory of My Friend: Marilu Flores Gruben

The great Marilu Flores Gruben.

Marilu Flores Gruben, noted artist and former Dallas art teacher, dies at 68

Joe Simnacher The Dallas Morning News Staff Writer

Marilu Flores Gruben drew, painted and taught with her perspective of “all the different ways to see.”

Her art has been exhibited in galleries, museums and universities across the state, nation and world from Dallas to Buenos Aires and Los Angeles.

She also taught art for more than 30 years in Dallas, first at the arts magnet and later at the Greenhill School.

Flores Gruben, 68, died March 12 of cancer in Houston.

A Mass was celebrated for her March 16 in Laredo, where she had lived for about the past six years. She was buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Laredo.

Flores Gruben stayed so busy as a mother, teacher and artist that not even her family knew the full extent of her success, said her daughter Adrienne Gruben of Los Angeles.

“She was raising us, working full time — part of the time she was getting her master’s — and then she was painting,” Gruben said. “She would get dinner on the table, talk to us — ‘go do your homework’ — and keep painting.”

Flores Gruben’s drive added to her own modesty.

“There was modesty, but there was also just this ‘we are driven forward,’” her daughter said. “There was always this productivity and output in that household.”

Flores Gruben was born in Laredo, where her father, Porfirio Flores, was Webb County sheriff for 25 years.

She graduated from Martin High School in Laredo and earned twin baccalaureate degrees in studio art and English from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, now the University of the Incarnate Word.

She continued her education at the University of Texas at Austin, where she met William Charles Gruben, who became her husband.

In 1975, the couple moved to Dallas, where she completed her master’s degree at Southern Methodist University.

Flores Gruben was a founding faculty member of what is now the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where she taught drawing and painting.

“She was in a founding group, along with Paul Baker and a few others, that really got it off the ground,” Gruben said.

In 1987, she joined the Greenhill School, where she taught until 2007.

Her theme of “all the different ways to see” is evident in many letters Flores Gruben wrote throughout her career, her daughter said.

“When her students wrote me letters — she has some famous students — they all kind of referred back to that same theme,” Gruben said.

Flores Gruben moved back to Laredo when her husband left the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas to teach at Texas A&M International University, where he is now a professor and director of the doctoral program.

The return to the Rio Grande inspired her art.

“She found she was most productive … because of the conflict on the border and the inspiration of the Rio Grande,” her daughter said.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Flores Gruben is survived by another daughter, Anna Gruben of Los Angeles; and three sisters, Rosario Garcia, Gloria Dickinson and Silvia Jones, all of Laredo.

Nursing, 2006
Screen Print
Edition of 50

Like many artists that grew up in the Mexico-Texas border, inspiration often manifests itself in the form of vibrant appreciation for two countries. Marilu Flores Gruben is no exception. Born in Laredo, Texas, Gruben received her BA from Incarnate Word College at San Antonio in 1966 and followed up with her master’s degree in 1981 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Though her formal art education has supplied her with an impressive resume, Gruben’s solo and group exhibitions provide her domestic and international experience throughout Texas and in California, Mexico, and Argentina.

Much of Gruben’s work is a reflection of mystic and religious artifacts that she often finds in Mexican homes. On several occasions, Gruben crossed the Rio Grande River to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and literally painted within homes to capture the raw essence of life across the river-a river that Gruben says does not separate, but rather, brings people together.

An advocate of using various materials in her work, Gruben has most recently found fabrics to be her preferred medium. Gruben enjoys making installations mostly because of the varying ways viewers can perceive Gruben’s preferred subjects-women.

By anticipating light that will fall on her pieces, Gruben believes a part of everyone can be glimpsed, but not quite revealed: “I wrap and cut gauze over chiffon to make collages. They are always sheer and translucent, but just how depends on the angle at which you see them, or the light. A color that screams at you from one angle hides itself at another. Women like to conceal things, but depending on the other party involved, not always the same thing. We all have our secrets.”

Doug Sahm and The Sir Douglas Quintet, Live from Austin Texas 1975 - "Nuevo Laredo"

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