Iruka Maria Toro

Unadilla River Valley NY

Photography by Valeda Beach Stull

Featuring Iruka Maria Toro

where are you from?
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Borinquen.

where were you photographed for this interview?
My home, studio, and gardens, in Upstate New York.


Please describe who you are / what you do.
I am an artist. I have had a painting practice for almost 2 decades of my life.
Painting for me has been a really intense process of meditating on something over and over and seeing how it reflects yourself back exactly as you are for years and years with very little distraction Painting is a teacher of the heart. It’s about showing up, and working hard. It requires a lot of faith and inner strength.

Alongside that practice I have studied plant  medicine,herbalism,bodywork, magic, and spirituality. All of these things are interconnected and an ever unfolding part of a unified whole.

Lately my practice is trying to teach me something new. Lessons about release, surrender, death, loss, and giving into a new kind of blossoming outward that feels incredibly powerful in its vulnerability.

I am learning that imperceptible soft forces can dissolve mountains and move boulders.

Do you make time for self care, and if so what are some of your rituals or routines?
Ritual is everything. I have daily rituals for all sorts of things, and improvised ones for threshold moments and liminal times.
I wake up everyday; drink tea, and light a candle in the morning. I make little altars, burn resins or incense, & send spells and prayers out to people I love.
I cook a lot at home, and try to feed myself really well with nourishing beautiful rainbow colored natural foods. I drink spring water, live somewhere where the air is clean, and make a lot of my own medicines and tonics from the land I live on.
I believe in taking long baths. I try to submerge myself in water as often as possible. Water is my beauty regimen.
I do a sauna, and dip into the cold spring fed pond on my land when I can.
I try to move, walk, dance, and stretch.
I cover my body with all kinds of natural oils, and mask my hair in magick potions to lay in the sun.
I read a lot of books, venture out to see art, and write often.
I try to get good sleep at night.
I check in with the moon, track the cosmos, tell the truth, and move forward with courage.
Laughing is my favorite ritual.
Otherwise courtship rituals win every time.

Are you interested in the unseen?  What does spirituality mean to you?
I am almost exclusively interested in the unseen. The forces that run this world are invisible. Love is formless and yet it is also the only thing left standing.
All of my life, my art has been an attempt at making the unseen - seen. My paintings are a way of saying: this is what it looks like to feel things the way I feel them.
I have been really schooled in the last two years by the power of unseen forces. By the vastness of the mystery of what we think is going on vs what is REALLY going on. By the pull of forces beyond our control, and the web of connections that binds us all to each other and the earth itself. It’s overwhelming. I bow down and surrender to it.

A lot of my life I have felt a really deep connection to my creative powers, and the strength of my intuition. I just met all of these incredible women while in Mexico and upon our arrival we performed a ritual where while standing in a circle you had to tell the woman to your left a compliment. We would soon become incredibly bonded, but in that moment we were still strangers. The woman to my right turned to me and said, “You’re a witch. You have magical powers. You’re reading my mind right now” . Later on after some weeks passed she was like, “HA! I was right!!!”
The invisible world is more real than the one where atoms are dense enough for us to recognize things and build a consensus reality around them. Plus. I’m a witch. I have magical powers. I’m reading your mind right now.

What is your favourite product / art piece / project that you have created and why?
My favorite piece of art that I have ever made is a large painting currently on loan to the Mint Museum in North Carolina. It was my attempt to fill an enormous canvas with the whole world, and create a maximalist visual experience akin to taking phsychedelics. It took almost 2 years to make, and it is definitely hallucinatory. I think it allowed me to cross the threshold into the type of work I am making now. The opposite end of the spectrum. From rococo psychedelia to naked in the sunlight, open hearted simplicity. Nothing and nowhere to hide. Absolute confidence in the simplest most essential form of oneself.

What are you working on / interested in / preoccupied with at the moment? I just returned from living in Oaxaca Mexico for 2 months and am still integrating the lessons of that experience.
While there I made two and three dimensional works that deal with spiritual offerings, spells, and the healing of the physical and energetic body through laying of stones and flowers. I filled a room with candles, fruit,incense, art, and flowers. I read aloud from a piece I am working on about love and connections that follow us through lifetimes. Words, poems, books, and letters are really important to me.
I am currently finishing a group of paintings that I will be exhibiting this fall. They are my attempt at spiritual minimalism. The sort of painting that can expand a room, fill it with light, heal you through color and form. Mente, Alma, y Corazon.
Other than that there are lots of little micro obsessions and friends I want to collaborate with on projects.

There is a big storm of possibility brewing in my life. The kind that says: Come with me. No time to explain

Pick a current favourite:

song -
I have heard Lucinda Williams’ Fruits of my Labor in so many random places/situations over the last three months, that I don’t know what it could be other than some divine sonic fortune cookie that I have yet to understand. Other than that Return to Innocence by Enigma came on the other day when I entered a room, and it felt SO important. Both RIDICULOUS & also kind of mega profound in an: I am nostalgic for my cosmic soulmate circa 1994 kind of way.It honestly felt like God talking to me and being like ...”Hey little lady. Here’s a clue!”

book -
Currently: The Popol Vuh

scent -

item of clothing -
A vintage super thin,soft, and worn, white tank top I just found in Brooklyn with a silhouette of two lions (the male mounting the female) with the word “couples” underneath in blue text

plant -
Chia flower for saving my life

Me + someone I love walking and talking while eating a ripe mango together in Mexico

artist/maker -
I can’t choose one

I want Milena Silvano to dress me. (I also want to inherit the wardrobe of a 1960’s/70’s surfer, stoner, grandpa in my size.)
I want Darkhorse Organics to feed me.
I want to live in a house designed by Luis Barragan and Mickey Muenning.
I want to dance to playlists curated by Ana Roxanne, Alice Coltrane, and Arthur Russell.
I want Simone Bodner- Turner to make me flower vases and Nobuyoshi Araki to fill them.
I want Clarice Lispector to go into a trance and write me the poem to end all poems.
Alejandro Jodorowsky to arrange my furniture (according to the tarot).
Alexander Shulginto curate my psychedelic cactus collection.
Kiki Smith to give me a tattoo with her eyes closed .
Susan Cianciolo to help me build a temple with no walls.
Harmony Korine to lead a seance, Emma Kunz to help me pick out a pendulum, & Lola Alvarez Bravo to take my picture as I make out with the ghost of Richard Brautigan naked in the moonlight.



Iruka is wearing the Kelci Dress in PURE and  Aubrey Coat in AVIATOR in small from AW19/20.