ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For Larla Morales, there is little difference between the natural world around her and the art sitting on a pedestal at the Center for Contemporary Arts. Her work in the field brings two worlds together in an expression that is unique to the Big Country, and very uniquely her.

“I’m a child of immigrants, my parents are from the Philippines and I was born in Abilene but I’ve always felt a sort of disconnect to the culture and place that I grew up in,” Morales said.

Morales next to her sculpture “The Tower and The Hanged Man”

Raised in Clyde, she began practicing art at an early age. She looked for ways to express herself and connect to the land she felt such a longing to be a part of. Morales found the answers she was looking for in the traditions and trades of her artistic ancestors.

“I was trying to find innovative ways to stretch my budget as far as I could, so I would look back into art history. How the masters would have done it in their own time,” Morales explained.

She said she began experimenting with these ancient techniques in college by creating her own paint, pigments, and tools out of the earth. By using the materials available from even her own backyard, she was able to more intimately reflect the land that formed her, through her own interpretation and the medium used to convey it.

“It’s very satisfying to be able to be able to create art about a space and about a place and locality with materials gleaned from that space,” Morales expressed.

From the Limestone quarries of Luders/Avoca to the slate gray clay of Clyde, the hues and shades of Texas found home in each piece she created. In many ways, these pieces tell the story of her home and grounding her in the identity she had been searching for.

“Growing into having an intimate knowledge of the biome at large here really helped me find my place in this space that we call the Big Country,” Morales explained.

She now shares her form of interpretation and self expression with others though her art. Morales also teaches this practice, passing down the ways in which artists supplied themselves for generations and continue to today.

“I want people to feel encouraged to look into their environment and realize that there’s a bounty of art supplies all around them,” said Morales.

Her work is now on display at the Abilene Center for Contemporary Arts.