Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In case you can't make it...

My friend, Jon W., has posted a 360 video view of my exhibit installation, Herencia, at Latino Arts Inc. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The show runs through February 6th if you want to see it "in person."

Sunday, December 14, 2008


After the big push to get "Herencia" completed and up I'm struggling to stave off post-art-um depression. Been a little under the weather but still trying to keep busy.

"La Llorona" print has been popular. I sold two prints of it in Milwaukee and just got word that the same print on display at Mexic-Arte in Austin has sold as well. Good news. Now if only a few paintings would sell.

My buddy Jon W., at Latino Arts Inc. sent me a link to another review of my exhibit.

A new group show is on the January horizon for my wife and myself at a local college. More info on that as it develops.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


December 8, 2008

Friday’s drive back to Milwaukee wasn’t the white knuckle adventure Monday was.  The family and I took our time enjoying the cold but sunny weather on the way north.

We arrived at the gallery, I made some last minute adjustments, added the labels to the walls and got some gallery installation shots before people arrived.  L and the boys made themselves scarce while I was interviewed by the local public tv station for their Adelante! show.  The interviewer’s questions were pretty good.  I had to keep reminding myself to look him in the eye and not stare off into the corner of the room as is my habit when thinking of answers to questions about my work.

The tv crew stuck around and interviewed the director of Latino Arts, Zulay Oszkay, while I headed downstairs to join L and the boys having their lunch at the in house restaurant.  I was really too nervous to eat so I settled for a few leftover bites from the boys’ plates and a Dos X to calm myself.  When we made it back upstairs the caterers had set up and people were starting to arrive.  The tv crew recorded a few comments from the first few people who trickled into the gallery.  I’ll be interested to see how their footage gets edited down.

A couple of friends, Gil and Dolores, came up from South Bend, the Jones family drove up from Libertyville and Daniel Aperavich arrived with the news that the new website he’d designed for me was up and running.  A.J. brought a bottle of Patron as a congratulatory gift.  My extended family wasn’t able to make the trek north on a weekday.  I had mistakenly told them all that the gallery was open on the weekend (it’s not).  We’ll have to coordinate a group trip before the show ends on February 6th.

The Lightboy wove his way through the gallery patrons taking pictures with his aunt A.’s iPhone.  I went into the typical gallery opening mode – trying to greet the people I knew, never finishing a conversation and generally feeling discombobulated throughout the whole evening.  José Conde did a short acoustic teaser set to advertise his show on Saturday.  Co-sponsor, Alverno College had acknowledged some of their former students and success stories.  Overall, the reception seemed a success.  Many people expressed their appreciation for the works and a couple even bought some prints.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


2008, December 3rd

The week leading up to delivery to Wisconsin had me in a spiraling mass of energy. Spent Saturday the 29 finishing up Hueco and Materia Prima while L framed up the last prints. Sunday was spent packing all the works – wrapping and boxing prints, wrapping paintings, picking up cardboard padding and the truck to haul everything in. Sunday night I packed it all into the truck and prayed it wouldn’t blizzard overnight.

Monday I rode out into a snow storm that didn’t look too bad at first. What worried me was how a 14’ truck would handle in the icy road and high winds. I white knuckled it through most of Indiana (6 cars in the median and ditch within the first 30 miles – including a cop car!) then got to Chicago just in time for the rush. What rush? It took me a couple of hours just to clear the city.

Finally got to Milwaukee and unloaded the truck in freezing wind. I spent the better part of the day unwrapping, laying out and hanging the works. I eliminated a few prints and one painting in the process. The model I had constructed at home made a big difference in helping lay out the space. It looks pretty darn good.

I made the long late night drive back in somewhat better weather. Looking forward to the drive back with the family on Friday. I’ll post some pics and comments sometime after the big event.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

14 days and counting

November 10, 2008
14 working days to go (22 days to delivery)

This whole week is devoted to being in the studio as much as I can possibly handle. I’m using some vacation time off work to get into the studio and paint all day. Waking up early in the morning and heading to the studio instead of work is quite nice.

Next week I travel to Austin for the Consejo Grafico conference. This trip is going to break up my work routine, therefore, I’m planning to leave many paintings drying while I’m away. Nine new paintings of various sizes…and I started a new one yesterday making it ten. Crazy I know.

The breakdown:
65 x 86” as yet untitled burial piece
53 x 53” message piece
2 – 72 x 42” - Hueco and Herencia
3 – 18 x 24” - the Pneuma series
1 – 24 x 18” - M
2 – 24 x 48” - Prima Materia and untitled stools piece

I’m working faster now. The blocking in was pretty solid so now it’s just finessing the modeling before I glaze over some details and contrasts. The hardest part for me is not over working areas. I tend to get to the point where all my nice colorful, planar, open areas start to get blended into one even gradation. I’m really trying to keeping stuff open and loose throughout the painting for once.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shine a Light

Tuesday morning I woke my eight year old Lightboy for school. As I gave him his morning hug I looked him in the eye and told him. Remember this day. Today this country can make history by electing it's first black President. Someday you can tell your kids about it. We then did some math 2008 - 1776= 232...

Finally, a leader I can believe in. Someone who's voice and words have resonance.
I live in a blue state now.
The work has just begun.
I'm proud to be an American.

My friend, Maynard James Keenan, has a much better handle of the words to describe how I feel.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Construction of Light

2008 October 29

Today, the Lightboy completes his 8th orbit around the sun.
Feliz cumple años Mijo!

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 27

October 27, 2008

It’s getting colder outside and inside the studio too. I’m hoping the landlord kicks the boiler on soon.

I sold a print from the coffin series last week. I turned around and handed the money to the man that came to fix the burned out switch on my home furnace. Some times I feel like I’m living in that Seinfeld episode where Jerry balances out every time Elaine or George come out in the red or black. Balancing is fine but the view down can be a strain on the nerves.

The works are coming along as the deadline nears. I’m starting to concentrate on one painting at a time now. General to specific is leading into the details now.

I’ve also started to think about what prints need framing. I’ll have to pull what’s already framed and start wrapping what I can so as not to have to do everything last minute. The new paintings are going to be last minute. They’ll more than likely be a bit tacky when I load them in the truck on December 1st. I pray for good driving weather since I’ve had to rent a moving truck to get the bigger canvases to Milwaukee.

Monday, October 13, 2008

53 and counting...

October 13, 2008

I had a very productive weekend in the studio.
The boys’ portraits for the series I’m calling “Pneuma” are coming along.
The long horizontal piece with three figures is blocked in to a pretty good level.
An unsettling dream Sunday morning has given me some insight into the “burial” painting.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hair of the dog

Saturday morning was spent painting a dog into the largest canvas. My friends, J&K's dog, Jack, a beautiful white and brown German short haired pointer, was my model. He was just what the painting was waiting for and his lithe muscular body was fun to paint.

Late afternoon we packed up and headed to my brother's to celebrate his 50th birthday. What started as a great family celebration ended in catastrophe. My three year old niece was bitten by my brother's Labrador. Her face injury required 15 stitches and although she came through like a little trooper the scars of the attack will be with her for life. I don't think I will ever forget the horrifying feeling that came with the sudden-ness of the attack, her cries of pain and the general panic that everyone was jolted with.

I'm a big dog lover though I don't own any now. I've taught my boys how to approach and respect any dog they meet, whether a stranger's, a friend's or a familiar pet. However, the one thing always in the back of my mind has been the potential of a dog attack. Every dog owner will tell you how friendly their dog is but statistics show that of the 400,000 dog bites that occur in this country, 80% are bites to children and a large percentage of these bites are from dogs they know.

Among things to remember: dogs see direct eye contact and barred teeth as a sign of challenge. Kids' smiling faces are usually at the same or near the same level as a dog's. Happy faces eager to greet a dog can be interpreted as a challenge. The dog reacts by snapping. Dogs are also territorial so a child's playful reaching for a dog toy or food is particularly dangerous. Sudden erratic movements from kids are also confusing to dogs.

I encourage everyone, parents, non-parents and dog owners, to visit the Humane Society's page and read up on how to avoid dog bites. My niece was lucky that the bite wasn't worse but the traumatic event won't soon leave her or the rest of us that were there or know her. I wouldn't want anyone else to have to experience such a thing.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The best laid plans...

October 3, 2008

I’ve been spending much more time in the studio. The paintings are coming along. Though there’s a lot of painting left to do I’m feeling really good about the way this new body of work is coming together.

I’ve spent the last two days making a 1/2” scale model of the gallery space in WI. I want to make sure I have enough work to fill the space while allowing for a decent layout. Call me anal, but I don’t like big surprises when it comes to installing a show, let alone, my own work.

I’m considering leaving the Earth Dragon coffin piece and prints out of the show. The prints take up quite a bit of wall space, are expensive to frame, and although related, vary from the rest of the works enough to disrupt the flow. I’ll have to think more on this.

And on another note:
The (Young) Gods speak:

Monday, September 22, 2008


September 22, 2008

I had a great weekend in and out of the studio. I feel like I finally got some momentum going on the paintings. The weekend also turned out to be a busy social time for me as well.

Three of the four big canvases are coming along nicely. The fourth is still waiting for the big push. Actually, it’s waiting for any push at all at the moment. I’m really partial to this particular image so I’ve been holding off doing anything major until I’m more in the painting groove. I don’t want to screw anything up. Dogs have made a comeback in the imagery. I have to schedule a time with my pal J to get some reference of Jack the wonder dog. The two series of four 18 x 24” canvases are still in the beginning stages. Right now I’m calling one series “Air” and the other “Banco” for lack of a better titles. I’ve encountered some drying issues with one of the background colors that I’ve yet to work out.

Early Friday evening we got a call that a couple of our good friends were in town. We were invited to dinner at G’s home and had a wonderful time catching up with Malaquias and Leslie Montoya. Malaquias had an opening for his “Globalization & War: The Aftermath,” exhibit in DeKalb, IL.

Saturday morning M and gang came by my studio to have a quick look at what was going on there. Although I’m not usually keen on the idea it was nice to have them see the works in progress. Leslie seemed surprised that I was working on more than one painting at a time. As I explained that it was the best way I had to deal with drying times I remembered that Malaquias works mainly in acrylic so he doesn’t encounter that problem much. They all had encouraging words before making their way to the airport. The rest of the day was spent painting and planning.

Saturday night L and I made our way to D’s house warming party. D was celebrating his new home and artworks with a small group of close friends. My Earth Dragon (coffin) suite of prints is among the Meso/Latino art pieces he has displayed. The guests had many positive compliments on the prints and I even made one possible sale (fingers crossed).

Most of Sunday was spent at the studio except for a lunchtime break to wrestle with the boys. All in all a pretty good weekend.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Working from the past to the present:

August 21st, 2008
I'm being torn in two directions at the moment. Should I make work or should I work on the space where I can make work? Decisions, decisions.

Something I started more than 4 years ago and have yet to finish is calling me. I’m converting my old two stall garage into an art studio. Getting the press put a fire under me to finally buckle down and finish the conversion. Over the years the building has been rewired and the roof has been redone but I always stall out due to time or cash constraints. I've spent the last few days patching concrete and securing doors. Two days ago I bought the insulation needed to help keep the cold and damp out. I wouldn’t want the press and all my stuff getting damp, rusty, and moldy.

The thing is I still have the December show hanging out there calling for new work as well. Where's that cloning machine?

August 26th, 2008

Took a break from working on the garage last night. Took the boys to see a movie instead. I'm burning out on being covered in sweat, sawdust, insulation, dodging mud wasps and losing my rock and roll hearing to loud saws and hammering.

The place is looking very nice though. I’m using recycled materials wherever I can. I’m using some 4’x 10’ x 1/2” ply to serve as my wall cover. I’m using this for two reasons: 1) because it was free, salvaged from a gallery at work and 2) because it will allow me to nail anywhere on the wall instead of having to look for a stud every time I need to hang a heavy thing. I’m thinking about punching some holes in the north exterior walls to allow for some more windows and an exhaust fan. An electric heater is going to have to be dug up somewhere to help heat the place since I don’t have a gas line out to the garage.

I can't wait to finish getting all the wall boards up and painting everything a nice light color to brighten up the place.

It's coming along...

September 2nd, 2008
Saturday: another studio wall done, fort building, sweating, Samurai Jack, scanning, reading ...
Sunday: travel, familia, Oberon, campfire, smores, millions or stars...
Monday: giant spider, breakfast with parents, meeting cousin I haven't seen in 30+ years, missing water, picking peaches, driving...
Tuesday: back at it...

September 5th, 2008

I’ve left the garage/studio project hanging for a few days as I try to get my head back into working on some art.
Now, where was I?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Moon gifts

The full moon brought along some strong energy this past week.

Friday my wife, L, finished framing up the coffin prints. They look fantastic! We delivered and hung them up for D.B. We then celebrated with a nice toast of Earth Dragon milk (aka – tequila). Doug was beaming and I couldn’t help but smile knowing that the prints were exactly where they should be.

Friday morning was also when I helped move the small etching press to the repair shop before my friend J.D. passed it along to me. The repair work didn’t take long and by 3 p.m. it was ready to go. I wasn’t able to line up the moving crew (my friend Jason, his big bad truck, and I) until Sunday afternoon.

Saturday I spent preparing my garage-soon-to-be-studio-space with the Milagro Boy. This meant a big clean up and repairing/securing doors for the delivery. My garage may not be the perfect place for a press right now but with some work I hope to have a working studio set up very soon. Plus, there's no way I was going to attempt hauling that press up a flight of stairs to my current studio!

Sunday I helped Jason move some wood into his basement. He’s building his own studio in his house basement and we’re trading favors. Once we unloaded his big bad truck we picked up and delivered the press. My nephew Scott helped Jason and I with the unloading.

The press is a refurbished Charles Brand and weighs about 300 lbs. It has a 16 x 30” bed. I can’t wait to break it in. Big thanks to Jean D.

Monday, July 21, 2008

137 Days to go...

July 21, 2008
137 days to go…

There was more hot and sweaty printing this weekend. There was also occasional breaths of fresh breeze.

One more side to be printed and I can move on to the paintings.
The boys did some printing of their own using the tortilla press donated by their Abuela.

At home one of garden patron saints came around to say hello to the boys. One of the mantis babies hatched a few weeks back.

July 18, 2008

Last night was a hot printing affair in the studio.
There was plenty of work but little progress. I actually fell back a few steps. Aggravating.
I turned out all the lights and lay on the floor absorbing some moonlight in order to not leave the studio feeling dejected.
Today I started off sluggish and I felt myself drifting then a considerate word reset the moorings.

I’m looking forward to the full weekend in the studio. Once the prints are finally completed and go on to be framed I can concentrate on the paintings fully.

July 15, 2008
Waxing moons usually dredge up my dream life.
The other night my dreams ended with me finding a handwritten note stating “The last four seconds really rounded off the hard corners.” Funny.
Laurie Anderson says something like – when you don’t remember your dreams its because you were off in someone else’s. I like that.

I’m craving a dog, a wide open field, some streams and big cumulus clouds.

My buddies in the Arsonist’s Daughter are opening for Suffocation in South Bend, IN. Should be an incredible show.

July 9, 2008

Working in the studio - I've noticed a few things:
I'm reminded how much I would rather make my own art than hang someone else’s.
I'm remembering my dreams and I like that.
My boys ask the best questions.
I'm easily distracted.
This is hard.

I walk to the water bearing gifts.

July 7, 2008

Spending the early part of the day working in the studio.

Evenings spent with the boys and carving new blocks.

Sweating and breathing...

July 3, 2008

I'm counting down the hours until my 10 days of studio time.

Of course there will be a brief detour tomorrow to watch things go pop, plop and ploop. I'll try not to burn anything down...

Anxious to see the new addition to the ever expanding extended Rodriguez family, my new niece born last night.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

170 Days to Go: Commitment

Someone once said something to the effect – With a blank canvas your options are limitless. With each successive mark your options narrow down....

LatinoArts has been asking for a title to my exhibit in December. I agonized over choosing something that could encompass the ideas behind what I intend to show. Last week I decided on Herencia, after the 1996 wood relief print by the same name. I like this Spanish word because it can mean heritage, inheritance and heredity. Along with the title came a new clarity and focus as to what I want to see and what needs to be done with the works currently underway. The theme that has been emerging in my recent works comes from the idea of carrying one's history around at all times. This history includes all the ancestral memories and life struggles that converge into creating who one is today. The past's constant informing of the present and the future. More on this at a later...

Last night, with a handshake and a partial payment in hand, I committed to have an edition of the coffin prints ready for a patron within the next few weeks. He, my wife and I figured out a framing and hanging configuration that is going to look fantastic.

The display of the printed portion of the coffin has always been a concern to me even as I was carving out the piece. The first concern is how to display six pieces of printed paper to appear as one continuous image. The second is how to frame such a long image in the best manner possible. Most people do not have a 16' stretch of wall to display the print as intended - a continuous image that makes up the Olmec Earth Dragon's body. When I first displayed it at the Snite Museum I overlapped and pinned the individual sheets to the gallery wall.

Last night we came upon a configuration that should work. The piece won't be continuous but certain sections will be framed together in four separate frames and double hung on a wall. The top section will have the male and female, sun and moon skeletons flanking the central Earth Dragon face in one frame. The bottom section will have the two 54" side panels flanking the Tree of Life panel. Each will be in its own frame. Very cool.

During the time it took me to get these thoughts down two significant things came to my attention.

My dear friend marks the 5th anniversary of his mother's passing on his blog and one of my musical heroes, Trey Gunn, blogged about some similar ideas at his myspace page.

Friday, June 13, 2008

175 Days to Go

175 Days to go

What have I been up to?

L and I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to frame and install the Zapopan – GR Sister Cities Exhibition. The work looked great and all were happy with the installation.

At the studio, I’ve been finishing up printing the editions of 3x4” color prints, building more canvas stretchers, stretching and gessoing canvas, shooting reference photos, reworking the coffin images and printing up the sides.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

198 Days to go

198 days to go

Art buddies, J and S, visited the studio yesterday at lunch time. Of course there was nothing concrete to see in the painting area because I had whited out all previous works. We admired the stretched canvases and stretchers. I showed them the sketch wall and also some of the photoshopped reference sketches so they could see what was going to happen. J caught and understood the anxiety I feel over thinking I have to bridge some older works with the new. He didn’t think it was much of a problem and the continuity is there. Because of his job he also understands the curator/exhibit design/artist mode that I am encountering.

J had some good insights and a suggestion on how to get focused. Make a to-do list at the end of the day and check it again when I enter the studio the next time. This is something I have done in an all-encompassing way but not on a day-to-day level. This way you can see some progress being made and keep on track as to what needs to be done.

While I had two more pairs of arms around I had the guys help me lift the big green coffin up onto some saw horses. I’ve been afraid I’m going to run something into that thing and ruin the finish. Propping it up also gives me better access to it for printing.

After work I watched the boys climb trees, drew dragons and knights on the sidewalk with the M, had dinner, and headed off to work in the studio. One of my neices is getting married soon. Her husband to be asked for a print of the marriage scene from one of the coffin sides as a gift. That was enough incentive to attempt to print one of the coffin sides. I mapped out a cropped composition from the 18 x 54” side. I used some paper guides to block out any over rolling and inked up a 18 x 14” portion of the block. It took quite a while to ink up the area with my 6 inch roller. Once the surface looked properly inked I lined up the paper and tacked it down with some painter’s tape so it wouldn’t slip off the vertical surface. I burnished the area with my trusty spoon and got a pretty good impression. I inked up once more and pulled another print for myself.

Once I pulled the paper guides off the block I realized that the inking up of that section was going to leave a distinct area darker than the rest of the block. The only solution was to ink the rest of the side. I thought as long as I was doing that I might as well attempt to pull a print. Now the last time I pulled a print from this block it was a single piece of wood 18 x 54”. It wasn’t attached to other boards, I had S helping lay the paper, and I was able to run it through a press horizontally! This night I was alone, the board was glued to the rest of the coffin sides and was sitting vertically on a pair of saw horses 3 feet off the ground. What the hell? I inked up the block, cut some paper, figured out the registration, rolled up the paper and lined it up as best I could against the block. I held my breath as I lay it down on the ink and started to roll it out. I was concerned if I missed the angle of the paper by a few degrees the image was going to run close to or off the paper at the opposite end of the block. The first one lay pretty good, not centered but pretty close. I burnished and burnished and burnished working left to right. As I got to the opposite end of the block my spoon went over a tiny piece of grit in the ink. The result was a small tear through the paper that had me hopping and cursing the dust gods all around the studio.

I calmed down enough to realize that the print wasn’t a total disaster. I strung it up to dry and sat a while to think out what to do next. By this time it was getting pretty late but I still wanted to get another print after all the trouble the inking up had been. The wood had absorbed enough ink that the block was now an even shade of green. I rolled the whole thing up once more and pulled another print. This time the paper really rolled out skewed but still fell within the image margin. I hung that one up to dry and called it a night.

As I sat writing up my list of things to do next I scanned the side of the coffin and started to see little areas here and there that needed a little more work. I think I’m going to have to carve some more before I get the definitive print from this piece...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

199 and counting

May 20, 2008
199 Days To Go

Beginning and then beginning again.
Task: How to keep a train of thought when there are so many other things vying for attention?

There are many things going on at home and in the studio. However, creating work has dropped low on the list. My full time job is about to kick into busy mode. Schedules are changing at home as the boys get out of school for the summer. When I do get to the studio I’ve had to juggle documenting works, getting information out, storing works and making a workable space, preparing supports, re-evaluating what goes where, and getting references for new works. On top of all that I have to coordinate when to paint and when to print so I’m not splashing stuff all over everything else.

Who said art making was easy? What I started working on before my trip to Mexico has been restarted. After drawing out some figures on the big canvas I realized that the composition was going to be too cramped. I then realized that this painting will have a relation to another and it would be more appropriate if the dimensions to both were closer in scale. (Once again the influence of my day job - laying out galleries - is a gift or a curse as I am thinking of how things will hang in the exhibit space as I am creating them.) So, I begin again. I’ve painted out what I’d done. The 7-year-old-Lightboy thinks I am crazy, my lovely thinks I’m crazy (but is supportive), soon-to-be-4-year-old-Miracleboy has the right idea: he just draws and draws more robots on any scrap of paper he can find.

There are now 4 big canvases staring blankly at me and I’ve yet to build 2 more stretchers. I still haven’t figured out how to reprint the coffin blocks that are glued together…

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jalisco, Mexico (Day 3)

2008, April 26 (Jalisco, Mexico day three)

This was our last full day in Jalisco. The plan was to check out the town of Tlaquepaque, home of some of the best “arte popular” in the area. Once again Luis was our guide. Today the Zapopan hosts had arranged for one of their group to drive us.

I’m by no means big on shopping (unless it’s for music) but I was interested to check out the local crafts. My plan was to scout out any potential accents that I could use for my own works. The skeleton I used last October in my coffin piece was on loan from a friend. I was looking to find a permanent replacement in case I decide to use it in my Milwaukee show in December. José was looking to find stuff for his home and family. Tlaquepaque is the place to look. Shop after shop of crafts, art, and clothing line the main street area. Huichol artisans lay out their colorful beaded crafts on the sidewalks, kids walk around offering shoe shines, food sellers peddle their stuff and blind singers intone beautiful songs about love gone bad.

We visited a few galleries and a museum dedicated to the ceramic arts of the region. For a small museum they had an impressive collection of the various ceramics methods and styles created in the region and the rest of Mexico. My favorite here was a room dedicated to miniature dioramas depicting various historical and mythological events.

After hours of shopping my head was about to implode. I didn’t manage to find a skeleton but I did find some stamped tin pieces and some gifts for the family. We were also a bit famished so we stopped into Casa Fuerte for lunch and libations. This was a beautiful choice. The entry way was littered with juniper needles. The effect of the scent being released as you walked over the needles was a clever touch. Inside we were really outside. A big courtyard covered in hanging banners and umbrellas let the cool breeze through as a piano player serenaded us with huapangos and even John Lennon tunes. The first prize of the day goes to the tamarind margaritas! I’m not a big fan of margaritas. I prefer my tequila neat. However, Luis and José coaxed me into trying these out. I’m glad I did. The mixed was finely blended ice in a glass rimmed with sea salt and red pepper flakes. The pepper wasn’t hot but did give a fine accent to the whole mixture. Needless to say we polished off a few of these tasty treats.

Once our delicious lunch was polished off we continued on to Casa de las Flores a B&B that Luis’ friend José G. owns. Mr. G. is also an art lover and gallery owner. There we met up with Luis’ friend, Leti, and saw some of her work as well as Luis’. During our conversations in the beautiful back garden enclosure our host asked me a question I didn’t quite hear. What I thought he was asking was “Have you had a margarita?” I answered “Yes” thinking he was referring to us eating at Casa Fuerte. What he really had asked was “Do you want a margarita?” Soon we were on our way to some more drinking. I’ll have to say after the tamarind margaritas these regular lime ones really didn’t compare.

We checked our watches and noticed that we would have to rush back to the hotel to meet Ricardo. He had made arrangements for us to catch the Ballet Folklorico in Guadalajara that night. We took leave of Luis and friends and beat a hasty exit to our parked vehicle. On the way out we ran into a group decked out in Aztec feathers and guaraches practicing it’s dance moves on the street. We watched for a few minutes before moving on. Our companion driver sped us back to our hotel in questionable circuitous path. We arrived just in time to splash some water over us, change into something a bit more formal, and greet Ricardo.

The Ballet Folklorico gets the second prize of the day. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I’ve grown up seeing and even performing (once) in some traditional dances when I was a kid. The set production, costuming and live music of the B.F. in Mexico was something to behold. The dance troupe had about 20 dancers on the stage at times. The simple set design and creative use of light gels really kept the attention on the dancers and singers. The program was designed to highlight the diverse regions of Mexico song and dance. My favorite was the women dancing to the “son” of Veracruz. The stage backdrop was a moonlit tropical beach. The dancers wore light green dresses and danced with lit candles balanced on their heads. The movements created by the women gripping their dress skirts in their hands and undulating forward and backward gave the ghostly effect of moths dancing in the light. I found it all quite moving. Of course the state of Jalisco was saved for last. The crowd roared with enthusiasm as the mariachi came out in full force singing “Jalisco no te rajes…” It was a great ending to an amazing show, day, and the topper for our stay in Mexico.

The next morning we caught an early flight back to the States. While in flight I played over the events of our visit. I’ve been to Mexico many times. This trip was my first in eighteen years. It would be hard to compare the contrast encountered now. When I visited as a kid it was always to see family out in the “ranchos”. Way out in the middle of nowhere where the people were poor, affectionate and willing to give you their all. This time around in a huge metropolis that is Guadalajara I saw the breadth of the economic situation people endure. The culture is rich from it’s varied roots and influx of international industry and money. Mexico is a complicated country with a lot of beauty and problems but always a wonder to experience.

I’m looking forward to seeing the selected pieces arrive in the states. Raul Anguiano’s prints and mixed media pieces by Luis Macias will grace the walls of the old GRAM in July.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jalisco, Mexico (Day 2)

2008, April 25 (Jalisco, Mexico day two)

Our second day in Jalisco started with the same killer buffet at our hotel. Teresa, the affectionate tortilla maker, had me laughing in no time. José and I planned our day as we ate our breakfast and watched the tourists, movers and shakers eating . We had an appointment with the director of MAZ, Museo de Arte Zapopan, at noon. The rest of the day was open to looking at art and perhaps meeting some of Luis’ friends.

We found Luis waiting in the lobby after we had gorged ourselves of goodies and cafecitos. We caught a cab back down to the heart of Zapopan. We were early for our appointment so we took in the various exhibits at MAZ. A local artist, Carlos Vargas Pons, had his work displayed in the main gallery. His large canvases incorporate realistic representations of figures superimposed on copies of famous art historical pieces. The exhibit covered about 15 years of work. The pieces evolved from pictorial break up of the picture plane to his recent pieces where he literally breaks up the canvases into slivers of individual pieces grouped to create one large image. I much preferred the earlier work. Somehow the newer work seemed geared more towards a commercial market.

In one of the upper galleries we discovered an exhibit of illustrations and sculpture by a fantastic French illustrator, Bruno Fourure. Mr. Fourure has an impeccable way with detail in his ink and watercolor paintings of cities and fantastic landscapes. He also has a unique grasp of creating 3-D pop outs of his works that extend into sculpture in the round. One long case held a zoo train where each car was created in a different material combination – paper, wood, etc. The entire exhibit was kid friendly. There was a school group of 7 year olds camped out on the floor playing a game with cards sporting some of B.F’s images.

Our meeting at noon was quick and to the point. We met Ricardo D., the director of MAZ in his office. José quickly stated our purpose and we were shown a list of prospective prints from the Anguiano show we had seen the day before. While José and Ricardo went over some info I quickly scanned the list and tried to figure out how many of the 22 pieces we could actually exhibit in GR. Ricardo and I then discussed how to get the works to the States. We finished our business talk and moved onto other subjects. I asked Ricardo if there were any galleries showing prints by the Taller de Grafica Popular. I mentioned that I had a personal interest in the TGP, especially my favorite of the groups’ printers, Leopoldo Mendez. A big smile crossed Ricardo’s face as he informed me that Leopoldo was his Grandfather and that he happened to have some prints by him at his home. He extended an invitation to come see them. I couldn’t believe my stroke of luck! We agreed to meet later as we made our exit. I think I floated out of the room.

From the plaza at Zapopan we rode over near the University of Guadalajara to look at the museum there. On the way I noticed many unfinished construction sites. José and Luis explained the nature of politics in Jalisco. The government runs on three year terms. This makes it difficult for anything to get done as the parties seem to flip flop every election. The first 18 months are taken up changing policies from the last administration, for good or bad. The next 18 months are spent defending those changes and trying to get re-elected. The next administration rarely sees through the last administrations projects, therefore there is a lot of wasted money and efforts.

We walked onto the Universidad de Guadalajara campus to see some more Orozco murals in a small auditorium. We chanced upon a declaration being read and then signed by students of the University. The declaration was being sent to the UN. We continued on to towards the museum only to find it closed for installation. Luis recommended we walk on to the Ex-Convento del Carmen, a gallery converted from an old convent. On the way we were able to see some of Luis’ father’s sculpture in a park. The piece was a tribute to 3 founders of the worker’s movement.

The convent had some interesting works on view. I have to admit I was starting to wear down in the heat and sensory overload. I don’t think I gave the art the attention it was due. There were some interesting minimalist abstract pieces on acrylic and glass sheets that did catch my attention but somehow I misplaced the name of the artist.

Next we met up with a lawyer friend of Luis' at an open air bar. Abraham is an art lover and very animated talker. Luis had me show A. my portfolio, which I had loaded on my iPod. He liked my work and started addressing me as "Maestro". I was touched and a little embarrassed but the sentiment seemed genuine. A. had a meeting to catch so J., L. and I caught a so-so lunch at a smoke filled restaurant and headed back to the hotel to freshen up before heading to Ricardo’s home.

Ricardo’s home was in an older part of Guadalajara. The walls were covered with paintings, prints and “arte popular” (Mexican crafts like dishes, ceramic animals, glass, etc.). Ricardo showed us four of Leopoldo’s signed linoleum prints that he had framed in the living room and then pulled some others that were not signed or framed. They were all stunning. Leopoldo’s my favorite of the TGP artists for his strong compositions and exceptional drawing skills. His works have a very cinematic feel to me. Over sips of tequila Ricardo recounted his rediscovery of his grandfather. The family had lost touch with who Leopoldo was until an artist friend visited their home and recognized the prints and clued them in on Mendez’s significance in the Mexican art world. Ricardo recounted how his sister used to color in the prints that had been kept in a drawer in his mother’s house. The prints he showed us were some that he had the sense to save when he was old enough to know better. Reminded me of my little helper.

We closed out the night with a visit to one of the oldest bars in downtown Guadalajara called El Fuente. The bar is infamous for being the meeting place for politicians, artists and performers. Ricardo informed us that long ago he had painted a mural on the walls around the bar. The acrylic paints had long flaked away and been repainted. All that remained now was an image of a moon painted “al fresco” in a niche above the bar. The niche also held one of the grungiest bicycles I’ve ever seen. Legend has it that a patron left the bicycle as an I.O.U. for his bar tab and never came back for it.