Category Archives: Oaxaca Mexico art and culture

Arte Walk Oaxaca: Graphic Arts + Painting Studios

Thursday nights are Arte Walk Oaxaca. There’s a nice little black and white map that pinpoints the independent art spaces and workshops. My favorites (plus one not listed on the map) are clustered in the neighborhood just a few blocks from the Zocalo, bounded by Hidalgo, Doblado, Xicotencatl and Colon. It’s becoming Oaxaca’s SOHO (south of Hidalgo) arts district.

David, Carol and Gabo in the textured courtyard wall glow

David, Carol and Gabo in the textured courtyard wall glow

While you can find the artists, a coterie of Oaxaca local art lovers spilling out onto the sidewalk outside postage stamp galleries, along with shots of mezcal, beers and bowls of spicy peanuts, Thursdays aren’t the only time to enjoy what Oaxaca is known for: GREAT GRAPHIC ART.

Black and white print at La Chicharra

Black and white print at La Chicharra Taller de Grafica

Most galleries are open Monday through Sunday, though often it’s catch as catch can. As is the case with many small, locally owned and/or operated shops here. Many of the galleries are cooperatives, so they are staffed by rotating volunteer artists who need a venue to show and sell their work directly. THERE IS A LOT OF TALENT HERE.

A subtle wall mural of overlapping faces, faces in the crowd?

A subtle wall mural of overlapping faces, faces in the crowd? Gabo Mendoza studio.

Last night, Friday, Gabriel Gabo Mendoza (tel: 951-142-7508) held an open studio where he lives and works at Xicotencatl #303. He isn’t on the map. Carol, David and I meandered in around 7 p.m. just as night was falling and the promise of a new moon hung in the sky.

 

Gabo’s courtyard was lit with purple twinkle lights. There were new murals on the wall. The large space will become a studio workshop for many. A table-top display held recycled Ixtlan wood mezcal boxes hand-painted with agave varieties of 750 liter bottles contained within. The mezcal is sourced locally by some of the best mezcaleros in Oaxaca and private labeled. Organic and artisanal. A great gift!

Agave painted mezcal boxes, containing artisanal juice -- for sale at Gabo Mendoza

Agave painted mezcal boxes, containing artisanal juice — for sale at Gabo Mendoza

We looked through Gabo’s newest work. Talked about how artists develop and evolve over time, and how this reflects in their work along with life experiences, tragedies and joy. It was interesting to talk about the transitions from then to now, sharing life stories, sipping Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus water) and feeling the glow of the space.

Moon coming up over purple twinkle lights

Moon coming up over purple twinkle lights at festive art opening

Then, we moved on to Taller de Grafica La Chicharra at Xicotencatl #317. This is a cooperative workshop studio where you can also take classes. Tonight, Saturday, March 19, there is a new show opening and they were readying for it. Spectacular work here, too, by MK Kabrito (Alan Altamirano) plus many others, much of it affordable! Check out the T-Shirts.

Great graphic T-shirts at La Chicarra graphic workshop

Great graphic T-shirts at La Chicarra graphic workshop

After a stop into Proyecto 30-30, Hidalgo #1208, where a graphic arts show of humorous political images hang.  By now, it was close to 8 p.m. and I knew Cooperativa Grafica Oaxaca at Manuel Doblado #210 closed at 7 p.m.  I had stopped in there earlier in the afternoon to get some great prints on fabric buttons that I will give as gifts. Agave, calavera skulls and animal images make great hat adornment.

Wall murals highlight artist work space

Wall murals highlight artist work space at Gabo Mendoza studios

We decided it was time to get a bite to eat, so walked a few blocks north on Xicotencatl that changes name to Pino Suarez when it crosses Independencia.  El Sol y La Luna Restaurante Bar, Pino Suarez #304 was our destination. Open 7 p.m. t0 midnight. Artisanal beer on tap, mezcal and sueros are featured beverages. I watched as thin crusted pizzas a la the best of Italy came out of the kitchen. We ordered cheese stuffed calzones — each crusty deliciousness. Next time, maybe a hamburger. They looked good, too.

Some tools of the artist craft

Some tools of the artist craft

Evenings this time of year are delightful. A wind comes up. Chills the hot air. Takes the edge off the beginning of the hot, spring rainy season (the rains haven’t come yet, though). Everything is in bloom. Purple Jacaranda line the avenues. A perfect time for an evening stroll to enjoy this city’s art scene and support the young artists who have so much to say through their work.

Contact: walkoaxaca@gmail.com or Facebook: artewalkoaxaca

At La Chicharra graphic arts studio and gallery

At La Chicharra graphic arts studio and gallery

 

Khadi Oaxaca Clothing Now Comes in Yardage, Too

Khadi Oaxaca makes hand-spun organic cotton. Over 100 indigenous women participate in this cooperative located in the Oaxaca mountains halfway between the Oaxaca city and the coast. It takes about three hours to get there.

Dress with rolled sleeves and patch pockets.

Dress with rolled sleeves and patch pockets.

At the winter Museo Textil de Oaxaca expoventa (show and sale), Khadi Oaxaca presented an extensive selection of beautiful clothing — mostly ponchos, quechquemitls, huipils and men’s shirts. Some of the textiles are woven on the back strap loom and others on the counterbalance pedal loom also called a flying shuttle loom.

There was lots to choose from, including bolts of beautiful handwoven material. The cotton is dyed with indigo, pericone (wild marigold) and Khadi Oaxaca also harvests and spins coyuchi, a caramel-colored, very soft wild cotton indigenous to Oaxaca and becoming very rare.

Khadi Oaxaca fabric close up, with neckline detail. Organic handspun cotton: indigo, coyuchi, pericone.

Khadi Oaxaca fabric close up, with neckline detail. Organic handspun cotton: indigo, coyuchi, pericone.

I was beside myself and had this urge to sew up a dress using a paper pattern I made from a favorite dress. I have made this dress design several times and the Khadi Oaxaca yardage was calling me. Especially the piece woven with coyuchi, indigo and pericone.

Yardage?  Not exactly.

We are in Mexico and fabric length is measured in meters, not yards. We measured the dress I was wearing (one of the favorites) and decided I needed four meters, compensating for the fact that the cloth is 15-1/4″ wide. There are 0.914 meters to the yard or 1.093 yards to the meter. Never mind that after cutting out the pattern, I was substantially short!  Could I make this dress sleeveless? I think not.

The Museo Textile de Oaxaca has Khadi Oaxaca textile lengths for sale. When I sent a message to Khadi Oaxaca, they told me they would bring the meters I needed to museum! Thank you and hallelujah for great customer service. Price: 350 pesos per meter.

Patch pockets. French seams! Love the slubs and irregularities of the weave.

Patch pockets. French seams! Love the slubs and irregularities of the weave.

After the intensity of our Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat last week that I fully participated in, writing about mother, father, family and home, I loved the down-time that this project gave me. I’ll be writing about the retreat in days to come.

 

 

 

Gracias a Dios! Have You Heard of Gin Mezcal?

We hadn’t heard of gin mezcal until the other night at Oaxaca’s Origen restaurant. Our very competent waiter suggested we taste it which was on the menu as a mixed drink. What was it like unadulterated? How could mezcal be gin? Hollie asked.

Gin Mezcal with 32 different herbs including lavender

Gin Mezcal with 32 different herbs including lavender

Gracias a Dios is the mezcal brand. That means Thank God. They produce several different varieties. This one, our waiter told us, has 32 different herbs including a very aromatic lavender. I guess it’s the aroma that gives the name GIN instead of the juniper berries. It was so good, we each ordered a little sipping cup and drank it along with our dinner instead of wine.

Gracias a Dios bottles espadin, plus the wild mezcales cuixe and tepeztate.

Gracias a Dios bottles aged espadin, plus the wild mezcales cuixe and tepeztate.

Next question: Can we buy it here? No, he said, and directed us to local La Mezcaloteca on Calle Reforma that sells bottles and dispenses tastings at the bar. They didn’t have it. Can we help you with something else they asked? No thanks.

Big selection, handpainted boxes at the ultimate gallery Mezcalillera

Big selection, handpainted boxes at the ultimate gallery Mezcalillera

Do you know where we can buy it? The barkeeper referred us to a vague place at the corner of Benito Juarez and Murguia. Lots of directions here are vague. One needs to be persistent. Along the way, we asked at the retail mezcal shop two doors down. No luck. Then, we stopped in a couple of mezcal bars along the way. No luck.

Map with contact information for Mezcalillera

Map with contact information for Mezcalillera

At the corner of Murguia and Juarez, there was no evidence of anything resembling the sale of mezcal. I asked a young man with an ice cream cone in his hand. He sported a beard. He appeared as if he might know.

Hard to find brands, artesanal and delicious.

Hard to find brands, artesanal and delicious.

And he did, pointing us to the middle of the next block on Murguia between Benito Juarez and Pino Suarez. Hallellujah. We found it. And bought the only two bottles of Gin Mezcal. So sorry! Maybe by the time you read this they will have stocked more.

7 Mysteries, with a look like a boutique California wine label.

7 Mysteries, with a look like a boutique California wine label.

Mezcal provisioners are cropping up all over town. Most mezcal bars will also sell bottles. Mezcal is the hot commodity all over the USA and Europe. Some of the bottles for sale have been certified for export. If you go out to the palenques and find the taste you love, you can often buy 750 liters of uncertified mezcal for 200 pesos, a real bargain and fraction of what a Oaxaca retail store will charge.

And, now for the Meteor!

And, now for the Meteor!

La Mezcalillera, Murguia 403A, Centro Historico, Oaxaca. Tel. (951) 514-1757. Facebook: mezcalillera  Enjoy!

 

Oaxaca Artist Gabriel Mendoza Lives Here

Oaxaca artist Gabriel Mendoza Rodriguez lives obscurely and paints large. His works are filled with color, humor, sadness, political and social commentary. They are playful and grotesque, childlike and sophisticated, simple and complex.

Two large paintings in Gabo's studio

Two large paintings in Gabo’s studio

Look into Gabo’s eyes and you know that he feels what he paints — street children, prostitutes, farm animals. These are interpretations of life as he knew it growing up in Mexico City and what he sees here in Oaxaca.

Gabriel "Gabo" Mendoza Rodriguez in front of colonial adobe wall

Gabriel “Gabo” Mendoza Rodriguez in front of colonial adobe wall

I look at Gabo’s work and think back to Mexico’s political satirical movement started by Jose Guadalupe Posada. Diego Rivera revered Posada. So did his contemporaries David Alfaro Siquieros and Jose Clemente Orozco. Many of their paintings seem like a cartoon.  The satirical cartoon is a hallmark of Mexican art and I see it, especially, in Gabriel Mendoza‘s work.

Expansive courtyard where Gabo works

Expansive courtyard where Gabo works

Gabo lives and works within the second courtyard of a vintage colonial adobe home in the historic center of Oaxaca. The front door is now metal with only the street number visible. Inside, the first courtyard is filled with old restaurant equipment and surrounded by vacant rooms.

Three calaveras -- skeletons -- a common theme, a different approach

Three calaveras — skeletons — a common theme, a different approach

Walk further back and you enter an expansive brick patio where Gabo works. Here are easels, a printing press, a table saw for building frames for paintings and doors, murals and drawings on the crumbling stucco walls. Beyond are abandoned rooms where only debris and termite eaten timbers lay waiting for rehabilitation or burial. Work is in progress.

Decades of disuse in a building with great bones

Decades of disuse in a building with great bones

This is studio space that is used by several artists and Gabo hopes that more will come here to create and collaborate.

 

Please feel free to go and knock on the door. This is a part of Oaxaca worth exploring and a talented young man you will want to meet. With thanks to Dumpster Diver Diva Ellen Benson for the introductions!

Layers of acrylic paint on woven paper, texture and color

Layers of acrylic paint on woven paper, texture and color

Gabriel “Gabo” Mendoza Rodriguez, Xicotencatl #303 (between Guerrero and Colon).  Knock loudly and ring the bell several times! You say the street: She-Koh-Ten-Caht-L

 

Above left, my artist friend Hollie Taylor visiting from North Carolina. Above right, a painted kitchen cupboard.

Portraits of women, in progress, with cut-out paper doll

Portraits of women, in progress, with cut-out paper doll

 

 

 

 

Annual Basket Fair in San Juan Guelavia, Oaxaca: River Reed Weaving

The Feria del Carrizo is happening this week in the Zapotec village of San Juan Guelavia. The last day is February 7. This annual fair is growing and this year there were hundreds of people on opening day, Sunday, January 31.

I have made this an annual tradition and this was my fourth year here. I love arriving just before 10 a.m. when the weavers are setting up shop and the cooking fires are roaring. This couple, above, still makes the reed fish traps. They make great lampshades or dried flower holders!

 

Just in time for a breakfast of traditional hot chocolate made with water (or milk, if you prefer). It’s a great accompaniment to hot off the griddle fresh made corn tortillas stuffed with yellow mole and chicken (above right) or squash blossoms , quesillo (string cheese) and mushrooms (above left). This was prepared by the volunteers from the Museo Comunitario, the community museum. Super Yummy!

 

The Community Museum is small, just two rooms and admission is by donation. Usos y Costumbres villages maintain museums to keep cultural history. San Juan was closely tied to neighboring Dainzu (now an archeological site) and Macuilxochitl (across the highway) was once the regional center.

Ancient map reproductions show this as well as a diorama of how salt was extracted from the earth by local women using clay vessels from nearby San Marcos Tlapazola. Villagers were active in the Mexican Revolution that hit the region hard because was dotted with haciendas that indentured indigenous labor, eradicated with the Revolution.

 

Of course, the food goes on all day and if you wait long enough and stay for lunch you can enjoy barbecue goat tacos along with a shot of Tobala mezcal (or Madrecuixe, as your taste dictates) straight from the palenque. Buy a bottle for 200 pesos, about 2/3 less than comparable quality in Oaxaca city!

 

The weavers in San Juan Guelavia work in river reed called carrizo. Their baskets were used by farmers, traders and cooks for centuries, long before the Spanish conquest in 1521.

Anthropologists have written and talked about the risks to this artisan craft of the Oaxaca valley. So much of the reed weaving is now replaced by plastic baskets because people everywhere love the bright colors.

But, preferred among the local ladies is the traditional market shopping basket –that round Carrizo basket with curved palm covered handle that fits comfortably in the crook of the elbow.

I use the low-sided baskets as “shipping containers” inside my luggage. I’ve put mezcal bottles and ceramics inside, wrapped in bubble, surrounded by soft clothes packed snugly and nothing ever arrives broken. Use a flat round tray to cover your stuff and secure with duct tape. Very easy!

 

Above left, the ladies prepare atole, a traditional corn drink. Mix it with chocolate for a special taste. Always served at festivals, it’s the drink of the Zapotec and Aztec gods. Above right, a grandmother ties the sash on her granddaughter’s skirt in preparation for the parade.

Above: This year, there were lots of necklaces strung with reed and bright beads. Some dangled with mini- baskets mini-atole cups (all handmade).

 

And, above right, toy trucks and airplanes and whistles for the children, bird cages and shelves for home decor.

 

How to Get There From Oaxaca City: Take a taxi or collectivo or bus that goes to Tlacolula. Get off at the San Juan Guelavia crucero (crossroads). From there, take a moto-taxi (we call them tuk-tuks into town.) The village is situated about a mile inland on the west side of the Carretera Nacional MX190 better known as the Pan-American Highway.