Category Archives: Oaxaca Mexico art and culture

Oaxaca Street Life: Guelaguetza Crush, Art and Expoventas

Thousands of people converge on the streets of Oaxaca for Guelaguetza. Only 11,000 were in the Guelaguetza auditorium to hear Lila Downs last night. OaxStreetLife-9

The rest were visitors strolling Macedonio Alcala, the walking avenue between the Zocalo and Santo Domingo Church, and roaming vendors selling everything from fragrant azucenas that only bloom at night to ice cream and hair decor.

Carnival rides bring smiles to children and parents.  OaxStreetLife-4

The perpendicular and parallel side streets are filled with pop-up outdoor food stands where you can get tortillas cooked on a comal any way you like them.

OaxStreetLife-18

OaxStreetLife-7 OaxStreetLife-8 OaxStreetLife-15

A must-see art exhibit at Instituto de Artes Graficas de Oaxaca across from Santo Domingo Church opened last night. A crowd of visitors and locals packed the galleries to see some stunning lithography and the beer flowed.

OaxStreetLife-14 OaxStreetLife-12

Mexico’s art is usually wrapped in social and political commentary and this exhibition is no exception. Here artist-illustrator Artemio Rodriguez paints the Virgin of Guadalupe on a shovel and the eagle on a cactus with a snake in its mouth, symbol of nationhood, on a wheelbarrow. Is this irreverent?

OaxStreetLife-13 OaxStreetLife-11

Images of farm workers and the iconic Porfirio Diaz, president/dictator, offer us visual contrast between poverty and poverty, honor and corruption.  Art here is something to chew on, not for matching with furniture and color palette.

OaxStreetLife-17 OaxStreetLife-19

Of course, shopping is King and Queen, and you can find some of the best Oaxaca artisans from many villages here in Oaxaca this time of year.

WHERE? At pop-up art and folk art Expoventa shows throughout the city:

OaxStreetLife-20 OaxStreetLife-2-2 OaxStreetLife-3-2

 

Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza 2014 Thrills Crowds, Still Controversial

Guelaguetza2014-18

Tickets to sit close to Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza Auditorium stage are costly, about $100 USD per person.  Up high in the upper galleries, the seats are free and people start lining up hours in advance of the opening to be able to capture one.

Guelaguetza2014-7 Guelaguetza2014-13

The controversy lies in the accessibility to this annual folkloric performance in an auditorium that can hold 11,000 people.  So, the government provides live video streaming on the Internet and broadcasts the performances on a big screen in the Zocalo.

Guelaguetza2014-9 Guelaguetza2014-2

However, this year the Zocalo is an encampment, occupied by another demonstration of teachers who continue to protest poor pay and lack of support for adequate school supplies.  Since 2006, it has become much more than that.

Guelaguetza2014-3

In the political tradition of Mexico, this legal demonstration highlights the ongoing conflict between the workers and the bourgeoisie, those in power and those who have no voice, those who have access and those who don’t.

Guelaguetza2014-14 Guelaguetza2014-16

Lila Downs sings about this. Diego Rivera painted it.  Jose Guadalupe Posada sketched the iconic images of this Day of the Dead Calavera Catrina mocking the middle class who turned its back on the impoverished.

Guelaguetza2014-5 Guelaguetza2014-25

This is my third year to attend the Guelaguetza. Fortunately, my ticket was a gift this year. Each time, I think about what a privilege it is to be here.

Guelaguetza2014-30

The other controversy is about what Guelaguetza really means. Guelaguetza is not a folkloric performance as most visitors believe, but a way of life for indigenous people.  Full baskets of gifts for visitors is a symbol for the hope of there being enough — more than enough, of plenty — for all.

Guelaguetza2014-27 Guelaguetza2014

Guelaguetza is a complex word meaning mutual support, giving and receiving, a way to keep communities intact, a way to honor ritual and tradition. You can learn more about this in the Teotitlan del Valle community museum.  It is why Zapotecs here have survived and thrived for 8,000 years.

Guelaguetza2014-37

 

It is beautiful to see this honored on the stage of the auditorium, replete with Oaxaca’s most beautiful women, handwoven textiles, music, and ritual dance.Guelaguetza2014-34

We watch mating and marriage rituals recreated complete with live guajolotes, and the teasing between young men and women from Pinotepa Don Luis. The women’s purple and red skirts are back strap loom woven with cochineal and purpua dyed cotton.

Guelaguetza2014-17

We see how communities like Juxtlahuaca in the Mixteca-Baja depend on raising, killing and selling cattle as they dance with spurs clicking and rattling.

Guelaguetza2014-12

 

That is why this performance never tires.  It is important to know, however, that this is a re-enactment of daily life.  To get to know the real Oaxaca, visit her villages and meet her people. Don’t sit in an auditorium with a camera and binoculars, and believe this is a complete experience!

Guelaguetza2014-35The evening performances end in a dazzling fireworks display!  It can be seen for miles around and went on for what seemed a good ten or fifteen minutes. This is only one of many images I caught. Yes, it’s a great time to be in Oaxaca!Guelaguetza2014-39

 

The performances happen on the last two Mondays of July each year.  There are two performances remaining, one at 10 a.m. and the other at 5 p.m. on Monday, July 28.  Go, if you can. It’s a magnificent experience.

 

Oaxaca Show & Sale, July 25-26: To Benefit Artisans and Artists at Las Bugambilias B&B

ExpoBugambilias4

Tlacolula Meanderings: Play, Parking Tickets and No Where In Particular

One of my favorite past-times is the Sunday Tlacolula market.  I never tire of it. There is always something new, different, another point-of-view. This week there were strange flowers that looked like lollipops, plus fuzzy rambutans for eating.

Tlacolula6_2014-3

Last Sunday, I parked on the street not attending to the “no parking” sign, which I didn’t think included the spot where I had stationed La Tuga.  Afterall, it was exactly where I parked the week before! Then, Carol and I set out to cover the market from one end to the other.  It was early and for the first block, we trailed a duo carrying guacalotes intended for sale.

Tlacolula6_2014-17 Tlacolula6_2014-9

Then, there were the petate basket weavers from San Juan Guelavia who make traditional mats that gringos use for floor coverings who vend in the church courtyard along with the sellers of sal de gusano.

Tlacolula6_2014-16 Tlacolula6_2014-14

The Tlacolula market is a food, flower and people fest. There’s no telling what you will find. Including a flower vendor with a floral skirt.

Tlacolula6_2014-2 Tlacolula6_2014-5

After returning to find a parking ticket the size of a legal sheet of paper, I hailed a huge pick-up truck with flashing lights, two official policemen in the front seat, to ask where to go to pay it and how much it would cost, only to be greeted by the driver with, Do you speak English?” in perfect English.  I would follow this civil servant anywhere.

Tlacolula6_2014-6 Tlacolula6_2014-12

And I did, winding around the streets of Tlacolula to get to the first hidden-away office, where several officials inspected me, ushered me into the inner sanctum, where the chief, a woman, stamped the ticket and told me to go to the regional finance office to pay. They are closed on Sunday, so I had to return during the week.

I did. The line was short. The ticket cost 255 pesos, about $21 USD, and I learned my lesson. Park in an official parking garage!

Tlacolula6_2014-8

On the day I paid the ticket, these guys were still cruising the street. Guess what? They waived. Me, too.

Art Huipil Mixed Media Workshop Retreat: Explore Your Inner Artist

A  perfect mixed-media art workshop for a getaway in Oaxaca, Mexico! With artist/instructor Lena Bartula. Arrive January 8 and depart January 14. 6 nights and 7 days to explore your inner artist. All-levels, including non-artists, welcome.

Un Fruto Prohibido

The Mesoamerican huipil is an indigenous garment, similar to a blouse. It is woven on the back-strap loom by and for women throughout Mexico and central America, important long before the Spanish conquest. It survives today as an article of clothing that symbolizes womanhood, and identifies origins, family and village lineage.  It serves to conceal and protect, yet its patterns and designs speak and reveal much about the individual creator, her experiences, beliefs and perspectives.

During this five-day workshop retreat, you will be in residence in the indigenous Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, where we explore the traditional meaning of the huipil and reinterpret it for a contemporary context. You will use this article of clothing as a metaphor for social and cultural identity, power of place, and express your inner artist by creating something that is distinctively yours — to hang or display, rather than to wear.

garment worker huipil copy

In the process of making this mixed-media art, you will review your own personal path, the journeys you have taken, the stories you remember, people you know and have shaped you, and form the stories to tell for the future. The huipil becomes your mechanism for self-expression and storytelling. As human beings, we may share similar paths or those that run parallel, intersect or diverge. Life paths digress, slow, stall, explode, or keep a steady state. By participating in this workshop retreat, the experience sparks memory and inspiration to create.

You are encouraged to dream, remember, anticipate, then use an array of materials to construct the huipil. Your huipil may be made of cloth, paper, fabric or a combination, or constructed of something else entirely! You might choose to decorate it with ribbon, buttons, photos, stitching, collected objects, memorabilia, scraps. You may create a literal or abstract interpretation. There is no right or wrong way.

Artist/instructor Lena Bartula will present historical reference and her own personal experiences about the huipil.  She will discuss why she believes that, as both art form and as clothing, the huipil is the perfect container for artful self-expression.

The Program

Day 1: Thursday, January 8: Arrive and check into our Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca B&B. Enjoy a relaxed evening around the outdoor kitchen where our home cook prepares fresh quesadillas with local, organic ingredients.

Day 2, Friday, January 9: We join in an opening circle with welcome, introductions, and workshop overview, then hear a presentation on huipiles, their history and tradition, then see contemporary examples, including the work of the teacher and other artists. We will discuss themes, how story-telling brings alive the concepts, and share ideas from which we will begin our work. After a lunch break, we will visit the community museum and/or artisan workshops for inspiration.

Day 3, Saturday, January 10: We will review and talk about what we found or learned on the first day, then begin to layout the materials and supplies to choose what we will use, and start creating preliminary sketches and designs for the huipil. Lena will demonstrate design options, gluing techniques, collage application, painting and stitching. After lunch, you will being the huipil making process.

Day 4, Sunday, January. 11: Field trip! We go to the Tlacolula market, a scavenging adventure to collect more ideas and materials, look for a wide range of representative examples of huipiles on display that come from throughout Oaxaca state and surrounding areas. The market is a great place to familiarize yourself with huipil shapes, textures, designs and colors of “the cloud people” as the Zapotecs call themselves. It’s also your best shopping adventure! After a market lunch, we return to our B&B, then gather for dinner and talk about the best of the day discoveries.

Day 5, Monday, January 12:  Back in the studio, we will talk about what we found at the market and decide what to and how to add them our art huipil constructions. You will continue working with access to Lena’s expertise and coaching, with more personalized instruction and demonstrations as needed. After lunch, it’s continuing to work on your project in the studio.

Day 6, Tuesday, January 13: Today you put the finishing touches on your art huipil as you work toward completing the project by mid-afternoon. After lunch, we will have a group show and tell, presentation where you will have the optional opportunity to talk about your project, how it developed and evolved. Then, it’s photo time to capture the workshop in an inspiring place with new friends. At dinner, we will wrap up with a grand finale celebration.

Day 7: Wednesday, January 14: We say our goodbyes and depart for home after breakfast.

Pathmaker on blk

What to Bring: Materials List

  • Copies of photographs, found objects or treasured memorabilia
  • Favorite art supplies, ie; paints, pencils, markers, tissue paper, scissors, brushes, specialty papers
  • Apron or work shirt
  • A sturdy, large cardboard envelope, portfolio or tube to transport your art huipil home

 Materials we provide:

  • The huipil structure itself – you can choose canvas or paper or cloth or a combination
  • A selection of ephemera and specialty papers
  • Needles and thread, glue, wire
  • Scraps of cloth, yarn, reeds

We’ll stitch, glue, wire, draw, collage and paint until your personal art huipil is complete and ready to go home with you.

Coatlicue_lg

In creating our own huipil, we talk about using it as a container, where acceptance, forgiveness and transformation have a place to co-exist.

About LENA BARTULA

A visual artist for more than thirty-five years, Lena Bartula moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2004 to Mexico, where she lives and works full-time in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. Her repertoire includes painting, installation, printmaking, constructions, book arts and mixed media, as ‘autobiographical symbolist abstraction.’

Lena’s art often combines imagery and pattern, textured layers, and words or letters in English or Spanish, inspired by her own poetry or that of other writers. The huipil, an indigenous blouse in the Mayan and Aztec tradition, called her attention to the ‘why’ of writing one’s personal and collective history in symbols. Out of this was born a series of contemporary huipiles, a tribute to women whose voices and visions have historically been silenced or suppressed.

As a conceptual artist, she creates most of her work from an original idea, and after much deliberation and research, chooses her materials and techniques accordingly. The relationship of words, like text and textile, are instrumental in formulating ideas, and although technically she is neither a weaver nor paper maker, these traditional crafts play a major role in her work on this series. Sewing has become a method of ‘weaving together’ ideas, and Bartula has been known to stitch disparate materials such as leaves, maps, plastic and corn husks.

She considers art making as a way to speak of beauty, truth, spirit, joy, pain, justice, everything that this human life entails. Her works are shown in museums and galleries throughout the world, in her San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, studio/gallery, and are found in collections in France, Italy, Great Britain, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Guatemala and Mexico.

silencio huipil copy

What Past Participants Say About Lena Bartula

“At first I worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with ideas, but once I let my mind relax and opened it to all the possibilities that the materials offered, the ideas and the work flowed along. Lena is so helpful with suggestions, and I love her style of teaching.”  - Irene 

“I have wanted to work with Lena for many years now and was thrilled when she announced the Huipil Workshop. What a pleasure to work for two days with others making personal art. Between the surroundings and Lena’s supportive, guiding presence my vision for what might be was surpassed. YES!” –Patricia 

“After signing up I found myself very occupied remembering my entire life and mentally searching for ways to represent it tangibly. Gathering my materials, I traveled to Mexico from Guatemala, and what a joy! Lena is a gentle inspiration as a workshop leader and a lovely person. The group was compatible as we all worked and talked and shared. And each of us had a rewarding and big start on the final image we created at the workshop to take home.” –Judy 

“I was lucky to hear about Lena’s workshop in time to attend and enjoyed every minute in her particular and beautiful world of visual art. Working with new materials and concepts I learned to expand my creative horizons and now feel inspired to take risks, think way outside my various boxes and deeply contemplate my creative path.” –Kathleen

Cost to Participate:

  • $895 per person double occupancy, shared bath
  • $1,195 per person single occupancy, private bath

(Note: Non-residential tuition offered at $765 per person for local daily commuters. This option does not include daily lodging, breakfast or dinner.)

Workshop Retreat includes: all instruction, some materials as specified in the daily schedule, 6 nights lodging, 6 breakfasts, 6 dinners.

Your registration fee does NOT include airfare, taxes, admissions to museums and archeological sites, tips, liquor/alcoholic beverages, lunches, transportation, and insurance.

UnforeseenLove_lg copy

About Our Workshops, Retreats and Programs.  We offer educational programs that are hands-on, fun, culturally sensitive, and offer you an immersion experience.   Our workshop leaders are experts in their field, knowledgeable, have teaching experience and guide you in the learning process.  Our goal is to enhance your knowledge while giving you time to explore and discover.

About Lodging and Sense of Place: To keep this trip affordable and accessible, we stay in a local posada/guest house in Teotitlan del Valle. The food is all house made (including the tortillas), safe to eat and delicious. Vegetarian options are available.  Our workshop space is outdoors, al fresco, in the patio courtyard. We look over blooming bougainvillea to the mountain-tops beyond, There are walking and hiking trails, opportunities to visit local weavers and craft artisans, and plenty of time for reflection.

Insurance Required:  We require proof of international travel insurance that covers accidents, with $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation to the U.S.A. or your home country is required by all participants.  Thank you for your understanding.

Deposits, Reservations and Cancellations.  A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot.  The last payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be paid by November 15, 2014.  We only accept payment with PayPal.  We will send you an invoice as soon as you tell us you are ready to register.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After December 1, 2014, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  Your registration is transferable to a substitute.  If you cancel before November 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

To register or for questions, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com