Tag Archives: art

P.S. Looking for Diego Rivera in San Francisco, California, USA

Just in from my sister Barbara who lives in the Bay Area.  USA Today publishes How to Visit Diego Rivera Murals in San Francisco.  Here is the complete list, open hours, and specific locations.  Enjoy!

In Mexico City: Looking for Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo, iconic painter, called him The Frog and married him twice.  They count her as his third and fourth wife.  We know Diego Rivera as a communist, socialist, painter, bad boy of 1930′s Mexico who snubbed Nelson Rockefeller by refusing to eliminate Lenin’s portrait from the infamous Rockefeller Center mural.  Fired and his mural destroyed, Rivera retreated from New York to Mexico City to reproduce his vision of humanity, Man at the Crossroads, on the walls of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.  Look for Rockefeller in this mural.


All the photos in this blog post are of murals at the Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP) in Mexico City.

As I write this, I am traveling on a six-and-a-half hour ADO GL bus south toward Oaxaca.  There is the promise of torrential hurricane force rains along the way.  A good time to reflect on the four days I spent in Mexico City to look for Diego Rivera.

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I love his paintings but not his personal behavior: his violent temper and many infidelities.  I can understand it but don’t admire it.  Is behavior a reflection of character and how can you separate one from the other?  Must one accept the totality of the artist to love his or her work?

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In 2012, a distant friend told me that she, too, loved Diego Rivera.  I questioned her because she had just declared her intention to vote for Mitt Romney — the antithesis of Rivera and his political passion. I replied: To love Diego Rivera is to respect, support, and admire his political stand.  You can’t separate the man from his work.  She disagreed.  What do you think?


Rivera’s paintings are iconic and symbolic. They express his political and social empathy for Mexico’s indigenous, her revolutionaries, intellectuals, reformers, and anti-capitalists, and his disdain for the church and oppressors of any ilk.  Rivera’s murals are a riveting, visceral history of human rights violations beginning with the invasion of Cortes, the Inquisition in New Spain, the Porfiriato and exploding power of Fascism.  

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In sweeping fashion, Rivera captures all that accompanies political power seekers: corruption, greed, debauchery, dictatorship, and assassination.  His imagery depicts the rise of industrialization and its dehumanizing forces, the tensions of machinery vs. man, the movement from rural life to the crush of cities where personal identity is lost or stolen.  He speaks to us of the soul of humanity and our purest impulses for compassion and forgiveness.

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There is a strong message in the beauty he created.  Support of the proletarian revolution is the guiding theme among them all.

The paintings speak to Mexican life and specific people Rivera singled out populate them, like Emiliano Zapata and Otillio Montaño.  He manages to insert himself with self-portraits throughout his works, too. 

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In a 1928 fresco at the Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP) a red-ribbon banner painted above In the Arsenal holds these words (interpreted and paraphrased):

Here will be the proletarian revolution.

Voices will open to loudly proclaim throughout the land

The sad, sordid but pure story

That many suffered

Were maligned and oppressed.


Do you see Rivera’s self-portrait here?

Rivera is a storyteller.  The three floors of paintings at SEP are remarkable expressions of his early period, 1923-1928.  This is also where he met Frida Kahlo, the seventeen-year-old student who came to him while he was on a scaffold to ask his opinion of her work.

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At SEP, I was fortunate enough to be able to trail a group of teachers on a guided tour through areas usually restricted to the public.  Afterward, I lingered and revisited favorites.  In 1928, Rivera painted Death of Capitalism, The Orgy, and Wall Street Banquet, a cynical prediction of the 1929 stock market crash.   His pre-Hispanic images of rural indigenous life are compelling:  Dia de los Muertos, Fiesta of the Dance of the Deer, El Tianguis (the market), The Weavers, The Dyers, and Paradise


I spent three hours at SEP and want to go back.  It could be my favorite place to look for Diego Rivera.  I know the man and his art are one, and for that reason I have gained a new admiration and respect for him from this visit.

Looking for Diego Rivera in Mexico City 

  1. Secretaria de Educacion Publica, Ave. Republica de Argentina #28, weekdays only.  Walk from Zocalo. Three floors of exquisite murals, 1923-1928.
  2. Museo Mural Diego Rivera, corner of Avenidas Balderas & Colon, facing Av. Juarez at the end of the Alameda Central.  Mural restored after 1989 (check date) earthquake and relocated.  An amazing journey through Mexico’s political, social history from 1521 to mid-20th century (check date)
  3. Palacio Nacional on the Zocalo
  4. Palacio de Bellas Artes, on Av. Juarez
  5. Municipal Water Pumping Station, Rivera sculpture of rain god Tlaloc


Now, perhaps on to Detroit and San Francisco to continue the search.

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Footnotes:  SEP was created in 1921 and the building where it is housed is a former convent, a magnificent colonial structure, appropriated by the state when the church was banned from holding land.  I met Miriam, educated in art restoration at the Instituto Bottcelli in Cuernavaca, who is one of an eight-person team who work year-round to restore and preserve the murals.

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In Mexico City: Lunch at Mercado Abelardo L. Rodriguez

Down the street from Santo Domingo Plaza and the museum of the Inquisition in New Spain is Mercado Abelardo L. Rodriguez, a historic neighborhood market filled with lunch stalls, fruit and vegetable stands, and puestos selling cooking staples..  It is known for housing extraordinary murals by students of Diego Rivera, though most visitors to Mexico City are unaware of this landmark.

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This is a people’s market, very different from the Mercado San Juan, the upscale, exotic, European-style food court near Palacio Bellas Artes.

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Hungarian photographer Agnes Behari sent me there.  I met her on the steps of the Santo Domingo Church while I was shooting the texture of the door.  She asked about my camera, told me she is an MFA student in documentary photography at the Academy of San Carlos, part of UNAM, and as we were talking the doors to the chapel closed and I never got in.  Time for lunch.

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Agnes said there are murals by Diego Rivera inside.  Not exactly!  The murals are by his students who painted them under his supervision.  However, once I got there, I was so overwhelmed by market activity and making a decision about which stall to sit down at, I totally forgot about the murals.  Something for the next visit!


Food and art.  Art and food.  What is more important?  At the moment, food.  And where to eat it.  Choosing where to eat can be tricky.  Rule of thumb:  Look around. Take your time. Determine which place has the most clients with butts in seats.  I did this in small rural villages in China fifteen years ago and never got sick.

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Antojitos Mexicanos Yucely was packed and people were waiting to take their place on a plastic stool and elbow up to the bar.  The daily two-course special — soup and entrée with two sides — was 40 pesos.  Add 10 pesos for a bottle of Coca Cola. The 50 pesos total equals about $4. USD in today’s exchange rate.

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I ordered a filet of huachinango (red snapper) battered in corn meal, crispy fried with a sweet, perfectly cooked center.  I asked for a side of the yummiest potatoes on the planet seasoned with oil, vinegar, onion and jalapeño peppers with just enough bite to make it interesting, plus perfectly steamed vegetable medley of squash, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, and a taste of marinated, sautéed mushrooms.  I joined the multitudes with smiles on their faces.

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My camera makes for a great conversation piece and before long, people were asking me to take their photos, which I promised to send them via email or Facebook.  After lunch became a market portrait session.

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Ah, and did I mention that I’m a single woman traveler in Mexico City?  Walking everywhere by myself, even as night falls!

Oaxaca Matria Therapeutic Art Garden: Cultural Center for Music and More

Matria Jardin Arterapeutico is the manifestation of artist Maurico Cervantes’ imagination.  With the help of many, many others plus foundation funding, a decayed, roofless 17th century colonial building in Oaxaca’s historic center has become a cultural mecca.  It is at once a moveable art installation, organic garden, educational teaching center, music and arts venue, and inspiration for innovation — a fine example of what to do with aging space with great bones.

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Despite a late Sunday afternoon rainstorm (much needed, I might say), Matria hosts Sandmann and The Voodoo Cat, a three-person cabaret-style ensemble for our listening pleasure.  Tucked inside the only area with shelter from the sky, Kati Sandmann (vocals, guitar), Dabeat Morales (percussion), and Ricardo Chavez (guitar) perform as if the 40 of us is a sold-out audience of hundreds at Carnegie Hall.

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Their range goes from blues to folk to swing to rock with a hint of jazz. Kati’s voice sounds like Edith Piaf or Lotte Lenya, extending from alto to alto soprano.  She sings multi-lingual in German, French, Spanish and English. It is at times atonal, dissonant and altogether appealing.  I hear Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht, Bob Dylan, Jacques Brel, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, and Ray Charles.

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Not too long into the concert the skies opened and out came the umbrellas. The band played on — unflappable.  We stayed, enraptured with the sound, and the rain coming through the porous roof.  At this moment, church bells sound calling people to Sunday evening mass.  The bells blend perfectly with the music. Two standing ovations brought two more songs before the concert ended. When in Oaxaca during the summer, the best advice is to carry a paragua when going out.

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The concert ended.  The skies cleared. I returned to the courtyard, rain reflected on organic food, in mirrors, in the bathtub lily pond encased in an old bed frame.


Lots of ideas here for gardening and imagining and meditating.

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Matria Jardin Arteterapeutico, Murguia #103, between Macedonio Alcala and 5 de Mayo.  Check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.

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Felt Fashion Workshop: Oaxaca Style Art To Wear

We’ve invited Jessica de Haas back to teach this popular workshop again in 2014.  Here is your chance to escape winter, roll up your sleeves and make an extraordinary felted wool garment that will bring ooh’s and aah’s.  For seven nights and eight days, from January 30 to February 6, you will experience the textile culture of Oaxaca, and create naturally dyed felt fabric that you will make into wearable art.

If you ever wanted to felt wool and use it to make a garment that is unique, comfortable and stylish, this is the place for you.  If you want to build upon what you already know and add to your skill set, join us!  We use easy-to-construct indigenous Mexican patterns to show off your design creativity.  If you aren’t confident, don’t worry! The place itself is an inspiration.

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Our expert instructor is fiber artist-clothing designer Jessica de Haas, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  She is joined by Eric Chavez Santiago from Oaxaca, Mexico, who will demonstrate natural dyeing techniques.  The wool roving we use is dyed by Eric who works with cochineal, indigo, wild marigold and other local plant sources.

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About Your Instructors

Jessica owns the clothing design company Funk-Shui in Vancouver, B.C. and is an award-winning, internationally known fiber artist, fashion designer and teacher.  Her work is published in leading books and magazines. She recently completed an Arquetopia artist residency in Oaxaca, and taught and exhibited at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  See her website for bio and designs.

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Eric Chavez Santiago, founding director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, is a weaver and natural dye expert.  He has taught natural dyeing techniques  in Oaxaca and at U.S. universities and museums since 2006.

I attended the workshop this past year (Feb 2013). Wow! Jessica was a fabulous instructor, practical and inspirational, and a total delight. The village of Teotitlan is an experience in itself and will immerse you in a totally different and vibrant world. The B&B and especially the meals were awesome and conversation around the table with other workshop participants was totally fun and absorbing — a bunch of creative, independent and feisty women! And, you can’t lose — even I made several shawls I’m very proud to wear. Highly recommended! –Leslie Larson

Our Itinerary

Working with Jessica in the courtyard of our B&B, we will first make pre-felts and samples.  Then we will embark on creating lengths of felted fabric enough to make one garment.  You can also choose to felt on silk or cheesecloth that results in lighter weight and beautifully draping fabric. After your fabric is dry, you will have the option to cut and sew it into one of several indigenous Oaxaca styles:  the huipil (tunic), the blusa (blouse), rebozo (shawl), boufanda (scarf) or quechequemitl (cape), or modify the basic pattern into a design of your own.  We give you a pattern book to choose your design!

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This workshop is for all levels of experience!  You do not have to be an artist or experienced felt-maker to attend.  We welcome beginners who have never worked in hand felting and more advanced fiber artists. This is a perfect residency for university students, teachers and artists who may want to explore a different medium, too.

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We will provide you with patterns for the basic indigenous designs that can be adjusted to fit.  If you want to contemporize them, we can help you tweak and make adjustments. If you have sewing or pattern drafting experience and want to experiment on your own, you are welcome to work on an independent design project.

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We are based in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle where for generations families have created wool textiles.  During our time together, we will go on local field trips to gain design inspiration, and meet and talk with weavers who work with natural dyes.  Some weave wool fabric for wearable art as well as sturdier floor and wall tapestries.  We will see examples of the types of garments that can be created from the felted fabric we make.

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Supplies to bring (preliminary list):

  • Cotton cheesecloth, preferably pre-colored, 5 to 6 yards (3 to 4 meters) or more
  • Embellishments: beads, sequins, buttons, ribbons, embroidery thread, yarn and other embellishments  (we will also have a supply on hand that you can use, too)
  • Non-stick shelf liner, 20 inches wide x 5 ft. long (minimum length), one roll
  • Sewing kit: sharp scissors, needles, threads, tailor chalk 

Note: The materials listed are enough to make one garment. If you wish to prepare a more complex or elaborate garment, we will offer more dyed wool roving for purchase and we suggest you bring more cheesecloth. We will provide a source list upon registration.

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Here is what is included in your registration fee:

  • all instruction
  • 7 nights lodging
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 6 dinners
  • naturally dyed merino wool roving for one garment
  • silk yardage for nuno felting, enough for one garment
  • pattern booklet and natural dye recipes
  • sewing machine to share with needles, thread
  • selected embellishments, yarns, threads
  • guided visit to Oaxaca textile museum and galleries

Workshop is limited to 10 participants.

Daily Workshop Schedule:  Arrive Thursday, January 30 and depart Thursday, February 6.   7 nights and 8 days with options to extend your visit.

Day 1, Thursday, January 30 – Arrive and settle in to your bed and breakfast posada in Teotitlan del Valle (we send directions)

Day 2, Friday, January 31 – Jump right in to make partial felts and laminate samples with silk and cheesecloth. We will make an actual mini- scarf during this session, as well as fabric samples. (B, D)

Day 3, Saturday, February 1 – Take a morning field trip to the village market and church for pattern inspiration from the local environment. After lunch we will work on designs using the partial felts and inspiration from the morning studies. (B, D)

Day 4, Sunday, February 2 – We take you on a field trip to visit Eric Chavez Santiago for an indigo dye demo.  In the afternoon, Jessica will demonstrate her method for using acid dyes and free-motion embroidery. You’ll then start on making felt for your final project/garment. (B, D)

Day 5, Monday, February 3 – Continue working on your project. In the afternoon Jessica will demo the art of making felt flowers. (B, D)

Day 6, Tuesday, February 4 —  Field trip to visit local silk weavers. Continue to felt, embellish, sew and finish your project.  Completed project Show and Tell with photos before dinner. (B, D)

Day 7, Wednesday, February 5 – Oaxaca City Textile Walk and Shop with Norma (B)

Day 8, Thursday, February 6 – Departure (B)

(This is a preliminary daily schedule and subject to modification.)  

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Workshop Fee:  $1,595 basic cost per person includes shared room and bath, double occupancy. Single occupancy with private bath, add $300.

Extension Options: 

Option 1:  Stay an extra day and take a Zapotec cooking class on Thursday, February 6, depart February 7.  Includes one night lodging, breakfast, lunch, cooking class and recipes.  $115 USD each.  2 person minimum.

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Option 2:  Friday, February 7, Ocotlan Market Day with stops to visit famous wood carvers, embroiderers, and potters.  Excursion includes transportation, 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 suppers, and 2 nights lodging on February 6 and 7, with a February 8 departure. (Note: does not include cooking class on February 6.  If you choose this option, Thursday, February 6 is on your own.)   $165 per person.  2 person minimum.

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Option 3:  Cooking Class and Ocotlan Market Day Combo.  Combine both Option 1 and Option 2 for a special price of $250 per person.  2 person minimum.


Arrive early or stay later!  Add on nights in Teotitlan del Valle at $50 per night, or Oaxaca City at $125 per night.  Let us know your preference and we make all the arrangements for you.

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 Accommodations. To keep this trip affordable and accessible, we stay in a local posada/guest house. The food is all house made (including the tortillas), safe to eat and delicious. Vegetarian options are available.


Your registration fee does NOT include airfare, taxes, admissions to museums and archeological sites, gratuities, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals and some transportation.

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 December 15, 2013.  We only accept Payment with PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After December 15, 2012, 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 December 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register or for questions, contact:  normahawthorne@mac.com  I am happy to set up a Skype call with you, too.  Skype name:  oaxacaculture