Tag Archives: art

Flores y Cantos Mixed Media Art Exhibition at Museo Rufino Tamayo

The opening was last night. The food was amazing. The exhibition ethereal and dramatic. The premise: in the language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, when the two glyphs flower and song are joined, the new meaning is art and poetry.  This concept was essential to the Aztec worldview, according to exhibition creator Carolyn Kallenborn, professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

And what do I take with me when I go?

Will I leave nothing here of me on this earth?

Do we only rise up and grow to then die in the ground?

At least let us leave flowers.

At least let us leave song.

Nezahualcoyotl, Aztec Poet

Flores y Cantos invites you to lose yourself in a surreal world of past and future, light, shadow and projected imagery of the ever-present and on-going cycles of nature. As you step into and move throughout the space, you add your own shadow and become immersed in the thoughts of life’s meaning and what is left behind by those who came before you. The artist asks, What will you leave behind?

Tree of life embroidery by Miriam Campos, San Antonino Castillo Velasco

For me, that leads to the ultimate and essential question, What is the meaning of life?

Tito Mendoza’s tapestry illuminated by a visual lake, you are on the beach

The exhibition has as its backdrop the pre-Columbian ceramic figures collected by Oaxaca artist Rufino Tamayo. While the individuals who created these sacred pieces, often deities that also refer to animals, plants, people and customs, are unnamed, we consider their legacy and that of their culture. They who believed in the eternal and the life cycle of birth, death and back again.

Enter into this other-worldly space, reflections

I sit on shallow steps, examining the tapestry of indigenous maize woven by textile artist Erasto “Tito” Mendoza, appreciating the fine embroidery stitches of a tree of life by Miriam Campos, I watch the movement of light, color, sky, water, nature projected. Sound conveys birdsong, waves, thunder-clap, peace, and I am immersed in another world, or is it my own, here and now?

Food for thought

At the buffet table, a visual feast

Carolyn asks us: Think about the following questions —

  1. What do you value that your ancestors passed on to you?
  2. What would you want others to remember about you when you are gone?

In the frenzy of Guelaguetza, the Oaxaca event that attracts thousands to the city, this is a respite that offers calm and consideration.

Carolyn, Miriam and Tito joined by family and friends

I am grateful to be writing about this after the almost two-hour trip from the city back to Teotitlan last night. The city celebration brings much-needed tourism and also Los Angeles-style gridlock. I’m going to be here on the hammock for a while as I think about what Carolyn asks me to re-examine.

Nicuatole pre-Hispanic corn pudding with Teotitlan mole negro tamales

Is life a blur or is there a kernel of meaning in this picture?

Feet up, swinging in the hammock, a meditation on blue skies





Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico at the Skirball Center, Los Angeles

Once the dust of Mexico settles on your heart,

you will have no rest in any other land.

On September 13, I joined Patrice Wynne and Gloria Orenstein at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles for a curator-led preview tour of this landmark exhibition, Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico.

The exhibition runs through February 25, 2018.

The term promised land is rooted in a vision of freedom and liberation.  Emotionally, it has meaning for peoples seeking release from oppression who want a secure life where one can become fully realized without restraint. Jewish identity is intertwined with Israel as the promised land. African-American slaves looked to the north as a promised land. Oppressed peoples throughout the world continue to seek asylum in America, their hope of the promised land where opportunity and justice prevail. (We must be vigilant.)

Tina Modotti captures Anita Brenner in black and white

Anita Brenner (1905-1974), a Mexican-born Jewish writer who lived and worked during the Mexican Renaissance, saw the country adopted by her Latvian parents as a promised land for intellectual and artistic expression. Her own experience with prejudice and discrimination helped give her voice to bridge understanding.

Mexico was a haven for immigrants escaping Europe throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Even today, Mexico has a welcoming immigration policy. Her people are a blend of indigenous, Spanish, African, Filipino, Chinese, German, and French — representing waves of conquest and immigration. Jews sought haven in Mexico when the gates were closed to the United States of America. (Thank you, Mexico!)

Diego Rivera, Dance in Tehuantepec, watercolor

Brenner was an integral part of the circle of Mexican modernists in the 1920s and played an important role in promoting and translating Mexican art, culture, and history for audiences in the U.S.

Jean Charlot, The Massacre in the Main Temple, fresco, Collegio San Ildefonso

Born during the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Brenner was close to the leading intellectuals and artists active in Mexico at the time. These are names we know well: painters José Clemente Orozco, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jean Charlot, and photographer Tina Modotti. There were others whose name we do not widely know in the USA, including Rivera’s second wife, Guadalupe Marin, Frances Toor, Nahui Olin, Luz Jimenez and Concha Michel.   

Abraham Angel, La India

Art historian Karen Cordero says they would meet at Sanborn’s Casa de los Azulejos to talk about politics, social injustices, women’s rights, feminism, and other issues.

The exhibition introduces us to Brenner as an important figure who has been heretofore obscured by the more illustrious in her circle.  An influential and prolific writer on Mexican culture, Brenner is best known for her book Idols Behind Altars: Modern Mexican Art and Its Cultural Roots (1929). 

Cover of Mexico this month, February 1956

Her work is rooted in the shaping of post-Revolution Mexico, when a new identity for a new nation needed to be reassessed to reflect the persistent indigenous culture behind the Spanish conquest. The Revolution brought with it the need to create political, social and cultural change and artists turned to folk art as inspiration to re-imagine past with future.

Mathias Goeritz, Satellite Tower. He was close to Luis Barragan, architect.

She was also instrumental in creating cultural tourism for Mexico — promoting cultural exploration as a vacation activity by publishing the cultural travel magazine, Mexico this month. We can consider her a pioneer in learning about the people who live where you visit.

The Skirball’s exhibition includes a narrative of Brenner’s life. It features pre-Columbian art, paintings, prints, photographs and drawings by Miguel Covarrubias, Jean Charlot, Edward Weston, Leonora Cunningham, Maximo Pacheco, Lola Cueto, Abraham Angel, plus those we are more familiar with: Kahlo, Rivera, Orozco.

Lithograph by Orozco

Charlot was a disciple of Rivera who contributed to the murals at the Secretariat de Publica Education (SEP). He was in love with Brenner; they could never reconcile religious differences and did not marry, though they remained lifelong friends.

Cultural map of Oaxaca, Mexico/this month

Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty.

Gloria Orenstein, Norma Schafer and Patrice Wynne at the exhibition

Footnote: Los Angeles County has the second largest Jewish population and the largest Latino population in the United States.

Thank you to the Skirball Cultural Center for background information and photographs.

Blue Hands Special — Oaxaca Day of the Dead 2-Day Natural Dye Workshop

So, you are coming to Oaxaca for Day of the Dead!

Here is a chance to get beyond the sugar skulls and cemeteries, the masks and parades, and go deeper into the natural dye traditions of our wonderful region without leaving the city of Oaxaca.

Put your hands into the indigo dye bath. Watch them turn blue: A Day of the Dead Badge of Distinction.  (OK, you can wash it off with soap and water, if you want.)

Blue hands, mark of distinction!

Natural dyes have been used by indigenous people of Oaxaca to color wool, cotton and silk for centuries. It thrives today among a small group of local artisans dedicated to preserving cultural history.

Blue Hands Special:

2-Day Day of the Dead Natural Dye Workshop

Sunday and Monday, October 28-29, 2017  OR

Friday and Saturday, November 3-4, 2017

10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

$250* per person, 4 participants maximum each session

*Bring a friend, get a discount, pay $225 for each

We are based in a Centro Historico neighborhood within walking distance (about six city blocks) from Oaxaca’s Zocalo — downtown plaza.

Plant materials and cochineal for making dyes, wool dye sampler

The hands-on workshop includes 10 hours of instruction to learn about Oaxaca´s natural dye traditions, materials and techniques used in the Central Valley of Oaxaca.

Natural dye sampler, another version

The workshop focuses on understanding how the chemistry of  natural dyes act on the protein fibers (we use wool), and how this can be reproduced in your home or studio using local materials.

Pomegranate, great dye source

The workshop includes cochineal, indigo, pomegranate, marigolds, and brazilwood to create 16 different colors. Participant will receive recipes and put together a sampler of each natural dye color created on hand-spun 100% churro sheep wool. 

Overdyeing wild marigold with indigo


Sourcing local materials

Discussing Oaxaca natural dye traditions 

Understanding fibers and how they react to dye

Mordanting, and how it works

Extracting color — sampling for intensity

Preparing the natural indigo vat

Dyeing and over-dyeing to get color range

Limited availability: 4 participants for each workshop

To register, contact: Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC 

We will send you an invoice to pre-pay with PayPal. When we receive funds, we will confirm your registration and send you instructor contact information, and a map.

Natural dyes on cotton

The workshop includes instruction, all materials, recipes and the sampler. It does not include beverages, snacks or lunch. We suggest you bring your own if you get thirsty or hungry.

Blue hands in the dye bath

About the Dye Studio

We hold the dye workshops on the rooftop terrace of a home located in the City of Oaxaca, only 10 minutes walking from the main square of the capital. The studio was founded by two artisans, wife and husband, who are committed to preserving natural dye traditions. The wife is a native of Oaxaca City. The husband is a fourth generation member of a family of weavers and dyers in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Both are bilingual, speaking Spanish and English.

Acid and base chemistry for color changes in cochineal

For the last 12 years, the couple has focused on natural dyeing processes and traditions. Their experience includes researching local indigo and cochineal, collaborating with local and international dyers, experimenting with recipes and testing fastness of the colors on both protein (wool, silk) and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp).

Both have taught dye workshops in universities, cultural centers and museums in Mexico, the United States and Europe. Currently, the studio provides the service of dyeing fibers for local artisan weavers and teaching workshops.

Washing, mordanting the wool

Wild marigold skein, and cochineal with indigo over-dye

From Mexico City: Under the Cathedral, An Aztec Empire

Far below Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest in the Americas, lies the archeological treasure trove that was once Tenochtitlan, the City of the Aztecs. It is known as Templo Mayor.

Archeological discovery continues in Mexico City under the Cathedral

First discovered and excavated in 1978, archeologists believe there are seven pyramid levels beneath what is now visible at the site next to the great Catholic church.

Only a fraction has been excavated under the Cathedral

It was the Spanish practice throughout New Spain, in Mesoamerica and South America, to destroy indigenous religious/cultural edifices and use the building materials to construct churches and administrative centers on top of the toppled.

Braziers used for sacrifice in Templo Mayor Museum

Each layer, filled in with silt by a succession of Moctezuma‘s, who built taller and grander edifices to mark their ascendency to lead the Aztec empire, now sinks into the swamp that underlies the great North American city.

Stucco and painted friezes in the Eagle Temple, Templo de las Aguilas, Tenochtitlan

Most of the buildings in the historic center of Mexico City are sinking, leaning and are at risk of toppling. The entire Zocalo area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for this reason.

Entry to Carmelite Ex-convent Santa Teresa, circa 1616, Mexico City

Next to the Templo Mayor is a contemporary art exhibition space that was once home to Carmelite Ex-Convento de Santa Teresa, built in 1616. You will pass by as you exit the archeological site onto Moneda Street that borders the Palacio Nacional.  Click here for a printable Map.

My camera is square; the floor isn’t. Extreme slant!

The Ex-Convento is leaning dramatically. Its front gates have always been closed. Over the New Years holiday weekend, when Jacob and I visited the Templo Mayor, lo and behold, the gates were open and I wanted to explore. As I stepped over the threshold, we entered a dizzying space — stepping onto a steeply tilting floor. My instincts were to grab the walls.

Sistine Chapel-esque, Ex Convento Santa Teresa ceiling

When I stay in Mexico City, I usually choose the Hotel Catedral, just two blocks from the Zocalo at Donceles 95. Nothing fancy. Good customer service, basic rooms, clean, and a delicious breakfast.

Torment of Cuauhtemoc, by David Alfaro Siquieros, at Museo Bellas Artes

There is so much to revisit, see and do, within eight square blocks. I never tire of repeating visits to the Rivera, Orozco and Siquieras murals. I never tire of eating at Azul Historico or Los Girasoles or El Mayor. I never tire of people watching.

I’ve watched this dig develop over the last two years

I always ask for a room at the back of the hotel facing the Cathedral. For the last several years, I have watched a vacant colonial house being transformed into an archeological dig from my hotel window.

On the walking street, Francisco I. Madero, Mexico City

All around the area there is transformation related to restoration and archeological discovery. Beneath Argentina Street you can see newly exposed Aztec carved stone covered by plexiglas pyramids. It gives perspective about where we walk and what came before us.

Black Christ, Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

Mexico City is now one of the world’s most important travel destinations. It is safe and filled with amazing art, culture, food and shopping. I hope it’s on your bucket list.



Mexico Travel Photography: Five Day Photo Challenge Editor’s Choice

Last week, I posted a Colors of Mexico photo challenge on Mexico Travel Photography, a Facebook group I moderate. We had 45 people take part. I didn’t count the total number submitted, but it was a 5-day challenge. We saw a lot of beautiful photographs of Mexico.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Mexico is where anything goes! Vibrant color is everywhere. The photographs in this post run the gamut from people, buildings, food, clothing, festivals, markets, street life, re-engineered cars that would have become junk in the USA, and then some. There are literal and figurative photos, abstract and impressionistic.

David Taylor.

David Taylor shared this photo of live dress-up dolls.

As this blog’s writer/editor, I took the liberty of selecting photos to post here that I thought were especially dramatic for the choice of color (or not).

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

As editor, I also took some artistic license to crop the original photos submitted on Facebook and do some photo editing enhancements. I used my judgment in this process. Why?

Day 5, Mexico Colors Photo Challenge. "Day of the Dead" celebration in Zinacantán, Chiapas. (In tzotzil language is called "Sk`in Ch`olelai")., Ana Paula Fuentes

Ana Paula Fuentes. Day of the Dead, Zinacantán, Chiapas. “Sk`in Ch`olelai”in Tzotzil.

Sometimes the subject of a photo reveals itself by getting in closer. Cropping is all an experiment and depends on each person’s preference. Some people are afraid of doing this, but you can always revert to the original. Nothing lost by trying. If I altered your photo and you don’t like it, please forgive me!

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

For example, I didn’t crop this chicken in the market photo that Miles took. It’s so close you can see the pin hairs.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

And, I bet Donna got right up to this young boy judging by his expression. Zoom. Zoom.

Please share this post!

Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

This is exactly as Mary shot this picture. I confess I bumped up the color a bit. Such a beautiful Mexican landscape. They are growing healthy food, here.

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

I got in closer on Kathy’s photo so we could see the juice of that orange slice, and yes, says Kathy, the mouth-watering ceviche. Thank you. What’s for dinner? Anyone have a good recipe?

Hollie Taylor Novak. Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. Its what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.

Hollie Taylor Novak. Funky, Rusty, Junky.

Hollie says, “Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. It’s what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.”

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers at the Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers, Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

A Oaxaca desfile is a joyous parade. We have them here all the time, and it’s wonderful. Shannon got up close to get the intricate embroidery on the dresses. It’s what Oaxaca is known for. Don’t stay away!

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

I wrote to Diane that this looks like a Luis Barragan design. Intense primary colors. Gorgeous. I didn’t touch this one. Love how the right angles contrast with the round trees. Ah, Mexico.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

The subject is holding a bull that spits fireworks. It’s a traditional part of Oaxaca celebrations. We see these at Christmas, especially. Not for the faint of heart, but dazzling.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Ok, I did a big crop on this one to get our eyes focused on the glorious indigo dyed cloth at Oaxaca’s textile museum, and that amazing red-orange wall in the background. Love that splatter of indigo blue on the floor tiles.

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

Gad, do you think Mexico could be any more colorful than this? Not likely!

Please share this post!

Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago sent this one in on the last day of the Challenge. We all loved the sky! Omar is age 22 and is graduating from university this December. He has an eye!

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market... // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market… // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

And, Moises sent us this one of the ubiquitous embroidered apron worn by all traditional Zapotec women who live in the Tlacolula valley. And, where do you buy these? Why at the Sunday Tlacolula market, of course! I enhanced the color and did a crop so you could see the embroidery detail.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen sent us this terrific masked man whose garments are covered in bells!

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge - Hualulco

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge – Huatulco

Good enough to eat. I bet it was tasty, fish head and all. I cropped in closer. Such a great color. Wonder what the seasoning was? Squash? Carrots? Huatulco is Oaxaca’s beach resort. Flights go there direct from the USA.

Betsy McNair. I have no idea where this was taken.

Betsy McNair. She says, “I have no idea where this was taken.”

Old here is very beautiful. The textures and layers are a sight to capture. Thanks, Betsy.

Claudia Brewer Michel. How to make the colors of Mexico. Studio of Jacabo Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia Brewer Michel.  Studio of Jacobo & Maria Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia says, “This is how to make the colors of Mexico.” At alebrije carver-painter Jacobo and Maria Angeles‘ studio, visitors see how natural pigments color carved animals. I cropped to get in closer to the hands. A slimy, beautiful mess.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

This is the season for Chiles en Nogada, the traditional dish that celebrates Mexico’s Independence from Spain. Red, white and green! Eat it through September.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Another take on fish, this time a graphic adorning a wall. Peeling paper and paint. Such great texture. I bumped up the yellow and contrast.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Sunset in the Tlacolula valley. Such a beautiful silhouette. Thanks, Araceli.

Please share this post!

Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick sent this one among several over the week. I loved the shadows, the rust, and the color contrasts. I couldn’t decide between this one and the Mexico City subway scene. It was the blue that did it.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail sent us this one on Day 2 of the challenge. I cropped in to get us closer to the faces of the children, and highlighted the color. Wanna red lollipop?

Bob Ward.

Bob Ward.

Maybe Bob will tell us where he took this photo. It’s the stippled walls that really pop along with those beaten down doors that might have a few more years left in them. What stories these buildings could tell if they talked.

Please take a look at Mexico Travel Photography Facebook Group to see the work that everyone submitted. We’ll do another challenge soon. If you aren’t yet a member, please join. Most of us are amateurs who just love to take photographs of Mexico, her places and people.

Thanks for reading and following!


How to Correct the Image and Crop a Photo: Download your photo. For simplicity, take a Facebook photo and download it. I use a MacBook so I click on the download and it opens in Preview.

Image Correction: You then use your cursor to open Tools on the Toolbar above. Click on Adjust Color. A screen pops up. Use your cursor to slide the levers to change exposure, contrast, shadow, highlights, saturation, and sharpening.

To Crop, put your cursor on the photo and click the touch pad. A square will come up that you can adjust to decide the area you want to cut. It’s all an experiment and you won’t ruin anything. You can always revert to the original and start over!