Tag Archives: education

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Garden at Casa Azul

Casa Azul, home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Coyoacan, Mexico City, has a stunning garden. Once the home of Frida’s father and mother, and where she was born in 1907, Rivera bought the property after the family amassed huge debt paying for years of treatment after the bus accident that severely handicapped Frida at age eighteen.

MexCityPeacocks_StrLife-44 The garden is surrounded by intense blue walls, which F & D painted after they moved in. It was expanded when Leon Trotsky moved into the complex for security reasons. He later moved to another house in the neighborhood where he was assassinated by Stalin‘s henchmen in post-revolutionary Soviet Union.MexCityPeacocks_StrLife-34

The garden is a lush expanse of tropical plants, pre-Columbian sculpture, small pools, a miniature pyramid that is a sometimes altar and walking paths.  As you exit the house, built of volcanic stone, after the self-guided tour, you come down a staircase where some pause overlooking a pool lined in tiles painted with frogs.

MexCityPeacocks_StrLife-15 MexCityPeacocks_StrLife-17 MexCityPeacocks_StrLife-19Frida called Diego Frog and you see this both here at Casa Azul and at the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum in Xochimilco. Dolores was his patron and preserved the contents of Casa Azul for posterity through her foundation. Frida’s ashes are in the pre-Columbian frog urn on her bedroom dresser.

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There are benches for sitting under the shade and the calm of a fountain. Perfect for reflecting on their lives together and the iconic image of feminism that she has become. I often refer to her as our contemporary Virgin of Guadalupe because Frida Kahlo carries that reverence among art lovers and intellectuals that makes her almost god-like.

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I’ve organized the art history tour Looking for Friday Kahlo and Diego Rivera for the past two years and I’ve been to the house no less than six or eight times during this period.

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It is always enthralling, but this time I decided to put myself in the garden, find a backdrop that I liked and wait for photographs, a la Henri Cartier-Bresson.

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I recall Rivera who went to Europe for fourteen years to study the great masters, copying them, refining classical painting techniques, experimenting with Cubism and Impressionism before developing his own remarkable style after returning to Mexico in 1921.

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So, I have ordered the book Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind’s Eye, so I can understand the philosophy behind his picture-taking and practice his style.

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Frida Kahlo lived most of her short life in pain.  She died at age 47 in 1954. Rivera died in 1957.  He was twenty-two years older that her. The exhibition space is devoted to indigenous dresses she wore to hide her deformities, polio which she contracted at age eight and then the accident that necessitated living her life in a spinal brace with regular surgeries and hospitalization for traction.

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She was never able to conceive a child and this was a focus of her later painting which captures this life tragedy.

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If you are interested in organizing a small group to explore the Mexican Muralists and the life of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera accompanied by a knowledgeable art historian, please contact me. We are organizing this art history program for fall/winter 2015-2016.

 

Young Oaxaca Weavers Honored and Encouraged

Faye Sims, a textile friend from Salt Spring Island, Vancouver, BC shared a blog story today about the new exhibition at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and I wanted to pass the gist of it on to you!  The story refers to Eric Chavez Santiago, our close family friend and we are incredibly proud of his accomplishments to preserve the textile traditions of Oaxaca. When I was in Oaxaca recently Eric was spending most of his time traveling to the remote mountainous regions to film documentary footage about young weavers, many of them as young as eight years old. He traveled with noted textile curator Remigio Mestas. Then when Eric returned to Oaxaca he spent most evenings and weekends this autumn in the office editing to produce a final video in time for the November 10 opening. The show runs through March 2013.

Eric is also teaching a private 2-day natural dye workshop in Teotitlan, January 21-22, 2013. If you are interested please contact me. We will be working with cochineal, indigo, wild marigold, moss, and more!

New from Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

FELTED FASHION WORKSHOP with Jessica de Haas & Eric Chavez Santiago
February 2-9, 2013
3 spaces left! Dye merino wool with natural materials, then design and sew your own felted garment using indigenous Mexican textile patterns.
Jessica is a fashion designer from Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada

I hope you’ll go to the textile museum’s websiteto read more about this extraordinary exhibit.

Black and White Photography Magazine Spotlights Oaxaca Workshop Instructor

Black and White Photography Magazine features the work of fine art photographer Sam Robbins in its current issue Number 91.  Sam co-leads our summer 2012 Oaxaca Photography Expedition: Market Towns and Artisan Villages with her husband Tom, also an art photographer and architecture professor.

As a testimony to their extraordinary teaching style and technical knowledge, three of last year’s participants are returning and the program is almost full as of this writing.  We have TWO spaces left.

The digital photography workshop is based in Teotitlan del Valle for a photographic cultural immersion experience.  The option is to also bring a second film camera to take your black and white shots. It is for beginners to advanced intermediate amateur photographers.

You can see Sam and Tom Robbins work at their website.

Please send me an email if you are interested in attending with us!

Why Learning Spanish Makes You Smarter

Learning a second language like Spanish or any other language for that matter, makes the brain nimble! according to psychologists and language researchers. I liked this article published in The New York Times, March 18, 2012 Studies show that learning a foreign language as an adult will stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s.  It’s like exercise for the mind.

My stretch this month is to continue to use past tenses as I expand my Spanish vocabulary. It’s very helpful to step outside the English-speaking expat community  comfort zone and our recent trip to the Sierra Norte offered Just that.

The challenge for any immigrant — like me living in Mexico or Mexicans living in the U.S. — is to learn a new language without giving up the mother tongue and cultural identity.  This is especially true for second generation immigrants who want to assimilate  I think about the U.S. school system and the anti-immigrant voices saying “learn English or go back where you came from.”

Hopefully, articles like these will increase our understanding of and appreciation for the richness that being bilingual offers for the individual and for society.  I would think we want to promote smarter and healthier people.

A Worthy End-of-Year Gift of Education: Oaxaca Learning Center

I received this message from Gary Titus, who has made a commitment over many years to educate Oaxaca children and prepare them to go on to university. This is a legitimate and worthy organization.  I want to share his message with you:

From Gary Titus–Greetings from the Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center

2011 has been another very good year at The Learning Center. Student demand for our tutoring and for our summer session has continued to grow as word spreads of the effectiveness of our programs. Our donors, volunteers and visitors to the Center experience the enormous difference that being a part of the Center makes in the lives of our students and are advocating for us with their friends to extend our support network. Now we write to all of you who, at one time or another, have connected with us, to ask for your financial support.

“Our summer program, which served 113 students, was evaluated for the first time after our Center Director, Sonia Bautista, attended a six-week workshop given by two retired program officers of the Ford Foundation living in Oaxaca. The course focused on monitoring and evaluation of social projects, with the goal of assisting local NGO’s in developing these capabilities. The results of our first evaluation indicated beneficiaries’ high level of satisfaction with the academic tutoring, English courses and workshops this summer. In addition to staff and tutors receiving feedback on their performance and effectiveness, we expect to use these new quantitative and qualitative tools to support formal proposals to foundations for expanded financial assistance, as well as to then provide them with reliable evaluation of the benefits of their support. This should allow us to enhance your individual contributions with foundation monies and allow the Center to serve an increasing number of students.

Tutoring math at the Oaxaca Learning Center

In a state where completion of high school by low-income and indigenous students is very low, the fact that 30 of the 46 participants this year in our preparation courses for university entrance exams were admitted to universities in the fall attests to the life-changing difference our program makes in students’ lives.

In spite of our program’s effectiveness, the continuing negative press about Mexico has had a deleterious financial impact on us. Occupancy of our bed and breakfast, which has provided about 40% of our yearly budget, has been well below capacity. This, coupled with the worldwide economic crisis, has resulted in a slight decrease in donations, as well. In fact, as many of you know, Oaxaca is a very safe place with a wonderful climate and welcoming, friendly atmosphere. We hope that our expanded quarterly newsletter will bring you our good news from Mexico and allow you to experience the positive impact and achievements of the Center.

Oaxaca Learning Center students

We are now asking you to become a financial donor to our new “Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center,” which, with its 501(c)(3) status, can offer you a tax credit. Please remember that 100% of your donation goes to support the stipends for our students and student staff. For your convenience, we offer three ways to donate:

You can send a personal check to:

Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center (FOLC)

P. O. Box 926

Blue Hill, Maine 04614

Make a donation through PayPal by clicking here:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=EGWA57VT9QGPW

You can also make regular automatic monthly donations. Please contact Gary Titus at gary@tolc.org.mx for the electronic transfer information.

Gary Titus with center tutors

On behalf of everyone here at The Oaxaca Learning Center, we thank you for your support and send you our very best wishes for the holiday season and for the new year!

Gary Titus                                                             Fay Henderson de Diaz

Founder, The Oaxaca Learning Center        President, Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center