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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

URTARTE — La Unión Revolucionaria de Trabajadores del Arte (the Revolutionary Union of Art Workers).  You have no doubt seen their work around the city of Oaxaca.

The black and white lines of resistance defending heritage corn from an invasion by the moneyed interests of el norte.

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Demanding justice for the 43 student teachers from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero — still disappeared after three years.

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And yesterday I discovered this masterpiece…

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Celebrating the creativity, hard work, and dignity of the women and men living in the villages of Oaxaca.

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A reminder of the people whose roots run deep into the soil and who make Oaxaca such an exceptional place.

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Día de Muertos is coming…

That means the departed will soon return to eat, drink, and be merry with their living loved ones.

Due to earthquake damage the Panteón General in the city is closed, but the traditional evening of the dead will take place at the Panteón Xochimilco.

As the schedule of over 100 cultural activities (between October 28 and November 4) states, despite earthquakes and hurricanes, “Oaxaca is more alive than ever!”

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Since its creation in 1958, the Baile Flor de Piña (aka, the Pineapple Dance) has been bringing audiences to their feet at the Guelaguetza every July.  The energy and choreography is a cross between the Rockettes and Busby Berkeley, but the costumes are pure Oaxaca — the Mazateca and Chinanteca huipiles are a showcase of color, design, weaving, and embroidery from the Papaloapan region.

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Flor de Piña, La Guelaguetza – July 2015

The Mazatec and Chinantec peoples are 2 of the 16 indigenous groups living in the state of Oaxaca.  For those who are as captivated by their textiles as I am, the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) in San Bartolo Coyotepec currently has a fabulous exhibition, La Piel de Mi Raza, which features more than 55 Chinanteco and Mazateco textiles from the Papaloapan — some over 200 years old.

Mazateca huipiles are recognized by their hand-embroidered bird and flower motifs.

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Mazateca huipiles

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“Everyday” Mazateca huipil from San Miguel Soyaltepec

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“Dressy” Mazateca huipil from San Felipe Jalapa de Díaz

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“Everyday” Mazateca huipil from San Miguel Soyaltepec

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Antique Mazateca huipil from San Pedro Ixcatlán

The Chinanteca huipiles are woven on backstrap looms with the bird, tree, Quetzalcoatl, and geometric designs embroidered or brocade woven into the piece.

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Chinanteca huipiles

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“Dressy” Chinanteca huipil from San Juan Bautista Valle Nacional

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Antique Chinanteca huipil from San Felipe Usila

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“Dressy” Chinanteca huipil from San Felipe Usila

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Antique Chinanteca huipil from San Felipe Usila

The exhibition is located in the upstairs gallery of MEAPO and runs until November 10, 2017.  By the way, if you haven’t been to the Museo recently, you are in for a surprise — the first floor has been divided into several galleries, allowing for multiple exhibits and providing for a more intimate experience.

And, for the fascinating and controversial background of the Flor de Piña, read Stephanie Schneiderman’s article, Baile Flor de Piña & Guelaguetza: Cultural Preservation.

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Yesterday, after missing the Fiesta de la Natividad because I was in the middle of my 6-week cross-country sojourn in el norte, I managed (courtesy of blogger buddy Chris and his trusty VW Jetta) to make it out to Teotitlán del Valle for the last day of the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario and performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

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Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma)

The dance is day-long and recreates the Spanish Conquest from the Zapotec point of view.

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Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche)

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Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez (Doña Marina)

Miracle of miracles, the rain held off, the clouds parted, and the sun made a much welcome appearance.

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Foreground:  Marcos Vicente Gutiérrez (Capitán 1 ro.)

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Foreground:  Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (Vasallo 8vo.)

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As we approached the atrium of the Templo Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, the father of one of the Danzantes explained a venue change — due to some (hopefully) minimal earthquake damage to one of the bell towers of the church, the Danza de la Pluma was moved next door to the plaza in front of the municipal building.

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Juan Bautista Ruiz (Subalterno)

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Florentino Martínez Ruiz (Subalterno) and Señor Inocencio

A heartfelt muchisimas gracias to the people of Teotitlán del Valle, many of whom I am so lucky and grateful to call friends.  The warm welcome I received was such an incredible tonic to the grey days we have been experiencing in Oaxaca.

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I can’t believe it has been three years since 43 student teachers went missing one night in Iguala, Guerrero.  And, I can’t believe the key questions remain.

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Who is responsible?  What happened that night?  Where are they?  Why are there still no answers?  How can 43 human beings be disappeared so completely?  When will the truth be revealed?

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In the midst of our current tragedies, let us not forget the 43 normalistas from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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Three years without answers must seem like an eternity to their families….

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Here in Oaxaca we continue surfing the temblors and tormentas…

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Calle de Ignacio Allende at the corner of Tinoco y Palacios

Torrential downpours and flooding have returned.  Aftershocks from the September 7 earthquake continue.  But, aside from difficulty navigating the flooding and potholes, suffering from frayed nerves, and being worried sick about friends and family in the critically affected areas of central and southern Mexico, we are okay in the city and surrounding villages.

Re geography:  Oaxaca is the name of both a state and its capital city.  The epicenter of the September 7th earthquake in Oaxaca was in the southeast part of the state — as the crow flies, it is almost 150 miles and through the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range from Oaxaca city.   To see where Oaxaca’s earthquakes are happening, check out Earthquake Track.

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A skein of yarn waiting to be woven…

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Agave blossoms reaching for the sky…

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Ceramic sculpture of a Tehuana by Fran Garcia Vásquez.

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Ooops, a broken arm!  It seems appropriate that my only casualty from the 8.2 earthquake depicts a woman from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec — the region where some of the most severe damage in the state of Oaxaca occurred.  However, like the people she represents, she is strong, proud, and healing will happen.

If you want to help the victims of the September 7 earthquake, please see my previous post.  If you do, reward yourself by watching last night’s benefit at the Guelaguetza Auditorium, Oaxaca Corazón.  And, if you don’t, perhaps this spectacular concert will encourage you to donate to earthquake relief.

This all-star event, organized in less than a week by Lila Downs and Susana Harp, will have tears falling — I guarantee it!

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Oaxaca continues to be inundated with rain.  I’m in Colorado now (inhaling smoke from fires throughout the west), but friends in Oaxaca are describing flooding, leaking roofs, water coming through windows and doors, and rain without end. Today’s news is reporting more than 13 communities are incommunicado and that urban development is a major cause of flooding by the Atoyac River that runs through the valley of Oaxaca.

Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the builders of Monte Albán, where the Pre-Hispanic drainage works better than current systems.

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In June, I finally had a chance to meet fiber artist, Carolyn Smythe Kallenborn.  In 2012, I’d been captivated by and wrote a small blog post about her “Tormentos y Sueños” exhibition at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  So, I was thrilled to meet her at the Weave a Real Peace (WARP) annual meeting held this year in Oaxaca.  We chatted a couple of times during the conference, but it was the final evening, as many of us were standing in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the business meeting to begin, that Carolyn provided us with a real treat — renown weaver Erasto “Tito” Mendoza, from Teotitlán del Valle, delivered a tapete that was to be used in a collaborative work with Carolyn.

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We were all in awe as he unrolled his creation for us to behold.  ¡Espectacular! was the response from all.  Then Carolyn began describing how she would use mixed media to embellish this woven illustration of the balance of Mother Earth.  However, aside from a hazy picture in my mind, I really had no idea what the finished work would look like.  Then synchronicity came to pass… an announcement that the fruit of their collaboration, Equilibrio/Balance, had won the Surface Design Association, Award of Excellence at the International Fiber Arts VIII exhibition at the San Francisco Bay Area’s Sebastopol Center for the Arts.  And, best of all for me, the show coincided with my Bay Area visit.  Without much difficulty, I managed to persuade B (of Week in Oaxaca fame), who had fallen in love with the tapetes of Teotitlán AND lives in Sebastopol, to accompany me to the exhibition a few days ago.

 

Equilibrio/Balance traces cycles of nature: water through earth and sky; elements of previous life, feeding new growth; and the conversation between the mountains and the universe above.  — object label

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This is one of seventy pieces in this International Fiber Arts show.  Like Equilibrio/Balance, most of the works are not only visually stunning, but also have much to say about our world and contemporary life.  If you are in the Bay Area and love textiles, I highly recommend making your way to the Sebastopol Arts Center by September 3, when the show closes.

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Our first stop on day five of B’s Week in Oaxaca was the Palacio de Gobierno to see the magnificent Mural of Oaxaca history.  Ooops!  I had forgotten that the Government Palace was now closed to the public.  However, a polite appeal to see the mural, addressed to one of the guards by a couple of tourists (okay, one tourist and one resident), resulted in the guard receiving permission from a superior to let us in.  We were instructed, mural only!  We obeyed, walking only half-way up the grand staircase to take in the entire work of art.  I love this mural by Arturo García Bustos and hope the palacio will again be opened to the public.

Once we had finished marveling at the Bustos history of Oaxaca, we walked up the Macedonio Alcalá to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) to check out the Espejos de Cal mural being painted in the courtyard by Jesús González.  Engrossed in watching the mural unfold and fascinated in the technique explained by the artist’s Russian assistant, we never made it inside this treasure of a museum.  Next time!

We strolled further up the Alcalá to the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO), founded in 1988 by renown artist, philanthropist, and social activist, Francisco Toledo.  First we wandered through the exhibition rooms and then into the impressive library.  The 60,000+ books on art, architecture, design, photography, and much more is one of the most extensive arts-related collections in Latin America.  A photography professor friend raved to me about finding a book at IAGO that he had been searching for and B (the architect) was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at titles he eyed — and pulled a few off the shelves to leaf through.  IAGO also hosts lectures, conferences, musical performances, workshops, poetry readings, and film showings.

Needless to say, by the time we finally left, we were hungry.  Lucky for us, the acclaimed restaurant Pitiona was only a block away.  Born in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, Chef José Manuel Baños spent time in Spain under the tutelage of innovative chefs Feran Adrià and Juan Mari Arzak.  However, as the name Pitiona (a native herb frequently used in Oaxacan cooking) suggests, the starting point for Baños is local ingredients.  The simple elegance of the old colonial building and attention to detail in table settings, service, and especially food, made for a sublime interlude in the day’s activities.

We descended the stairs of Pitiona to the sound of music coming from the atrium of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán.  It was Saturday and that means wedding day at Santo Domingo – each featuring a band, folkloric dancers, marmotas (giant cloth balloons), bride and groom monos (giant puppets), a wedding procession down the Alcalá, and scores of tourists and locals stopping to watch — which we did, too!

Our final stop was at the photography museum Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo, another brainchild of Francisco Toledo.  The museum has over 18,000 photographs in its permanent collection, including by its namesake Manuel Álvarez Bravo, his first wife Lola Alvarez Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tina Modotti, Guillermo Kahlo (yes, Frida Kahlo’s father), and Mary Ellen Mark.  Works from the collection and by photographers from all over the world are exhibited in galleries surrounding a beautiful courtyard featuring a reflecting pool.

However, that wasn’t the end.  After a siesta, we gathered with eight other diners for a Waje pop-up dinner.  The June menu was an homage to mole and the setting was at the restaurant Mezquite Gastronomia Y Destilado where Waje chef, José Daniel Delgado is the new chef.  As always, José Daniel and his Waje team provided a creative, delicious, and delightful evening.  An added bonus was being seated across from Jason Cox, co-owner and mezcal steward of El Destilado — a restaurant I definitely need to try.

Only one day left in B’s Week in Oaxaca.  Where to go?  What to do?  Stay tuned!

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Day four of B’s Week in Oaxaca had B relying on yours truly for the day’s sights and sounds.  Where to begin?  The answer, because it was near Casita Colibrí and we had just been to Mitla and Monte Albán, was the Museo de Arte Prehispánico de México Rufino Tamayo (Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehispanic Art).  The collection is spread over five rooms surrounding a courtyard in a 16th century colonial building.  Each room is painted a different iconic Mexican color, chosen by the late Zapotec Oaxaqueño artist Rufino Tamayo, to highlight the pieces of his extraordinary collection.

Next we walked down to and through the iron gates, designed by Francisco Toledo, and across the brick pathway of the Centro Cultural San Pablo (Cultural Center of San Pablo).  We explored the interior rooms of this ex-convent, now an academic research and cultural center, that hosts concerts, lectures, exhibitions, and houses a library.  Pausing to rest, we took advantage of the cafe in the courtyard to order a couple of aguas.

Our thirst quenched, we walked around the corner to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Textile Museum of Oaxaca) to explore the ground floor and upstairs exhibitions of one of this textile lover’s favorite museums.  One of the exhibits was the stunning “Almas bordadas, vestido y ornamento en el Istmo de Tehuantepec” — displaying the iconic embroidered clothing of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  (Think, the dress of Frida Kahlo.)

Forty-five minutes later, we were certifiably hungry and, lucky for us, Origen, restaurant of Top Chef Mexico 2016 winner, Rodolfo Castellanos, and one of my oft recommended restaurants in Oaxaca, was only a block away.  As always, its relaxing interior, attentive service, and delicious food provided a perfect respite.

Once rested and satiated, it felt good to set feet to pavement for the short walk to the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption).  The cathedral towers over the zocaló and the Alameda.  The construction of this green cantera (stone) edifice began in 1535 and was consecrated on July 12, 1733.  It is dominated by a spectacular altar and lined, on both sides, with chapels — the most important being that of Señor del Rayo.  In addition, it is home to one of the historic pipe organs of Oaxaca.

After being wowed by the Cathedral’s soaring ceiling, altar, art, chapels, and organ, we crossed Independencia for a taste of the modern — the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (Museum of Oaxacan Painters).  This, often overlooked, two-story restored colonial era mansion showcases the creativity and talent of Oaxaca’s painters.  I had been to the museum only a month before, but the exhibitions are ever-changing, and new artists were on display.

Of course, no day in Oaxaca is complete without a parade and we were not disappointed.  We departed the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños to be greeted with a calenda (parade) by “Ranchu Gubiña” from Union Hidalgo in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — attired in clothing similar to that which we had seen earlier in the day at the textile museum.  We had come full circle!

Another long day’s journey into evening….  However, we weren’t finished yet; two more days await!

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Whether just passing by…

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Or, stopping to study…

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Even black and white stencils add color commentary to the walls of Oaxaca.

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Another day, another parade.  Today, the Gran Calenda del Mercado de Abastos (parade of the markets) passed within a block and a half of Casita Colibrí.  I couldn’t miss it — the cacophony of multiple bands, cohetes (rockets), and honking horns announced its arrival in my ‘hood!  In the words of Octavio Paz, from The Labyrinth of Solitude

“The solitary Mexican loves fiestas and public gatherings.”

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“The art of the fiesta has been debased almost everywhere else, but not in Mexico.”

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“Our poverty can be measured by the frequency and luxuriousness of our holidays.”

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“Do they forget themselves and show their true faces?  Nobody knows.  The important thing is to go out, open a way, get drunk on noise, people, colors.”

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“In the confusion that it generates, society is dissolved, is drowned, insofar as it is an organism ruled according to certain laws and principles.”

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“Everything is united: good and evil, day and night, the sacred and the profane.  Everything merges, loses shape and individuality and returns to the primordial mass.”

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“The fiesta is a cosmic experiment, an experiment in disorder, reuniting contradictory elements and principles in order to bring about a renascence of life.”

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One of the great things about having friends come to visit, is going places and doing things not on the usual agenda.  Thus, last week, while accompanying my friend B on a private tour of sights outside Oaxaca city, the guide asked if we knew about the Muertos murals in Villa de Zaachila and would we like to see them.  Absolutely, we said!

In late October, prior to Día de Muertos, young artists are invited to paint Day of the Dead related murals on the walls of Calle Coquiza, the street that connects the church, Santa María Natividad, to the municipal cemetery.  Customs, beliefs, and legends provide the inspiration, as well as day-to-day activities.

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Flor de Piña dancers welcome residents and visitors to step through the doorway to the land beyond.

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Where electric meters serve as faces.

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And, telephone poles add a third dimension to the design.

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Painted pitchers and candles nestle in vegetation escaping from under a portón.

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And, a dancer frolics in sand waiting to be mixed into concrete for construction next door.

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Skeletons use an electric meter to get a leg up in climbing the conduit.

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Trees provide shade, as Pan de Muertos is baked in an outdoor oven.

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Leaves flutter above, as Bu’pu del Valle (chocolate atole) is frothed with a molinillo before being served in traditional hand-painted jicaras.

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Flowers tumble over the wall to adorn a catrina portrait’s hat.

The murals along the walls of Calle Coquiza remain throughout the year — until replaced by the next Día de Muertos artists’ offerings.  In addition, during Day of the Dead, this Calzada de los Muertos (Road of the Dead) is paved with sand paintings.  It is definitely going on my Muertos “must see” itinerary.

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Walking along the sidewalks of Oaxaca…

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I get the feeling I’m being watched… by Oaxaca’s revolutionary street art.

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