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Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

Today is International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, and in cities and towns all over the world (except the USA, but that’s another story), workers and the dignity of the work they do is being celebrated.  It’s a federal holiday in Mexico and as I write, I can hear loudspeakers from the various marches taking place in Oaxaca city.  Given that non-citizens are forbidden by the Mexican Constitution from participating in political activity, I’m staying home.  However, to honor the workers of the world, I’m looking back to my visit to the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building in Mexico City and the murals of Diego Rivera.

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…Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
That gathers your cause in its scope….

…Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World’s Workers, sisters and brothers,
Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

 Walter Crane, The Workers’ Maypole, 1894

¡Feliz Día del Trabajo a tod@s!  Happy International Workers’ Day to all!

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It’s been all about boys in my family — two sons, a stepson, and a grandson.  That is, until eleven months ago when finally a girl — my granddaughter — made her much welcomed entrance into the world.  Of course she is adorable, but so were her brother, dad, and uncles.  However, I must admit that clothes shopping for a little girl is so much more fun, especially here in Oaxaca.

Naturally, I had to go to the current Museo Textil de Oaxaca exhibition, Vestir hijos con amor (Dressing children with love) — very timely for the upcoming Día del Niño on April 30

Cotton baby hat – probably Santiago Mexquititlán, Querétaro, Mexico (c. 1960) Otomí village.

Woven baby hat – San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala (c. 1990s) Tz’utuoil community.

The curator’s note explains that the textiles shown “are not the sumptuous accoutrements of an ancient aristocracy, but children’s clothing of the poorest people in Mexico and Guatemala… made of cotton and wool.”

Girl’s huipil from Palín, Guatemala (c. 1980s). Community speaks Pokomam, a Mayan language.

Girl’s huipil from San Bartolomé Ayautla, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1950s) Mazateco community.

“In setting up this exhibit, we have tried to show how textiles intended for children make visible the love felt for them by the first nations of this land.”

Girl’s clothing from Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico. (c. 1940s) Purépecha village.

Costume of baptism – Chachahuantla, Puebla, Mexico (1999-2017) Community speaks Náhuatl.

Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, Mexico (c. 1950s). Tsotsil village.

Huipil of black velvet with cotton embroidery from districts of Juchitán and Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1950-1960) Zapotec communities.

Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1990). Zapotec village.

Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1990). Zapotec village. Embroidery detail using rayon threads.

It isn’t just the girls who are dressed with love in these indigenous communities.  The clothing of the boys is also just as lovingly detailed and decorated.

Boy’s clothing from San Andrés Tzicuilan, Puebla, Mexico. (c. 1988-1993) Community speaks Náhuatl.

Boy’s clothing from Santiago Ixtayutla, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1990s) Mixtec village.

(R) Boy’s clothing from Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, Mexico. (c. 1950s). Tsotsil village. (L) Teen boy’s clothing from Sierra Madre Occidental to the north of Jalisco and east of Nayarit. (c. 1930s) Wixárika (Huichol) community.

Detail from teen boy’s clothing from Sierra Madre Occidental to the north of Jalisco and east of Nayarit. (c. 1930s) Wixárika (Huichol) community.

There are so many more pieces to see and there is even an interactive component for children — a play area where they can assemble and decorate textile pieces.  The Museo Textil de Oaxaca is located at Hidalgo 917, at the corner of Fiallo and the exhibition, in the Caracol room, runs until July 1, 2018.

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I was recently in Mexico City, where I spent hours at the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building marveling at the three floors of murals by Diego Rivera.  And so, in honor of International Women’s Day, some of the women in the murals…

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Happy International Women’s Day to the women of the world!  May your strength, creativity, intelligence, and love prevail.

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Without a doubt, blogging about living in Oaxaca has brought a myriad of fascinating, knowledgeable, and just plain fun people into my life.  Thus, after meeting through my blog a couple of years ago, Kalisa Wells and I finally met in person last week at a textile talk at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  Given that we both love textiles, we arranged to rendezvous a couple of days later at a Museo Textil de Oaxaca expo-venta.

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While I was acquainted with the work of most of the artisans from Oaxaca on display, I was unfamiliar with the weaving of Ahuirán, Michoacán.  Kalisa has a long history with traveling, living, and loving Mexico — including Michoacán.

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So, with great enthusiasm, she whisked me off to the booth of Purépecha weaver Cecelia Bautista Caballero and her daughters, Ángeles Rodriguez Bautista and Araceli Rodriguez Bautista — where Kalisa was greeted like a long lost sister and I was warmly welcomed.

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Among other innovations, Cecilia brought back the pre-Hispanic Purépecha tradition of using feathers in weaving.  Multiple layers of individual feathers are hand sewn into the fringe of many of her beautiful backstrap woven rebozos (shawls) — providing an ethereal elegance to these staples of women’s attire in Mexico.

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One of the daughters soon had us draped in these works of art, where we drew a crowd — some of whom also couldn’t resist being wrapped in the beauty of these exquisite pieces.  Meeting new people almost always leads to learning new things and experiencing culture in more personal ways.

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I hope you will permit me just one more Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) post.  The Totomoxtle Decorado category wouldn’t be complete without showing this year’s entry, “Los huehuentones de Huautla de Jiménez” by Moisés Ruíz Sosa, last year’s first prize winner, who just happens to be the brother of this year’s winner, Marco Antonio Ruíz Sosa.

Much of the work by Moisés, at least that I have seen, uses natural and dyed corn husks to recreate traditional dance scenes.  This year’s inspiration came from the Mazateco Day of the Dead celebrations.

After the souls are released, their spirits are transformed into different forms personified by the Huehuentones (people of the navel — born from the center of the earth) who serve as a link between the departed and the living.

Beginning October 27, they roam the streets and visit families, house by house, to play and sing Mazatec themes of family, famine, traditions, customs, current events, politics, etc.

What captivates me most is the attention to detail and reverence for traditions by Moisés.

Learning their craft from their mother, Moisés and Marco are a couple of very talented brothers!

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I always prefer to go down to Oaxaca’s zócalo in the morning of December 23rd to watch the Noche de Rábanos artisans bring their creations into being — and before the masses descend.  At this year’s 120th annual Rábanos the crowds had already begun to gather behind the barriers by 10:30 AM.  Of course, the downside to going early is that some of the artisans are further along in their work than others.

Alas, in the category of Rábanos Tradicional (radishes representing traditional subject matter), the eventual first prize winner had only just begun…

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“Nacimiento Tradicional” by Hermenegildo Contreras Cruz

However, when I passed by, the eventual first prize winner in the category of Rábanos Libre (radishes free subject matter) was almost finished and the dragon was about to be slayed.

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“Corazón de Dragón” by Salvador Yrizar Díaz

In the Flor Inmortal (dried flower) category…  How could I have missed 2/3rds of the entries?!!  However, I did manage to capture the 2nd prize winner.

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“Una tarde en el Templo de Santo Domingo” by Rosalía Santiago Cornelio

Then there was the Totomoxtle (corn husks)…  Second place in the Totomoxtle Natural (natural husk color) category went to this delightful depiction of Oaxaca’s version of a county fair that even included a House of Horror and a Tilt-A-Whirl.

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“Feria Popular” by Jorge Ramos Gallegos

First place in the category of Totomoxtle Natural was awarded to…

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“Buscando la paz hastati. Virgencita de Juquila” by José Méndez Miranda

And, what can I say about “Nahualli” by Marco Antonio Ruíz Sosa, the winner of the Totomoxtle Decorado (dyed corn husks)?

Do you think Lewis Carroll was channeling shadow souls when he wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?  Kenneth Grahame when he wrote The Wind in the Willows?  Was C. S. Lewis guided by a nahualli when he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?  And, what about Beatrix Potter???

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I think I spied some familiar figures in the radishes at this year’s Noche de Rabanos.  Could this be carver, Zeny Fuentes?

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“Alebrijes de San Martín Tilcajete” by Sergio Luís Raymundo Sánchez

Oaxaqueños can tell you, this is their own, Señor del Rayo.

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“Señor del Rayo” by Gabriela Nayelly López Vásquez

And then there is this guy.  I’m guessing Maestro Francisco Toledo.

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“Oaxaca de mis amores” by Omar Díaz Ventura

What do you think?

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The 120th edition of the “only in Oaxaca” Noche de Rábanos is coming.  Tomorrow (December 23) the zócalo will be filled with radishes carved into religious, cultural, and fantastical creations.

Scenes from last year…

And, it’s not just a night of radishes, there will also be flor inmortal (a type of dried flower) and totomoxtle (corn husk) artisan creations on display and competing for prizes.  Not to be missed!

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Last week in Tlacolula, as friends and I were studying the “¡Solo Dios perdona!” mural by the Tlacolulokos collective, the storekeeper next door advised us that if we liked that one, we should check out another spectacular Tlacolulokos mural a few blocks away.  So we did.

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He was right — it was indeed stunning in SO many ways!  We came face-to-face with three strong, proud, and beautiful Zapotec women of Tlacolula wearing their stories.

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There was the traditional white blouse with its crocheted yolk, the black and white rebozo twisted into a head covering, and there were the prized gold and pearl earrings.

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But, so too were the tattoos of iconic Catholic imagery of Virgen María and Jésus wearing his crown of thorns juxtaposed with pre-Conquest grecas of Mitla, a Spanish galleon, and the heart-dagger of betrayal.  This is one powerful mural!  And, the story doesn’t end here in Oaxaca.

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It is estimated that 250,000 Zapotecs live in the greater Los Angeles area — “making it the largest concentration of Oaxacans outside of Oaxaca thus earning its unofficial title among Oaxacan in the United States as Oaxacalifornia.”  (The Voice of Indigenous Resistance in Oaxacalifornia)  Thus it was appropriate that Cosijoesa Cernas and Dario Canul of the Tlacolulokos collective were invited to create eight massive murals, “Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A” for an exhibition at the Los Angeles Public Library.  They hang “below murals by Dean Cornwell, whose depictions of California’s history, completed in 1933, ignore Native Californian cultures and ‘fail to recognize the suffering of native peoples during the European conquest, as well as their exclusion from society…'” (New Murals Celebrate the Culture of Oaxaca in L.A.)

The murals at the Downtown Central Library in Los Angeles will be on exhibit in the library’s rotunda until January 31, 2018.

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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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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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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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Tomorrow, May 18, museums worldwide will be celebrating International Museum Day with special events around this year’s theme, “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums.”  According to the IMD website, The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” 

While Oaxaca has many wonderful museums, textile lover that I am, I would like to honor the day by looking back at several exhibitions I had the pleasure of viewing at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca — and a current one, too!

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Tormentos y suenos” (Storms and dreams) by Carolyn Kallenborn – August 3, 2012

Exhibitions ranged from works by individual textile artists to themed shows displaying textiles from the museum’s permanent collection and those on loan.

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“Transcomunalidad. interventions and collaborations with stilt communities and craftsmen” exhibition by Laura Anderson Barbata – March 1, 2013

Item labels and detailed descriptive booklets have been extremely helpful and, in the case of collections by individual collectors, their field notes were fascinating.

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“Irmgard Weitlaner Johnson: a life dedicated to textiles” – Costal (bag) was acquired by Irmgard in 1949, is said to be one of the most well preserved examples from the Valle del Mezquital, Hidalgo and, given the design, is thought to have been a wedding gift. – Nov. 21, 2014

The museum not only collects, preserves, and exhibits, it also holds workshops, lectures, expo-ventas (exposition and sales), and has provided a platform for issues of importance to textile artists, especially from the indigenous communities of the state of Oaxaca.

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El Delirio del color Oaxaca en los años 1960″ – Huipil mazatecas from the Tuxtepec district – Apr. 19, 2015

Exhibition openings often have included receptions, with an occasional performance art presentation thrown in.

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“Hilo Rojo 3047” an autobiographical installation by Ornilla Ridone – May 21, 2016

Museums can be a place to help shape community identity and bring different community groups together, a catalyst for regeneration through the creation of new venues and civic spaces, and a resource for developing the skills and confidence of members of those communities.  — Museums Association

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“Tekstil” current exhibition by textile artist Trine Ellitsgaard – Piece titled “Serpiente y abanicos” (Serpent and fans) – May 6, 2017

In observance of this year’s International Museum Day, the Museo Textil de Oaxaca invites textile artists and designers, academics, students, and the general public to participate in a conversation exploring the questions, “What is plagiarism? What is a copy? What is collaborating? Is ‘to collaborate’ synonymous with ‘to employ’? What has been the role of the copy in the development of craft goods?”   May 18, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM in the Claustro of the Centro Cultural San Pablo — next door to the Textile Museum.

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Slowly the cars began to move.  Slowly they climbed the steep hill.  As they climbed, each little steam engine began to sing:  “I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I think I can – I think I can – I think I can I think I can–”  (The Little Engine That Could)

In this case, the little engines that could are Volkswagen Beetles, known in Mexico as vochos.  These indomitable VW Bugs are ubiquitous on the streets of Oaxaca — in a rainbow of colors and in every stage of repair and disrepair imaginable.

Fuschia vocho parked on street

They can even be spotted traveling along the walls…

“Vocho art” isn’t limited to murals on street corners.  Check out this Huichol beadwork “Vochol” I saw on exhibit at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City last October.  It is the work of Francisco Bautista, Kena Bautista, Roberto Bautista, Diego Díaz González, Emilio González Carrillo, Víctor González Carrillo, Alvaro Ortiz, and Herminio Ramírez.

And, that isn’t all…  Mexican artist, Héctor Garnelo Navarro has covered a 1994 VW Beetle  with “19,800 semi-precious stones (e.g., obsidian, jade) that form images of pyramids, animals, ancient deities (Quetzalcóatl [Feathered Serpent, Creator God] and the Mictlantecuhtli [God of the Underworld]).”  It is known as the Vocho Teotihuacano (Teotihuacán Beetle) and according to this article, he is finishing a Vocho Maya and is considering a Vocho Alebrije — the latter inspired by the wood carvers and painters of Oaxaca.  So, keep your eyes open!

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Oaxaca seems to invite and inspire creativity.  Thus, for twenty years distinguished photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, who “considered Oaxaca her second home,” brought students here and conducted workshops at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo.  Now, seven photographers, Björn Árnason, Lori Barra, Ina Bernstein, James Carbone, Chae Kihn, Tim Porter, and Jody Watkins, are honoring their late mentor with an exhibition, Nuestra Oaxaca, at the Centro Fotográfico.

The exhibition opened on January 20, 2017, but it was the coming together by the seven and their very personal remarks during the artist reception and panel discussion on February 25 that revealed the impact Mary Ellen Mark had on their lives and work.  She was a dedicated and demanding teacher” who pushed them to know themselves in order to authentically see and capture the people and places on the other side of the lens.  They also offered glimpses into Mark’s playful side and wit, along with how meaningful her friendship was to each of them and their profound sense of loss at her passing in 2015.  I wasn’t the only one who blinked away tears.

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(L->R) Björn Árnason, Lori Barra, Ina Bernstein, Chae Kihn, James Carbone, Tim Porter, Jody Watkins, and translator, February 25, 2017.

In the words of Tim Porter, spoken at the opening of the exhibition on January 20, 2017:

We seven photographers are all different. Some of us are professionals who work for newspapers or do commercial work. Some of us are amateurs who simply love photography. Some of work in a documentary or journalistic style. Some of us make more interpretative images. We live in New York, in Los Angeles, in Iceland and in San Francisco. Some of us have been coming to Oaxaca for decades. Some of us for only a few years.

What we all share is Mary Ellen. She brought us together. Through her we became friends. Because of her we became better photographers. With her in mind, we come back – to pursue the work we started here, to become the photographers she believed we could be, to honor her passion and, perhaps, to find hope and inspiration in it.

If you are currently in Oaxaca or plan to be before the exhibition closes on April 7, 2017, I highly recommend paying it a visit; the images from each of the seven photographers will reveal Oaxaca in a new and thought-provoking light.  In addition, you can also see the work of their mentor, Mary Ellen Mark, that is part of the Colección Toledo/INBA.

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