Q: What have you learned about the people of Mexico through your travels, reading, and research?
A: It didn’t take long to become smitten with these beautiful people. It happened on my first trip there in 1992 when Bryan and I, along with busloads of other tourists, were visiting the Oaxacan cemeteries on The Day of the Dead. The Oaxaquenos tending their ancestor’s graves were so dignified and so gracious, even with so many mostly-American tourists tromping around on a sacred night, that I couldn’t help being taken with them and with their beliefs. My studies since that time have given me a deeper appreciation for the art, architecture, history, mythology, etc. that comprise the extremely rich and complex story of Mexico as a cradle of civilization in the West. It is a wonderfully heady mix and hopefully some of it comes through in my work as a painter and a photographer.
By the way I often wonder why the narrative of Mexico’s fascinating history was not taught in American public schools, at least not where I went to public school in suburban New Jersey. Mexico is our neighbor, for goodness sake, but when I speak to many Americans about Mexico they have never learned anything about the place! It’s shocking, but many people think only “Spring Break” and/or “Drug Wars,” when they hear the word “Mexico.” As a kid I remember learning about Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and other early civilizations in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, but very little about Mexico. We learned about the Maya, when it was still believed that they were a peaceful people who devoted their lives to scientific and religious pursuits, but that story was debunked years ago. And I am fairly sure that not many Americans even know that Maya still exist in the world … in Mexico and in Guatemala. There are a few remote places that were not completely destroyed by Spanish Conquistadores in the 16th century and later. I’ve been to Mayan villages in Guatemala and seen shamans performing ancient rituals. For an artist from a place as rooted in the present moment as New York, it’s an astounding thing to witness!
Comments are welcome!
Posted on December 7, 2013, in 2013, An Artist's Life, Creative Process, Guatemala, Inspiration, Mexico, New York, NY, Photography, Studio, Travel and tagged American, ancestors, ancient, anything, appreciation, architecture, art, artist, Asia, astounding, beautiful, beliefs, believed, busloads, cemeteries, century, civilization, civilizations, completely, complex, comprise, Conquistadores, corner, cradle, Day of the Dead, debunked, deeper, destroyed, devoted, dignified, drug wars, early, Egypt, Europe, exist, extremely, fairly, fascinating, first, gracious, graves, Greece, Guatemala, happened, heady, hear, history, hopefully, kid, later, learned, learning, little, lives, Maya, Mayan, Mesopotamia, Mexico, Middle East, mix, moment, mythology, narrative, neighbor, New Jersey, night, Oaxacan, Oaxaquenos, painter, peaceful, people, performing, photographer, place, places, present, public, pursuits, reading, religious, remember, remote, research, rich, rituals, rooted, sacred, schools, scientific, shamans, shocking, smitten, Spanish, speak, spring break, story, studies, Studio, suburban, sure, taught, tending, think, tourists, travel, trip, tromping, villages, visiting, West, witness, wonder, wonderfuly, word, work, world, years. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.
I agree Barbara. I took Mexican History in my early years in college and what we digested, chapter after chapter, were the Mexican wars, the continual rounds of governments, failed government leader, revolutionaries and contesting factions overturning and overturning. Not particularly memorable, except for some names-as-labels. Shortly after that I went to the Yucatan peninsula and monuments such as Chichen Itza; ate delicious natural foods, fish with lime, under the stars. And a different Mexico presented itself. I have an affinity for Mexican art, especially contemporary art, very different from the U.S. Your work is an in- depth, perceptive account of the people and their gods, demigods, and of “things” as we’d call them. But you bring them to life as if you are living in the hearts of the people and their own rich traditional ‘beliefs.’ These are grand pieces that if shown in museums would bring a wealth of consideration into other people’s awakening interest and curiosity.
Thanks very much, Carol. Your ongoing support is deeply appreciated and helps get me through the times when I wonder if it’s worth all the aggravation inherent in being a solitary artist trying to build an audience.
I agree as well I always felt that travel and history had a great influence on my work and where in N.J did you grow up Native Daughter – Exit 131 for me –
Peter, I was born in Paterson and grew up in Clifton (exit 154).
I live in Mexico 6 months out of the year in my condo on a beautiful beach. It is very true that we ignore our southern neighbor when we teach history in school. In fact we treat Mexico very badly and historically we always have. Since I live in the Baja I actually know very little about the main land. What I do know is that I have driven the Baja over 20 times if you count the trip down and than the trip back up and it is safer than most cities in the United States. I have not been robbed raped or decapitated. The military has stops along the way looking for guns and drugs and they are very simple to go through, never had a problem. The people are awesome, kind and helpful. The road is narrow and at times washed out from the rainy season. Otherwise it is one of the most spectacular drives in the world.
If you ask a person from the United States about the Spanish American War, most know almost nothing, it is one line in our history books. The Mexicans know and study this part of history extensively. We have built a wall between us and our southern neighbor. Do you have a wall to keep your next door neighbor from coming to visit? Europeans will tell you walls don’t work, they took theirs down. The Berlin Wall is now one of the largest pieces of free public art in the world.
Travel is important to your art work. I brought back 63 watercolors and have not counted my little sketches from 2 months traveling Europe.
Marilyn, thanks for the interesting comments. Mexico is a very big country. I hope you get to see other parts of it sometime. I’m headed there again in March to see Olmec sites, a subject I have been long fascinated with.
we can not forgot that huge role in their kulture played by magic mushrooms,,,love your work btw:)
i mean use of
psilocybe cubensis,,,to predict the future and connect with ancestorsm so on…I think its intresting dont you?
I can’t say I know anything about that. Whose tradition, i.e. which people are you speaking of – Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, Maya, or some other group?
i believe that this book will explain more:
Every ancient culture has left a heritage. We have a world filled with art treasures from our past. Mexico has a fascinating history. Exploring our southern neighbor and its people can only enhance ones life. Looking at ancient designs and architecture can leave us with a sense of how marvelous it all was. It can also leave us with the need to explore and discover more. One thing about these old designs, there is no copy right. It can be fascinating to see them come to life in new and exciting ways. Using the past to create something in the future is far from a new concept and it is an interesting way to explore art and to make art. Getting to know a place for the people who live there in todays world can enhance art. Getting to know a place for the people who lived there in the past can also enhance art. There are may avenues for creativity.