A: Initially, it was the fact that these folk-art figures opened up an entire new world to me. I had learned almost nothing about Mexico in school, a fact I found mystifying, considering Mexico is the United States’ southern neighbor.
When I started collecting, I was launched on a rich intellectual adventure with seemingly no end. The folk art figures had so much to teach and prompted many questions. Most were unanswerable, but still, I was curious: who made them, why, how, what did they represent, what did they reveal about the maker’s worldview, how did they fit in with historical and contemporary forces, etc.
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Posted in 2018, Creative Process, Inspiration, Mexico, Studio
Tags: collecting, contemporary, figures, forces, historical, intellectual adventure, launched, Mexican folk art, mystifying, neighbor, so much to teach, southern, studio corner, taste for color, the way you see life, unanswerable, what did they represent, what did they reveal, who made them, worldview
A corner of the studio
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!
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Posted in 2013, An Artist's Life, Creative Process, Guatemala, Inspiration, Mexico, New York, NY, Photography, Studio, Travel
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