A: As a Christmas present in 1991 my future sister-in-law sent me two brightly painted wooden animal figures from Oaxaca, Mexico. One was a blue polka-dotted winged horse. The other was a red, white, and black bear-like figure. See the two Mexican figures in “Myth Meets Dream” above.
I was enthralled with this gift and the timing was fortuitous because I had been searching for new subject matter to paint. Soon I started asking artist-friends about Oaxaca and learned that it was an important art hub. Two well-known Mexican painters, Rufino Tamayo and Francisco Toledo, had gotten their start there, as had master photographer Manual Alvarez Bravo. There was a “Oaxacan School of Painting” (‘school’ meaning a style, not an actual building) and Alvarez Bravo had established a photography school there (the building/institution kind). I began reading everything I could find. At the time I had only been to Mexico very briefly, in 1975, having made a road trip to Ensenada with my cousin and best friend from college.
The following autumn my then-boyfriend, Bryan, and I planned a two-week trip to visit Mexico. We timed it to see Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca. (In my reading I had become fascinated with this unique festival). We spent one week in Oaxaca followed by one week in Mexico City. My interest in collecting Mexican folk art was off and running!
Comments are welcome!
A: There are two: “Myth Meets Dream” and “No Cure for Insomnia.” Both are part of my “Domestic Threats” series and were breakthroughs at the time I made them. They are relatively early works – the first from 1993, the latter from 1999 – and were important in my artistic development.
“Myth Meets Dream” is the earliest pastel painting in which I depict Mexican figures. It includes two brightly painted, carved wooden animals from Oaxaca sent to me in 1992 by my sister-in-law. I have spoken about them before. These figures were the beginning of my ongoing fascination with Mexico.
“No Cure for Insomnia” includes a rare self-portrait and is set in my late aunt’s sixth-floor walkup on West 13th Street, where I lived when I moved to New York in 1997. My four years there were very productive.
Comments are welcome!