A Travel Memory

The mask that inspired our search for the artist.

The mask that inspired our search for Margarito Melchor Santiago

December 27, 2019:

We are walking through the small town of San Martín Tilcajete searching for the artist, Margarito Melchor Santiago. We had spotted a carved wood mask of his in the tiny museum Museo de Arte Popular Oaxaca in San Bartolo Coyotepec. We had only the name but we knew this was a small town and people should know the artist.

Asking around at the shops on the main street into town, a helpful merchant said he did know the artist and drew us a tiny map and pointed up the hill. We began walking up the hill and continued as the road went from cobblestones to hard-packed dirt. As we walked up hills we began seeing murals that had a similar theme.

We made a few wrong turns but finally found the studio and Margarito Melchor Santiago and his family warmly welcomed us inside. They were very pleased that we had sought them out after seeing their mask in the display of regional artists in the museum. They described how their family had a long tradition of mask carving beginning with his father, who stepped inside the showroom momentarily to say hello and to please excuse him for he had much work to so.

We inquired whether they had any more masks, but Margarito shook his head no. He explained they were busy making masks that had been commissioned for delivery in time for the big carnaval coming up in a few weeks. The carnaval begins in the morning when the boys and men paint their bodies with colors, some with motor oil, wear devil masks and parade throughout the village. The carnaval has been getting much attention in the past few years, attracting many from outside of this small village. Our hosts invited us to return for carnaval – someday we might.

Linda and Scott Marston-Reid pose with Margarito Melchor Santiago and family. Linda holds the Gallo, which did return home with us.   

Fun House – the art of the unusual

Summer 2016 will be remembered for the Fun House exhibit, held at Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie and curated by Eve Biddle, local artist and curator. The exhibit was inspired by Hudson Valley regional artist David Lax’s surreal painting, spotted in the entry hall of the gallery. “There is something about this theme, the bizarre, weird, and wonderful, that really strikes a chord with artists;” Executive Director, Joanna Frang commented, “We had over 300 local and national entries for the show.” Local artist and curator, Eve Biddle, selected 81 artworks by 51 artists, hailing from 17 states and 40 cities and towns. Biddle’s curatorial statement sets the stage in anticipation for seeing the art: “These works are a jumble of dreams and nightmares designed to overload the senses and spark the imagination.”

Santiago Cohen_The Fight_Courtesy the artist
The Fight, by Santiago Cohen. Copyright Santiago Cohen – Website: http://www.santiagocohen.com/Artnew.html

Many of the artworks include the unexpected juxtaposition of collage images, such as John Baker’s painting, “Born and Raised in the City of Chicago,” and the photographs by Annie Stone and Kerfe Roig. Santiago Cohen’s “The Fight,” reminds us of the strong influence of the surrealist movement on Mexican art. Born in Mexico, this New Jersey artists’ influence is seen in his three paintings on exhibit.

 

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Pollito Chicken, photo by Ileana Doble Hernandez – copyright Ileana Doble Hernandez – artist website: ileanadobleh.com 

Ileana Doble Hernandez exhibits staged photographs from her series, “Animal Nature,” which are inspired by animal-human interaction. The photograph “Pollito Chicken,” depicts a mother with a pig-mask sitting at the dinner table, her baby is dressed in a bright yellow romper and appears to be trying to crawl out of an aluminum roasting pan. There is a roast chicken in front of the mother, but the placement of the baby next to the dinner and the empty plate might make the viewer feel uneasy. The artist notes that “In the end, we are also animal kind.”

 

Jim Allen exhibited “Traveling Dreams,” a surreal black and white photograph that captures reflections and shadows of travel, whether by fantasy or memory. The fantasy of riding off on a stallion is viewed through a scratched windowpane, making the memory seem unreliable. Through the window the viewer sees the distorted image of a school bus leaving on its route.

James Allen_Traveling Dreams_Courtesy the artist
Traveling Dreams by Jim Allen. All copyrights Jim Allen. 

Sculptural pieces include Trent Taft’s artworks that could have come from the special effects movie prop storeroom: meticulously created and vaguely disturbing, these are artworks from a new master.

Marah Carpenter’s fabric work series, “Paper Doll Look,” a reconfigured wardrobe inspired by paper dolls, features three pieces that are actually wearable, creating a one-dimensional view of the model.

Isaac Roller’s pen and ink scroll “The Changeling” demonstrates the artists’ skill at drawing animals – both real and imagined. Although a small portion of 31’ scroll is viewable, what is on display is truly bizarre.

All images copyright the artists.

The art of Mercados

I love a Mercado! Across the major neighborhoods of Mexico City, Mercados are the center of commerce and the interactions of daily life and should be part of  every visitor experience.IMG_0978

During a recent trip to Mexico City we stayed outside the center in Coyoacan, a quieter community where Frida Khalo, Diego Rivera, and Leon Trotsky once lived. The Mercado Coyoacan has everything a local resident might need in daily life, from birthday gifts to fresh tortillas. In fact, the entry we came through had a tortilla machine cranking out fresh tortillas.

Walking through the aisles I am always struck by the beauty of the displays – whether the rows of cactus fruit, or the pyramids of differently colored red chilies, it is visually beautiful. The perfume of each section will assail your senses as well – I always stay away from the meat aisles for this reason.

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There is a pride and showmanship in each merchant’s displays – whether you are selling fruit or toys, items are arranged with an artistic eye and precision.IMG_0980

Small food stalls sell fresh fruit drinks, breakfast, lunches and snacks. Sitting down at the counter and ordering the specialty can be one of the most wonderful parts of your visit to a Mercado.

The Art of Details

While strolling around Mexico City recently, my eyes were filled with so many beautiful images layered upon each other that it was overwhelming. Sometimes we forget to stop, focus and appreciate one image alone. Here are some images when viewed by themselves are fascinating.

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