Originally posted during winter 2015 – I’ve revised it to include more photos of recent collections.
Once again we departing for Mexico in a couple of weeks, leaving snow and slush behind – nothing these little Mexican hairless dogs would likely experience. Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short, has been popular in Mexico for centuries. The dog was named by the Aztecs after Xolotl, the God of lightning and death.
These small effigies can be seen at street markets as freshly baked clay folk arts, and also nearly identical to the Xolos at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The dog statues were buried alongside their masters to protect and guide them in the afterlife.
Now you can find Xolos as simple clay or embellished folk art pieces, such as the one on the left we discovered two years ago. This type of ceramics is created in Tonolá, a ceramics-centric town outside of Guadalajara. The artist, Chon Chon, signed their name on both of these fantastical creatures. Different from its sibling we found two years later on the right, they both have lively expressions on their faces.
Kenro Izu is looking back at a successful photographic career that has spanned more than 40 years and acknowledged that it was a fellowship at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) that launched his career. Izu reflected on the opportunity and admitted it wasn’t just the money, but the importance of the professional encouragement of CPW’s founder, Howard Greenberg, and connecting him to opportunities to develop his photographic practice.
During January 2018, Izu displays a selection of his photography series “Sacred Places,” which has been internationally exhibited. The exhibit is up at Aaron Rezny Gallery in Kingston and is organized by CPW, with a portion of sales to benefit the photography center’s programming.
Izu uses a large-format camera favored by 19th-century photographers, stating that, “It captures air and the subtle nuances of tonality in platinum printing.” The 14-inch by 20-inch custom-made camera was purchased with funding he received from an NEA grant in 1984. Despite weighing 300 pounds, the camera has traveled with him during his photographic explorations, creating the platinum palladium contact prints that are included in this exhibit.
The photographer has traveled the world seeking out the places that are sacred to people, including areas of Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and India. Izu explained that he first traveled to Egypt in the 1970s and discovered he was especially drawn to the stone monuments. This has led to his photographing a number of places most would call the “Seven Wonders of the World,” including Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and Chichén Itzá.
While traveling in Hampi, India, Izu came upon a sight that he captured in “Vijayanager #15.” The elaborate shrine-like structure was built on a massive stone, designating a sacred place reachable by rock climbing. The contrast between the giant rock and the detailed architectural structure is surprising. In another human touch, the base of the stone has been patched to ensure its continued stability.
In the image “Kanchipuram #638,” the photographer has placed himself within a sacred space on a pathway with the deity directly ahead. In the shrine’s low interior light, viewers can observe carved stone columns receding into the distance along a pathway alight with devotional fires.
In “Ladakh #49,” captured in Ramayuru Gompa, India, the photographer uses the light across the mountains to highlight the sacred temple built on a hill surrounded by a small village. Capturing the last light of the day, the spectacular shadows encircle the sacred place in a series of gradations, creating an abstracted composition of darks and lights.
Delicate outlines in fog of Taj Mahal
Izu travels to and focuses on a region, becoming familiar with the local customs from there; he awaits inspiration to discover the sacred places. As his travels took him to the far reaches within Cambodia and Laos, he was moved by the children’s dire health conditions. On his return to New York Izu founded a charitable foundation, Friends Without a Border, that built a free pediatric hospital in Cambodia in order to give back to the people who have inspired his photographic journey.
Marking the first day of winter, I walked up a Palm Springs trailhead passing by barrel cactus, creosote bushes and rock formations framed against a brilliant blue sky.
Looking over the valley certainly puts a perspective on life equalizing all the political intrigue and petty issues of everyday matters.
I am so thankful that my family led me to another place of incredible desert beauty. The Tahquitz Canyon was a lovely, quiet walk through the desert that ended with a 60-foot waterfall, through rocks and native plants. Home to the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, it is indeed a cultural treasure.
This is the walking that feeds the soul. Today with one day left in 2017, I am contemplating not only what 2018 will bring, but what I will seek during this new year.
Winter is here, bringing cold slush, freezing temperatures and making me think about heading back to Mexico. The temperatures are not only warmer, but the people are friendly and the food is wonderful.
Finding good food in Mexico City is easy enough – just walk into the nearest little place and order the menu of the day. Most of the time lunch will include soup, salad, main dish and a dessert. Eating this way is easy and inexpensive, but the more we wandered through markets with the stunning piles of chiles, fresh squash blossoms, fruits and tortillas, the more we talked about how fun it would be to be able to make our own meals. During our last trip to Mexico City, we stayed in an Airbnb with a kitchen, which opened up the possibility of shopping and cooking our own meals.
First, I should mention we are a family of people who love to cook, including two chefs who make their living this way. There are few travel activities more exciting than wandering through a food market and finding new options for dinner.
Some of the food is simply beautiful in its color and pattern, such as the stacks and stacks of dried cereal, pasta, and spices. Other types of foods we had no idea what we were looking at and had to ask how the vendor cooked it at home.
Shopping in the neighborhood also gave us a glimpse of life in that community, since we had to visit the green market, the Mercado for supplies, the bakery, and a liquor store for our favorite tequila, Gran Centenario.
Dessert from the bakery – an important part of dinner.
We enjoyed every minute of these neighborhood wanderings and arrived back to begin preparing that evening’s feast. Dinner one night included a simple stew with garbanzo beans, corn, tomato, and small red potatoes – it was delicious, but the experience of shopping and cooking was a large portion of the pleasure.
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.
We are departing for Mexico City in 4 days, leaving snow and slush behind – nothing these little Mexican hairless dogs would likely experience. Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short, has been popular in Mexico for centuries. The dog was named by the Aztecs after Xolotl, the God of lightning and death.
These small effigies can be seen at street markets as freshly baked clay folk arts, and also nearly identical Xolos at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The dog statues were buried alongside their masters to protect and guide them in the afterlife.
Our love affair with Mexico began long ago as we grew up in the Southern California high desert. Finally we both had the opportunity to travel for the first time to Mexico in 1992. Looking back on that now it doesn’t seem so long ago, but much has changed in the 23 years of traveling to the same places.
The wild first trip had us landing in Mexico City, taking the train to Guanajuato, then to Morelia, Patzquaro, and spending some time in Mexico City again before we headed south on the train to Oaxaca. The craziest thing about this was it was done over a two-week period and we were traveling with our two youngest sons, who were 5 and 9 years old.
So many trips later, it feels like coming home when we arrive back in Mexico. Although we now travel alone since our children have long left home, we decided to change things around a bit for our upcoming trip to Mexico City.
Whenever we have been through Mexico City we have stayed at Hotel Sevilla, a small no-frills hotel next to Sullivan Park. The good thing about this consistent choice was that we knew how to give directions to our taxi driver from any point we returned from, and knew when we were going in the right direction “towards home.” This time when we made hotel accommodations, Hotel Sevilla had no vacancies. We considered booking another place in the immediate area since we were familiar with the local espresso shop and the great breakfast place that made homemade tortillas, but then we thought about Airbnb and the idea of staying within a local neighborhood instead of a tourist hotel. The more we considered this idea, the more enthusiastic we became and booked a single room with private bath in a home in the Coyoacan district. Although the inexpensive hotel we had planned to stay in would have been $433 for one week, the Airbnb place was $156. Saving over $270 was great since we rarely hang out in the hotel and were excited about staying in a neighborhood.
Recent travels took me through the Denver Airport to transfer to another flight. The first flight was delayed and feeling stressed that I would not make the connection, I was annoyed to find that I had to board a train to transfer to the next terminal. The train left and entered a tunnel where my grumpy outlook was immediately changed to delight. Inside the tunnel were tiny shiny propellers mounted on the walls that twirled as the train moved through the tunnel. The electric blue lighting inside the train reflected onto the propellers, adding color to a fantastic public art installation.
The “Kinetic Air Light Curtain” was designed by husband and wife team, Antonette Rosato and William Maxwell in 1995. Although both artists have died in the past decade, their artwork is still fresh and continues to engage passengers. Both artists lived and worked in Denver and their design has meaning to the place: there are 5,280 propellers in the tunnel, which signifies the altitude of Denver, known as the ‘mile high city.’
Frequently we forget to savor the moment in time when we are amazed, delighted, intrigued or mystified by art. After I got on my connecting plane, I kept seeing those reflecting propellers around me on the runway, and thought of the power that artists have to elevate the mundane through art.