Sunday, September 14, 2008

Feeling Blue.

The storm was over, the sky was bright blue + the sun was out, a perfect day to create “cyanotypes”.

Cyanotypes are another type of "Sunprint" in that the final image appears only with the aid of ultra-violet, or sun, light. The colours can range in their final metamorphose from pale to deep blue tones and everything in between. As with Van Dyke printing, the properly exposed and processed print will be permanent and archivally sound.

Used. Discarded. Forgotten.

I have done a lot of work with discarded objects I found in my walks around town.
It is always exciting to pick up one of these items and place it in a totally different context and give it new life.

Yesterday, as I turned the corner from the organic garden I found myself facing “this” under the shade of a tree. It played in my mind, like scenes of a movie. I could see several plots. People sitting, talking, living around this “now” poor, ripped, burned, slashed and finally dumped sofa.

Unfortunately I couldn’t really put it inside my plastic bag, but it’s image was immortalized.

Hurricane season and the "Outdoor Studio".

It has been a little haphazard to keep a steady schedule in the studio lately. This is hurricane season, and with such comes unsteady weather, rain (huge bugs after it rains), wind, shuffling around putting away most of the outside furniture, and a lot of time spent tracking the storms.

So, I have been spending time prepping some new boards for encaustic, writing and taking photographs.

The neighbors are vegetarians.

A few months ago two sheep and two goats arrived next door to us. Their job assignment was to cut back the desert brush across the way. They work almost 24/7. So far they have done a darn good job, as we can see almost clear through to the dune.

Freedom (Libertad).

Walking out the front door of our house, I was suddenly confronted with a group of horses, unattended, just in the wild. I was surprised... and so were they, when our dog ran out barking at them. The lead horse gave the signal “let’s get out of here” and they took off in a beautiful and majestic gallop. Since I saw them stopped at a neighboring field, I ran quickly for my camera to get a couple pics.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Left and right brain.

I found these three mesh screens washed out at the beach. They have the usual square shape pattern. I wondered if they were broken up lobster traps. Who knows?

I took them to the studio and played with them a bit. I separated them as they were nested inside each other. Repetition and entrapment came to mind. I loved the idea that they were white. So I went with it and without much planning rearranged them in a separate fashion. Then painted the background with "multilayered" whites, grays and yellows.

Then I brought another element that I have been focused on lately, "the left and right brain" and its differences. While we try to make sound decisions by analyzing situations that come to us, we end up many times following our gut feeling. Yes, that thing called "intuition".

The meaning of "unencumbered".

We drove through the fresh green desert towards Sierra de la Laguna. Our destination, the house and studio of a local potter named "Marcos" and his sister "Margarita". His place is simple and unencumbered. Decisions are made on the basis of what the day brings. If it rains, it's simple there is no firing. His pots are as beautiful and simple as his surroundings. And, although on this particular day there were no pots available to view or purchase, the visit was rich and the coffee delicious.

Rainy season.

While in the tropics we become sensitized to several things: First, late summer being hurricane season bringing flash floods as good company. Second, after the first and second rains an army of flying termites arrives on mass. They are attracted to light
and immediately lose their wings, leaving thousands of crawling little creatures hurrying to get into every piece of wood in your house. Their wings stay as if glued to our screen doors and form very interesting abstract shapes worth photographing.

A gift from the land.

The ground were we built our house has proven to be very fertile. Granted that it used to be a chile field. One day, while the house was being built we stopped to bring watermelon to the workers. apparently a few seeds landed here and there.

Low and behold, one morning while looking out into the horizon I spotted a green semi- striped object in our yard. I went to get the binoculars, always afraid that anything striped around here turning out to be a snake. But to my surprise I found this beautiful "volunteer watermelon". It was quite a gift for the day. I photographed it, then brought it inside and proceeded to have a wonderful red and juicy breakfast.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The symbol of the Cross.

In Mexico religion is an integral part of the culture. As is to create altars anywhere from the church, the home to a sight of an accident. As you drive through the roads in Mexico
you find many small altars with virgins, votive candles, flowers and the symbol of the cross.

Anytime you walk in front of a church or you feel the need for protection you make the sign of the cross. When a construction is started the first thing the workers put in place is a wooden cross to protect them from any accidents.

To me the cross represents the continuity of life from the time we are born to the time we cease to exist. I have started to include the symbol of the cross in my art pieces.

The “ladrillo” (brick).

The most basic of building materials in this area is the “ladrillo”. Todos Santos was built with ladrillos. You can still see in the downtown area the Spanish influence, where the old hacienda brick style houses with arches over giant wooden doors and raw iron windows were the norm. Now a days brick has been replaced by concrete blocks which are a bit cheaper and can be mass produced. However there is still a brick artisan in San Pedro that has a man made kiln with which he makes the most beautiful bricks ever.

Also in the hills of the Sierra Laguna there are several ceramic artisans who gather their own clay from the mountains and build beautiful minimal style pots.

We found this particular brick with the word “Mexico” embedded into it on the side of the road. We have never seen one with words before.

The desert.

It has taken me the better part of a year to come to terms with the desert. At first I found it threatening. The possibility of finding a big rattler or getting pricked or scratched by any of a thousand types of cacti. The eerie, lonely, intensely dry feeling of its environment got the best of me. Then through slow exploration, short walks, up close observation of the many living species of plants. The incredible reality of a cacti plant that apparently seems to be dead, having at the end of its branches a soft beautiful flower or even a delectable fruit. Amazement at the cute lizards of many colors, hares and birds. The snakes I haven’t become to friendly with yet.

But I have to admit that it’s warmed my spirit. Lately I wrote in one of my pieces “El alma del desierto esta ahí muy adentro de ese armazón de espinas. Aquel que la encuentra goza de su dulzura” (The soul of the desert is there deep inside its thick cover full of spines. He who discovers it, will enjoy its sweetness).

The color Red.

It is amazing how an environment can get into you and make you crave certain colors.
It has happened to me with the color “red”. I crave it all the time. From adding it to my work, to using it on my lips, or making me buy a red rebozo (shawl). The sun is intense and the sunsets unbelievably beautiful and “red”. The red multiplies after the sun has set and it bathes the clouds with red brush strokes.

There are also several desert plants that have the most delicate bright red flowers.
When in bloom you see the desert in its brown, ocher coloring and little paint strokes of red everywhere.

Red “pitayas” are cacti fruits that are covered with little spines. But you can buy them on the side of the road already cleaned. When you put them in your mouth it is definitively a sweet red explosion.

The iconic “heart” (el Corazón).

For many years I have collected hearts. The shape, the color, and its meaning of love I was always partial to. Now I realize that in Mexico is much more than that. It is probably the most frequently used icon. It is very prevalent in all of our folk art, and its origin is two-fold.

The heart is used in most of our religious figures. There are hundreds of images of the Virgin and many Saints with painted hearts, emanating rays of love and compassion.
Also in many Churches, specially in the old times there were walls full of “Milagros”.
These are mostly tin cut images of hearts brought in by the people and nailed to one of the inside walls of a Church to thank God and/or a particular Saint for a miracle performed. Today you can also find other types of Milagros such as eyes, legs, small virgin images, hands and others.

These weekly hearts were made out of leftover scraps of wood used for a veranda in the house. The reason why they are seven, each one relating to the day of the week is to remind us that we are meant to love each and every day of our lives.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


There are many kinds of birds that live in our environment. From pelicans, to hummingbirds, sea gulls, hawks, road runners, finches, woodpeckers and others. We could hear them and see some of them. But I decided to device a bird feeder of sorts by placing a clay dish in our garden. We filled it with sun flower seeds and some "alpiste". Then waited to see who might come visit.

A couple of days after, a white dove (maybe pigeon like) came to visit. She is quite pretty and we have named her "Blanquita". She has taken to liking our zen little garden and of course the clay dish that gives her sustenance. Once in a while she shares it with two young quails.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Inspiration at Punta Lobos.

Between 1:30-3:00PM all the fisherman from our area come back with their goods.
It's quite a scene at Punta Lobos as the "pangas" (small motor boats), make it through the rough surf landing on the sand and immediately being dragged by a pick up truck onto a flat area of the beach. There, tables are set next to the boats for the gutting & filleting of the fish. It's pelican heaven.

I am of course a Piscis and have a particular weekness for fish and being in the water.

So my next piece was dedicated to this beautiful "dorado" yellow tail. The ying and yang shapes on the piece represent the double currents in which I find myself often struggling with.

Art is my obsession.

After being able to set up my fifth make shift studio here in Todos Santos. One with a big "sombra"(shade sail material covering our garage), I was able to stretch out without having to worry that one of the corners of my piece was slowly melting away. I have been working non stop. It's been fun incorporating the trash that I found along the roads on my morning walks, giving them a new life within a new environment.

No street names.

In Todos Santos there is no Post Office. Reason being that there are no street names.
Well, there are a few in the center of town. But the surrounding neighborhoods who were all at some point in time agricultural fields, mostly sugar cane but also chile fields.
Slowly these ranchs and farms have been sold off in parcels and no major city development has happened. So there are hundreds of country roads, with home made signs like this one. It's rather quaint... until you need to send a letter to someone.

Plastic everywhere...

It has been a struggle for me to see garbage on the streets, but it has been worst to see the incredible ground covering of plastic. Plastic bottles, containers of all sizes and the queen of them all the plastic bag.

The grocery stores (...well any store) give them out by the hundreds. Later the purchased item is retrieved from the bag and the bag perhaps makes it to a garbage receptacle but most likely catches a bit of wind and flies away. You can see them hooked to numerous tree limbs all along the highways. They are usually black and from a distance they appear to be animal shapes, floating around as if they were dancing.

But the reality is that plastic is not biodegradable and it litters our world.

Efforts are being made by caring environmentalists to bring awareness to the consumer to switch to reusable cotton bags or the old fashioned "canasta o java para el mercado". Bring your own bag!

This piece of art has a smashed coke bottle in the center. It is very common here in Todos Santos for people to drink loads of soda. In this case I framed it with a small poem about "the thirst for life".

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One year to the day.

May 30th marked our #ONE year in Todos Santos and we are happy to be in a town where everybody knows our name.

It’s a good feeling.

The fiber of my people.

Through the year after attending special regional celebrations like the one for the Patron Saint of Todos Santos “Saint Pilar”, the local dances in the town square, watching the whales go by and/or sitting to watch one of the surfers catch a wave I have started to carve my own space in this small piece of the earth.

It has all come back to me: the fiber of my people, the color of my country, the freshness of the sea water, the comfort of my own language and inevitably the nuances of my culture.

I giggle inside my head when I see the little car with a big speaker on the roof driving around promoting a restaurant, a new business, a politician or the next dance over the weekend. Or, look out the window when I hear the honking of the fish guy, or the gas truck, or the water delivery guy. Which one of them is it today?

It pains me when I hear the cry of the man who walks all over town saying “Vendo ollas, vasijas, tarritos y muchas cosas de barro”, over and over again. While he carries a big load of pottery on his shoulders. Or, when I see the 80 year old skinny guy, wearing his big old hat, push the ice cream cart all over town. Up and down busy streets.

The need for survival is the norm in every third world country.

Casa Montemar

Mid-February the beach house (which we named “Montemar” after my Grandmother) was ready for us to move in. Still with a few rough edges but mostly finished we made our move. It was so quiet, and it was so special to sleep & wake up to the sound of the waves crashing. This is a dream I always had and never knew I could actually experience every day.

This is happiness to me.

Christmas (Navidad) 2007

Christmas was special and spent with our family here in TS. We went to pick our tree from one of the neighboring desert hills. The tree has a long stem and horizontal branches with a dried flower at the end. It is about 6ft high. And it’s “dead”. This tree happens to be the flower of the agave cacti. And when it dries out it can actually be cut without hurting the plant. The horizontal arms give space to hang the ornaments. We just strung blue lights around it and it looked gorgeous.


An opportunity arises to take over a small bakery business in town. George, in the last years has become an incredible chef and got very excited about the possibility of this part time seasonal business. Without too much thinking from the brain but mostly thinking from the heart we jumped. And the next few weeks were spent learning how to make bread.

Making bread is a noble business we thought… and it is.

December 1, 2008 we opened “Peace and Loaf” Bakery under cloudy skies and pouring rain (…it only rains 5 days a year in TS). Nevertheless lots of people showed up, the skies slowly cleared and the bread was baked and sold. The following four months the bakery was opened twice a week and I was able to spend less and less time in my art. My hands were getting sore from the kneading of more and more bread to fill the demand. But every ounce of work was worth it. The community came together in our little bakery. There was congeniality, sharing, eating, laughing and living. It brought life to us and we think to the town. Visit

6 Weeks in Connecticut.

A previously planned exhibition took me to CT for the month of September/October.During this time in addition to the events tied to the exhibition I spent all my time visiting our daughter, friends and creating some silk screen prints with photographs I took in Mexico. Everything seemed so very familiar; I kept driving to my old house instead of the friend’s house where I was staying. The visits with my friends were like a second round of “despedidas” (good byes). After the 6 weeks went by and I found myself back in TS, I realized how much I missed everyone and how connected I still was to my life in the US. It totally threw me for a loop. I had to start my adjustment exercise all over again.

It made me think that we are animals of routine, and it’s so easy to fall into the familiar.
We have to work hard at being open to new experiences and particularly new ways of doing things.

But soon enough the bumps on the road, the dust in the cars, the rooster’s crow and the occasional wild horses running loose on the country roads settled me back in.

Then another jolt.

Digging our heels.

As the months went by we dug our heels and decided TS would be a good place for us to stay beyond our sabbatical year. The next stage was dedicated to finding a permanent place to live. This led to the building of a beach house. A creative project encompassing doing something we had never done, the use of different construction materials, building trust on our contractor and workers, placing positive energy on our patch of land and managing our costs.

Being humble.

I see the raw hands of the workers. I see the hard work in their callused hands. I have seen them trying to sell a plant that they just dug out of some arroyo in the area. Or a load of rocks, which they got the very same way.

The “need” to survive is the hay that moves the horse.

There is incredible generosity amongst these gentile souls. The farmer that shares with us a little of every crop, or invites us to eat “birria” (meat stew) on the day that his butcher friend has given him a cow’s head.

All this makes you humble.