Thursday, October 26th
It is pretty standard for me on these remote workshops that I am up for breakfast and then out for a walkabout before the official stuff gets going. Today is my first time to revisit the landscape of one of my favorite spots in the world--
This is the white wall outside the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca where in previous years there has been so great wall art. It is the first place I head to only to find that the wall is now down to this art, which I have seen before, and no others. I decide to use the wall as a frame for some street photography before moving on.
All of Mexico is rich in public art in all forms but my favorite is street art of all kinds. Here are some samples.
Everyday objects can be art as well. Here are two samples of commercial vehicles changed by black and white photography.
I found another spot to rest and snap some street photography. The first works best as color while the second is the more traditional b&w.
Isn't this a great poster enticing you to see this show? Remember this poster.
Today is the first official day of the workshop. Here is the description from Michael deMeng: “Have you ever heard of a film called Autopsia de un Fantasma (Autopsy of a Ghost)? Most likely not. It’s a pretty horrible Mexican horror/comedy from 1968 featuring John Carradine and Basil Rathbone, about the devil offering redemption to a ghost through love. I mention this film only because while the movie itself is horrendous, its opening credits are spectacular. The credits are best described as a Faustian puppet show filled with skeletons, devils, ghosts and freaks dancing to a 60’s surf guitar riff; a playfully hellish scene and a perfect inspiration for a Dia de los Muertos workshop in Oaxaca. In 2017 deMeng de los Muertos returns to the glorious Day of the Dead-ish city of Oaxaca and this year’s project will be to construct portable puppet theaters. Using bobbles, bits and found objects, attendees will create small diabolical characters ready to perform. The stage will be created from a case or box of some kind. This could be a briefcase, a silverware box, backgammon set…any small carrying case. Of course, to be a proper theatrical production we have to set the mood, this will be done by painting changeable canvas backdrops for our found-object actors. And, when the performance is over and after the diabolical creations take a bow, the stage will double as a carrying case for all the characters, sets, and props…a portable theater for the Good, the Bad and the Puppety.”
Here is the class sample for what we are going to make:
The start time for the workshop is 10:00 a.m. and we are going to go to 4:00 p.m each day. Everyday we have a lunch break with the meal included in the workshop fee. The only days this will be different is when we are on excursions.
Lunch—at the restaurant I stood in front of for the comparsa
In the afternoon I went with the newbies to the zocalo. One third of our class have never been to Oaxaca.
We all want to go to what we refer to as The Religious Store mainly because the sell eyeballs for saints they we use in our art. Unfortunately this year, the store is down to a small selection of brown eyes only. It is my shortcoming that I do not speak Spanish so buying stuff is a challenge because most Oaxaca stores have the same set up. The merchandise is hung so you can see a sample and then you request what you want and the clerks go fetch. Then you take the slip to another desk where you pay for your stuff. Finally someone hands you the goods and you can go on your way. This means that buying anything is a long, long process but it is also a uniquely Mexican process so I tend to enjoy the whole thing being a people watcher.
It also means that there is plenty of time to wander the store and take photographs while waiting for everyone else to complete their purchases.
My mission was to go to the hardware store. Unfortunately, I got sent there by myself. Remember the process for buying stuff in a store I said above--it happens at the hardware store too.
I went to the hardware store to buy screen (which I did not end up using), drill bits for Michael and light bulbs for K.D. Here is where it all falls apart. I had a sample of the drill bit and size we needed but the young man behind the counter went away and came back telling me (I believe) they did not have any. I was going to leave in frustration when I saw some drill bit samples in a case and using the non-traditional point and grunt system we managed to get me three of each of two sizes that would work. Then I asked if they had any screening. Blank faces. The young man disappears and returns with a father and son who had been somewhere on the streets. The father is blind but speaks perfect English. Through his translation services, I get my screen. After much thanks, the blind guy leaves and then I remember I still need K.D.’s bulbs. Now there are two more problems: I never asked K.D. what kind of bulbs she wants and—I don’t know how to say light bulb in Spanish. Pointing at a light bulb in a the ceiling got me lots of fluorescent light bulbs of a standard size but I was pretty sure that was not what K.D. wanted. I left and K.D. did not get her bulbs.
I then spent an hour wandering around trying to find my shopping buddies and then just walked back to the studio.
I worked a little in the studio before heading up to my room to clean up for supper.
We all gathered in the lobby of the hotel at 7:00 p.m. to walk to the restaurant Origins for our welcome dinner. Colleen really out did herself this year as the restaurant was a 5 star place which served one the greatest meals I have ever eaten. Seriously.
Local green salad
Sousvide pork tenderloin, green pipian mole, quinoa, grilled baby squash, pumpkin seeds
Chocolate and pasilla chill fondant truffles, lemon verbena ice cream
Crispy kataifi, local ricotta, wild peaches, cherries, sage
So full of good food and great spirit, we headed home.
When we got back to the hotel I worked on my project with Sue Urquhart until 1:00 a.m. when the security guard made us go to our rooms.
Friday, October 27th
Today we gather in the lobby at 9:00 a.m. in order to board two vans for our excursion guided by Pablo.
This means it is time for more Out the Window shots.
Have to ask Colleen why our workshop is not held here.
The museum houses many of Rodolfo Morales works and has been changed since the last time I was there. There is less art and it takes fewer minutes to get through.
Next up is the Ocotlan market.
We are closing in on Dia de los Muertos and that means flowers, flowers, flowers
To make up for the lessening of Rodolfo Morales art at the church museum, we headed over to his house, now know as the Fundacion Cultural Rodolfo Morales.
Bea politely watched me take a zillion selfies in this big mirror but evidently had enough at this point.
Mexico has spiders
The next stop is the home of the ceramic makers, the Aguilar family. The two studios sit side by side and we head to Concepción's studio first.
Above is how pieces look before heading to the kiln and below is the paints that make the magic.
I bought three masks made by Demetrio Aguilar, one of Josefina's sons. Michael bought a piece by a grandson named Jose. In some ways, visiting these galleries (and visiting the cemeteries during Dia de los Muertos) reinforces the strength of families in this country.
Now we are off to San Martin Tilcajete, Ocotlan, which is home ground for Jacobo and Maria Angeles--the leader in the field of alebrijes. Lunch today was in the countryside at Jacobo’s restaurant where I ate the first of many soups I will consume on this trip.
Jacobo and Maria Angeles' home has gone through a remodel since I was here last. The economic boom due to the sale of the iconic alebrijes art is obvious and a great thing for this town. The two images below are art on the walls of the complex.
Alebrijes are carved from copal wood found in the area. Because of the success of the art form, copal is in short supply and is a grown plant now.
We are given a demo on the alebrijes process including how the colors are made. What we learned is that the young apprentices paint with acrylic on lesser pieces. The real pricey stuff is made with the homemade colors created by color craftspeople using locally sources raw materials.
The sorcerer's apprentices at work
Upstairs in the big boy gallery the master and an apprentice are working on this huge canvas
Above, an apprentice paints one of the big pieces; below, on the big ones in the shop
The altar in the studio
Did I mention Mexico has spiders?
On the ride home I took more Out the Window photos.
When we got back to town some of us went to the mescal place now identified as The Clubhouse. Not being a drinker the mescal does not appeal so I just ate tacos. Food tonight was found on the zocalo (the main town square), a short walk down the alcala (a very convenient and comfortable pedestrian walkway from our hotel to the zocalo). Because of the perennial teacher's strike in Oaxaca the zocalo is full of their tents, so many of the Dia activities have moved onto the alcala including the artisan market pictured below.
Halloween stuff is starting to appear
Dance lessons in front of one of the churches
We have a certain restaurant we try to use so that anyone who is doing a walkabout can find us which is called Del Jardin Cafeteria. Tonight the wandering musicians were particularly good with the award going to these three musicians who entertained us. After a song people at the table tried to tip them and the boys accepted the first two 50 peso bills and then told us that was enough. For us experienced travelers, this was a first.