In July of this year, Denice and I went to Oaxaca, Mexico, because Michael deMeng and his wife Andrea Matus deMeng were going to team teach a workshop in July of 2023. If you missed the blogs about the entire trip including the dances and the parades, here is a link to the first post.
Here is the course description: “This workshop takes place during the festival of Guelaguetza, an annual festival honoring traditional dances and one of the most beautiful celebrations in all of Mexico. The word Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec language and means a reciprocal exchange of gifts or offerings. The customs of the local people incorporate this act of giving and sharing in their cultural celebrations. The festival features cultural dances and traditional dress from the eight regions of Oaxaca (Valle, Sierra Juárez, Ejutla, Istmo de Tehuantepec, Huautla de Jiménez, Pinotepa Nacional, Huajuapan de León, and Tuxtepec). In this retreat we will be celebrating the longstanding tradition of storytelling through the creation of a wall-hanging based on the traditional Mexican (pre-Columbian) garment called the huipil (pronounced we-peel). The huipil is a traditionally indigenous garment made by women and for women. The tunic style clothing is often made up of three heavily decorated sections and includes a wealth of personal symbolism depicting the stories and the lives of the women in each region they represent. This concept will be the starting point for our journey.
In Andrea’s portion of the workshop you will create a collection of mixed media scrolls. This all starts off with a canvas (rolled canvas for easy travel) that we will divide into three sections for our tapestries and then with a variety of techniques create our unique stories incorporating many elements from the region as well as the personal symbols you bring along. We’ll “weave” our tapestries, not from thread, but rather through the use of paint, pastels, collage, stencils, and textiles.
As for Michael’s portion, you of course will need something to display this wondrous and story laden garment. So, using the techniques of assemblage and sculpture you will incorporate various found objects to create a decorative hanging device to exhibit your scrolls. The objects used may be items you bring or you can add a bit of local flair by including bits found in the markets or shops of Oaxaca.
By the end of the week, using a combination of two dimensional and three dimensional art techniques you will have created a visual narrative; your very own story as factual or fantastical as you wish…and along the way, you will get to experience the amazing traditions of one of the most magical cities in the world.”
Here are some sample huipils from the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.
Recently I completed the first self-portrait I ever tried.
Since the idea behind the community of the huipil is "a wealth of personal symbolism depicting the stories and the lives of the women in each region they represent" I thought a lot about appropriation. So instead of doing someone else's story, I decided once again to do mine.
Denice and I both brought things from home that were light and easy to carry. Here is a series of photos to show how the work on my piece progressed over the week we were in Oaxaca.
The highlight of any de Meng workshop is to have Andrea and Michael critique all the work done in the workshop as a culminating event. For the critique, I did paint the topper but it was not attached to the art work in order to make it easier to bundle and carry home from Oaxaca in my suitcase.
Once home, I got to work finishing the piece. Here is the result.