Art in the City

©Alberta Bañuelos

Art and culture are what bring cities and communities to life, and in 2017, Merida shone under her crown of ‘Cultural Capital of the Americas’. Thousands of international and national artists brought experiences to Merida never seen before, and although the pace of events may have slowed in 2018, the collective passion of curators, gallerists and artists here in Merida has not.”

The Yucatan Peninsula’s only museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, the Fernando García Ponce-Macay, is under partial renovation to eventually bring more exhibition space to the city. Throughout the summer, visitors can see new work by 80-years-young Gabriel Ramirez, in Ramirez HOY!, encounter the stones by Spanish sculptor Alberto Bañuelos, and contemplate paintings by Michoacan artist Francisco Barajas. Across the square at Casa de Montejo, an oft-overlooked exhibition space is beautifully curated by Citybanamex.

©Flor Garduño

Photographer Flor Garduño’s “La construcción del instante” will be up until August 20, with an exhibition by Mexican painter Ricardo Martínez scheduled to open on August 28.

Merida’s museums, cultural centres and galleries have matured, with quality exhibition design becoming a top priority. Through August, the historic Palacio Canton will feature the exhibition “Ko’olel, transforming the way”, a journey through the history of women in Yucatan, while the highly anticipated Palacio de Musica is scheduled to open in July. In addition to the intimate concert hall, an interactive exhibition space will take up the entire lower level, enticing visitors with the story of music in Yucatan.

And that’s just the half of it.

Merida is so much more than cultural icons like Museo de la Ciudad and Gran Museo de Mundo Maya. Small commercial galleries, artist-run spaces, site-specific installations, cultural exchanges in restored haciendas, artist studio tours—these are the experiences that help to create a true cultural scene in any city and Merida is well on her way.”

©Andrea Pasos

Galería La Eskalera opened in Colonia Santiago in 2011, with a focus on local emerging artists. On July 20th, Andrea Pasos will showcase new work entitled “Transfiguraciones: a través del inconsciente”. Around the corner at El Zapote, artist Renato Chacon will open a small retrospective on July 6th of his grandfathers work, called “Apuntes de Viaje” by Manuel Chacon.

©Josegarcia.mx

Slightly farther afield in San Sebastián stands a small contemporary space that is entirely outdoors—a place of reflection rather than a respite from the heat. Josegarcia.mx is an experiential space featuring a contemplative exhibit by Pablo Dávila called ‘Sin Necesidad de Titúlo’ that is open through August.

The always surprising Centro Cultural la Cúpula will mount it’s 3rd summer exhibition on June 29th called “Peninsula 3”, featuring 18 artists working and living in the Yucatan Peninsula, who explore the theme of creating new memory.

Lux Perpetua in Itzimná, one of Merida’s newer galleries, has become known for their impressive roster of international artists. Lux will launch its summer season on June 21st with the work of Guillermo Olguín’s “Nuit Fauve II” followed by Carles “Bodas Místicas con la naturaleza domeñada”.

Another hidden gem, Noox Azcorra, features temporary and permanent exhibitions in a renovated 19th century hacienda, right in the heart of Merida. On July 14th, Noox will inaugurate the “Festival de Calor”, a celebration of film and live theatre, and on July 27th, sculptures by Alejandro Farías will occupy the spaces.

The expression of art has always been a way for people of all ages and demographics to meet, connect, and share a universal language, and this summer in Merida is no exception.

As published in Mid-Point Magazine Edition 11, July 2018

2018 Merida Artist Studio Tour

There are two different ways of looking at the world—you can walk on the path or you can walk through the hedge and I think that’s the beauty of art—that it just makes you step aside from the normal way of walking or looking.” – Andy Goldsworthy

Artists do have a unique way of viewing the world, and for one day every year, the Merida English Library (MEL) invites us to do just that—step off the path and into the studios of Merida’s artists.

On February 17th, over 450 art lovers, students, visitors and local Meridanos did just that—walked, cycled, and carpooled to studios as diverse as the art itself. With 35 painters, sculptors, photographers, glass, ceramic and wood artists to choose from, the hardest decision to make was whom to visit, what to buy and where to stop for that cerveza.

MEL has a long history of interacting with the burgeoning creative community here in Merida. More than 30 years ago, a printmaker, a painter and a photographer opened their own studios in what was to become the home of the Merida English Library. Since then, MEL had grown from being a lender of books to a community outreach of culture, exchange and learning. The Artist Studio Tour is one of the most successful fundraisers for MEL, generating much needed funds for ongoing and new programming, children’s books, computers and administrative expenses.

In a true symbiotic relationship of mutualism, both MEL and the artists benefit from combining their talents, their energy and their resources to create one of the best experiences you’ll find in Merida. A great big thanks to the tireless organizers, volunteers, artist helpers and especially, the artists—you just keep getting better!

 

 

 

 

Meet the Artist: Emilio Suárez Trejo

“Art is reality reshuffled.” Robert Rauschenberg

©Emilio Suárez Trejo

When you move around a canvas of Emilio Suárez Trejo, you can see how he’s re-imagining the world. In unskilled hands, an accumulation of text, photographs and found objects would simply be just that. In the hands of this young artist, the collection becomes an intersection of art and everyday life.

I met with Emilio at his new studio space just east of Centro Historico in Mérida. It’s here we looked at his work, discussed his influences and talked about his life as an artist.

How long have you been working as an artist?

From a young age I have always been drawing, and I knew that someday I wanted to have a career that involved drawing. I graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Mérida in 2010 with a degree in Visual Arts and have been working to find my own voice as an artist ever since.

©Emilio Suárez Trejo

A ‘career as an artist’ is often an oxymoron to many parents. How did your parents respond to your decision to follow this path?

Well, my father is a lawyer and so of course he wanted me to be a lawyer as well. Both he and my mother were skeptical of my choice, not understanding what ‘being an artist’ means. I believe that it’s important to do what you love, and I think they’ve come to see that doing what I love means a lot of hard work (smiles).

So at 28, are you able to support yourself as an artist?

For the first few years it was a bit of a struggle. After I graduated, I did residencies in Veracruz and Cuba that helped me develop, but more importantly, showed me that I could actually have a life as an artist. When I returned to Mérida I began teaching privately, and I now teach oil painting at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán. I feel I’m a very lucky man in that I have the freedom to work on my own pieces and the opportunity to teach others.

©Emilio Suárez Trejo

What do you love most about teaching?

When I teach, I’m as much a student as my students are, in that I’m always learning something… I find that very gratifying. For that reason, I ask them to call me ‘Emilio’ instead of ‘maestro’. Rather than teaching how to paint, I teach them how to feel, and give them the tools they need to express themselves.

How do you find time to work?

I’m always working. If I’m not working on a piece I’m thinking about a piece. Teaching is simply a complement to that. I paint everyday and my students know this. I try to teach the importance of establishing a painting practice because that is the only way you will find your true voice as an artist.

Who has influenced you as a painter?

Before I went to University, I hadn’t studied much art history. As a student, I learned to appreciate historical artists from my own culture but I became fascinated by contemporary artists like Marcel Duchamp, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the New York artists from the 50s, 60s and 70s like Robert Rauschenberg.

Have you ever been to New York?

No, but if I could travel anywhere right now, it would be to New York—to see the work of the artists I most admire. I saw Rauschenberg once in France and I realized then how important it is to see the art itself—not just in photographs—to see the paint on the canvas, the emotion in the work.

This is your first year on the Artist Studio Tour. What are you most looking forward to?

I’m a little nervous but also excited. This is the first time I’ve had a studio of my own and I think it’s a great opportunity to meet people who haven’t seen my work, and to hear their opinions. I am most interested in building relationships and hope that one day, this studio can become an ‘art lab’ of sorts—a place of learning, experimentation and inspiration for others, and of course, for myself.

Emilio is one of 36 artists in 29 studios participating in the Merida English Library annual Artist Studio Tour February 17th from 10 am to 5 pm. Information on the tour, the artists and where to buy tickets is available at meridaenglishlibrary.com

 

 

 

A Too Short Story

When we are young, friendships come easily. We collect them like seashells or fallen flowers—precious in the moment yet when the moment is gone, another comes to take it’s place. To love unconditionally and forgive quickly is something we often lose with our childhood; life makes us less trusting and more careful about who we let in. But life can surprise us.

When we moved to another country, another city, another culture, I became like a child again, surrounded by strangers who each carried the possibility of the gift of friendship. Friendships that hung in the balance of both wanting to give, and wanting to receive.

One night I met a woman at a party and we got to talking – about life, love, art. She gave me a seashell and I accepted it like the treasure it was.

She is a ceramicist and invited me to come visit her studio. The air inside was close with dust from the clay and heat from the kiln. She introduced me to all her children—some lay naked and waiting for her painters brush while others stood like soldiers in all their finery.

Her life partner was also an artist so she took me across the road to his workshop. The massive doors opened gently and easily despite their imposing facade, and inside lay a fantasy world. Surrounded by the smell of wood and steel, I made my way gingerly through the found objects that would one day become his works of art. The raw beauty of the space was like nothing I had ever seen, and even though I had yet to meet this man, his energy emanated from every nail, every stone, every tree.

In infinite jest
the sun rose again today
the wind stirred
the water rippled
the shadows danced.

In infinite jest
each breath came
in and out
in and out
as if it were just another day.

In infinite jest
the clouds moved across the sky
a living canvas
its semiotic indicator
a waning moon.

The sky
becomes the sea
the sea becomes
the sky
death becomes life

In infinite jest.

Thank you for your fallen flower George Samuelson.

2017 Merida Artist Studio Tour

Over 30 years ago, the Merida English Library (MEL) was an artist studio. Painter and printmaker Mark Callaghan, painter Alonso Gutierrez, and photographer Victor Rendon (deceased) established a beautiful synchronisity between each other and the community that lives on through the vision of the Merida English Library.

Perfect day for an artist studio tour

Originally created as a lending library (12,961 books to date), MEL has grown to become a centre for community. Through ongoing programs geared to connecting English and non-English speaking visitors and members, students and intellectuals, art aficionados and artists, the Library is a story of generosity and dedication, sharing and partnership.

One of the Library’s most popular fundraising events is the Artist Studio Tour. For a single day each February, talented artists in Merida open up their studios, and ergo themselves, to curiosity, admiration and reflection. “The Artist Studio Tour is our flagship fundraiser, but it’s also an important way for us to give back to the community”, Board Vice-president Andrea Slusser told me. “The event shines a light on artists living and creating in Merida, and gives us all an opportunity to connect with people from around the world.”

Even Fitz needed a sit down after 17 studios!

This year we managed (Leanna, Fitz and I) to visit 23 of the 29 artists, a herculean feat given the depth and breadth of the work in each studio. Over 350 enthusiastic people joined us on what was a beautiful day in Merida, and judging from the smiles of artists and participants alike, I’d say it was an unforgettable experience.

“We leave that studio/gallery, inspired, and walk to several more. The sun is searing now and Larry and I enjoy a quick refreshing break in the upstairs lounge outside Cy Bor’s tiny studio while Pauline and Joanne discuss Cy’s work in progress–a blue patterned plate stacked with lemons, glistening with flavour. Cy’s pastels are displayed throughout the house, bringing with them a freshness you can taste. I am in awe of her ability.”
– excerpt from Diana Barton footlooseboomer.com

Big shout out to El Cardenal Cantina, who handed out mojitos at the end of the tour! To all our fantastic volunteers— committee members, ticket sellers, media coordinators, poster distributors, studio sitters, promoters, project managers and the artists who took part this year…you are amazing! I have had the great pleasure of interviewing many of the artists over the past few years, so if you missed the tour, you can ‘meet’ Emilio Said & Samia Farah, Joseph Kurhajec, Rodolfo Baeza, Renato Chacón and many others right here on my blog. Hope to see you next year!

Conoce al artista: Renato Chacón

Algunas veces lo que pareciera ser un muro es en realidad una entrada. Cuando las dificultades de la edad y la enfermedad dejaron a Matisse imposibilitado para trabajar con pintura y lienzos, él cambió a las tijeras y al papel, creando algunos de sus trabajos más reconocidos, en la última década de su vida. Cuando Frida Kahlo quedó confinada a estar en su cama por meses en adelante, ella pidió a sus padres que montaran un espejo en el dosel arriba de ella, así pintó una serie de auto-retratos que la definirían como artista. Y cuando Renato Chacón perdió temporalmente el uso de su mano útil, el descubrió que su voluntad para pintar trascendía el dolor, y de igual manera encontró una entrada.”

Flamboyan ©Renato Chacón

Flamboyan ©Renato Chacón

Renato Chacón se muestra como alguien que ha estado en la montaña, y a diferencia de la canción de U2, encontró lo que había estado buscando. Alto y delgado, aparentando menor edad que sus 51 años, su auto-profesada búsqueda de una vida en paz, parece haber rendido frutos. Su taller y su casa son un estudio en serenidad, fluyendo juntos como su pasión por la arquitectura y la pintura. Renato ha dibujado y pintado desde que era un niño e incluso aunque trabaja como arquitecto, la pintura se ha convertido en su vida. Al tiempo que él me lleva por su casa y jardín en el Centro Histórico de Mérida, me platica acerca de su vida, y su volver a dedicarse a la pintura.

¿De dónde eres y cómo fue que decidiste venir a Mérida?

Yo vengo de la Ciudad de México, viví ahí la mayor parte de mi vida. Fue donde estudié Arquitectura, me enamoré, me casé, y construí mi carrera como arquitecto. Cuando mi matrimonió terminó, pasé mucho tiempo reflexionando sobre qué era lo próximo que haría y comencé a recordar lo sueños que tenía cuando era joven. Vivir en Mérida era uno de esos sueños- vine aquí de paseo justo después de que me gradué como arquitecto y me gustó mucho la ciudad. El cambio es siempre un catalizador para más cambios, así que me mudé a Mérida, compré esta casa y comencé a hacerla un refugio propio. Fue aquí donde comencé a pintar seriamente de nuevo. Me enamoré una vez más, pero esta vez de la pintura, del color, con cómo el color me hace sentir.

“El color no nos fue dado para que imitáramos a la naturaleza. Se nos dio para que podamos expresar nuestras emociones”- Henri Matisse

¿Entonces dejaste de pintar por un tiempo?

Danza ©Renato Chacón

Danza ©Renato Chacón

Antes de que me volviera arquitecto viví durante un tiempo en Nueva York y en una galería de Washington vendieron todas mis pinturas. Desafortunadamente, olvidaron pagarme por ellas así que me desilusioné un poco con la idea de ser un artista. Regresé a la Ciudad de México y dejé de pintar durante 15 años casi por completo… estuve enfocado en otras cosas. Mudarme a Mérida me permitió simplificar mi vida y encontrar mi voz de nuevo como un pintor.

¿Crees que muchos arquitectos se vuelven artistas?

Playa ©Renato Chacón

Playa ©Renato Chacón

No estoy seguro, pero eso parece suceder en nuestra familia. Mi abuelo fue ambos, arquitecto y pintor; él amaba las acuarelas y se lo tomó muy en serio que incluso descuidó a su familia. Mi padre también es arquitecto y pintor pero quizá debido a su educación él decidió centrarse en lo primero. Yo estoy tratando de vivir una vida más balanceada- a pesar de que amo la disciplina de la Arquitectura, necesito la libertad que la pintura me da. La Arquitectura es una forma muy rígida de ver el mundo, con muchos parámetros, y mi pintura es la antítesis de eso.

“No estoy enferma. Estoy rota. Pero estoy feliz de estar viva mientras pueda pintar.” – Frida Kahlo

Y entonces… nosotros llegamos a la montaña. Tú tuviste un accidente que te dejó imposibilitado para pintar durante un tiempo ¿cómo has encontrado tu manera de recuperarte?

Por supuesto que me sentí mal al inicio, pero luego me sentí agradecido de haber tenido otra oportunidad en esto que llamamos vida. Pintar viene tanto del corazón como de la mano, y mi corazón es fuerte. Yo creo que de alguna manera es como un nuevo comienzo pero pienso que me estoy volviendo bueno en eso.

Una vez más, la Merida English Library será anfitriona de un tour por alrededor de 25 estudios de artistas nacionales e internacionales en Mérida. Este tour en el que tú eres tu propio guía, el Tour de Estudios de Arte, es una oportunidad única para conocer y platicar con artistas como Renato. Este evento se llevará a cabo el sábado 18 de febrero del 2017. Visita la Merida English Library  para más información sobre los artistas y detalles del tour.

Meet the Artist: Renato Chacón

Sometimes what appears to be a wall is actually a way in. When difficulties with aging and illness left Matisse unable to work with paint and canvass, he turned to scissors and paper, creating in the last decade of his life some of his best known works. When Frida Kahlo was confined to her bed for months on end, she asked her parents to mount a mirror to the canopy above her, painting a series of self-portraits that would come to define her as an artist. And when Renato Chacón temporarily lost the use of his painting hand, he discovered his will to paint transcended the pain, and he too found a way in.

Flamboyan ©Renato Chacón

Flamboyan ©Renato Chacón

Renato Chacón carries himself like one who’s been to the mountain and, unlike that U2 song, found what he’s looking for. Tall and lean and seeming younger than his 51 years, his self-professed search for a peaceful life seems to have been fruitful. His studio and home are a study in serenity, flowing together like his passions for architecture and painting. Renato has been drawing and painting since he was a child and even though he works as an architect, painting has become his life. As he tours me through his house and garden in Merida’s Centro Historico, we talk about this life, and his re-dedication to painting.

Where are you from and how did you find yourself in Merida?

I come from Mexico City, having lived there most of my life. It’s where I studied architecture, fell in love, got married, and built my career as an architect. When my marriage ended, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what to do next and began remembering the dreams I had when I was younger. Living in Merida was one of those dreams—I came here for a visit right after I graduated as an architect and liked the city very much. Change is often a catalyst for more change, so I moved to Merida, bought this house and started making it my own refugio, my refuge. It was here I began to paint seriously again. I fell in love, but this time with painting, with colour, with how colour makes me feel.

Color was not given to us in order that we should imitate Nature. It was given to us so that we can express our emotions.” HENRI MATISSE

So you stopped painting for a time?

Danza ©Renato Chacón

Danza ©Renato Chacón

Before I became an architect I lived for a while in New York City and had a gallery in Washington that sold all of my paintings. Unfortunately, they forgot to pay me for those paintings so I became a bit disillusioned about being an artist. I moved back to Mexico City and for the most part, stopped painting for 15 years…my focus was on other things. Moving to Merida allowed me to simplify my life and to find my voice again as a painter.

Do you think many architects become artists?

Playa ©Renato Chacón

Playa ©Renato Chacón

I’m not sure, but it seems to run in our family. My grandfather was both an architect and a painter; he loved watercolour and took it so seriously that he neglected his family. My father was also an architect and a painter but perhaps because of his upbringing, he chose to focus on the former. I’m trying to live a more balanced life—although I love the discipline of architecture, I need the freedom that painting gives me. Architecture has a very strict way of looking at the world, with many parameters, and my painting is the antithesis of that.

I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.” FRIDA KAHLO

And so…we come to the mountain. You had an accident that left you unable to paint for a time. How have you found your way back from that?

Of course I felt badly in the beginning, but then I was grateful I’d been given another chance at this thing called life. Painting comes as much from the heart as it does from the hand, and my heart is strong. I guess in some ways it’s like a new beginning but I think I’m getting good at that.

Once again, the Merida English Library will host a one day open studio tour of over 25 national and international artists with studios in Merida. This self-guided Artist Studio Tour takes place on Saturday, February 18th, 2017 and is a unique opportunity to meet and talk to artists like Renato. Visit the Merida English Library  for more information on the artists and details on the tour.