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

2016 Merida Artist Studio Tour

Over 250 art lovers walked, biked, car pooled and taxied their way around Merida on the 4th annual Merida English Library (MEL) Artist Studio Tour. Originally conceptualized as a fundraiser for MEL, the Studio Tour has grown to become a cultural experience like none other in Merida. For one day in February, well-known and yet-to-be-discovered artists welcome crowds of locals and tourists into their studios for an intimate view on what it takes to be an artist. From mask-makers to painters, sculptors to printmakers, 26 artists in 21 studios worked tirelessly for months to bring their work to life. On street corners throughout Centro, map holders could be seen pondering which studio to visit next, because it truly is impossible to see them all. The quality of the work was exceptional, with many ticket holders becoming art owners in the process.

Our army of volunteers appeared to have as much fun as the artists, and although I didn’t get to all the studios myself, I’ve captured some highlights of the day here. Enjoy your virtual tour!

 

Meet the Artist: Jason Kriegler

Artist Jason Kriegler

Artist Jason Kriegler

When does art beget design and design beget art? When you place both in the hands of Jason Kriegler. An award-winning visual artist who hails from Chicago via Miami, Jason moved to Merida in 2014 to, as he puts it, “…shift the status quo”. If his work is any indication, the status quo has been left behind in the Windy City.

IMG_6587

©Jason Kriegler

You’ve worked successfully in design and advertising for many years. How long have you been making fine art?

Practically my whole adult life. I was born and raised in Miami and went to college in Fort Lauderdale where I graduated with a Major in Fine Art and a Minor in Visual Communications. I started painting and drawing all through college and after graduating, had shows in small galleries in both Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

How has your work as an artist impacted your work as a designer, and vice versa?

For me, the influences for both are the same—the Bauhaus movement, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, Luis Baragan and later, Stefan Sagmeister. Their collective ideas of shape and line, form and function, abstraction and minimalism, informed my work as both designer and artist, and still do.

Did you grow up in a minimalist, design-oriented environment?

My mom is a painter now but was an interior designer who loved mid-century modern. My home in Chicago is entirely mid century modern. That said, I’m also a collector of textiles and have travelled all over the world accompanied by my fascination for colour and texture and pattern.

Las Arboledas, Mexico City, Mexico, 1962 Photo © Barragan Foundation, Birsfelden, Switzerland/ProLitteris, Zurich, Switzerland

Las Arboledas, Mexico City, Mexico, 1962
Photo © Barragan Foundation, Birsfelden, Switzerland/ProLitteris, Zurich, Switzerland

Mexico is a very vibrant culture yet your work is noticeably void of colour…

What I love about colour is in the singular moment I engage with it, like experiencing a blue Barragan wall in an atmosphere of perfect serenity. Although I appreciate colour, I personally like to create dimension without colour—at least the traditional interpretation of colour. I’m using henequen and thread in shades of blacks and grey, as well as Sumi inks from China, which are some of the richest inks ever made. So although the work may be subtle, there is a lot of depth to the pieces.

As an abstract artist, do you plan out what you’re doing or just wing it?

I work intuitively and often throw away what I’m working on. I did that the other day, throwing a piece on the floor after hours of work. As I stepped over it the next morning I thought, “Wow, this is starting to look like something interesting”. I cut it up and began collaging it with other pieces, and now I love it!

©Jason Kriegler

©Jason Kriegler

How do you hope people will respond to your work?

Art is very subjective and my work is abstract and non-traditional. Some will love what I do and some just won’t get it, and that’s fine with me. I’m essentially embroidering on paper, creating shape with thread which isn’t easy because of the fragility of the paper. I think there’s an element of the ‘reveal’ in my work, in that you have to get up close and personal to see how the pieces are created. I’m working with materials I’ve never used before, and that’s what excites me. In surprising myself, I hope that others will be surprised as well.

Jason is one of 26 artists featured on the 2016 Merida Artist Studio Tour on Saturday, February 20th. Tickets are available at the Merida English Library.

Meet the Artist: Benne’ Rocket

DSC_0342Benne’ Rocket likes to dig deep. Whether as an art therapist or as an artist, uncovering the truth has been her raison d’être for many years. But it is her passion for encaustic painting that has her wielding her tools and torches towards sculpting a new discovery – herself.

You worked for many years as an art therapist. How did this come about?

When I went to Graduate school in Berkeley California, it was there I discovered art therapy and decided I could be both—an artist AND an art therapist. I did a dual Masters in Fine Arts and Art Therapy.

And were you able to pull that off—the dual career I mean?

Post grad school I was recruited to work at a hospital in Austin with traumatic brain injured patients, and at the same time I began exhibiting my work in a gallery there so yes, I embraced both with a passion for over 25 years.

DSC_0092_LRWhen did you start working in encaustic?

I first worked with encaustic in Mexico in the late 90s, and one of the reasons I moved here is because I’m interested in the Melipona (stingless honeybees) that are native to the Yucatan. Not only is the honey unique, so is the wax. It’s a very challenging medium that I’m still trying to master, but I love it—it spreads like butter so I use it with all my pigments.

Your pieces truly are indigenous to the Yucatan!

All of the pigmented colors are made using the local beeswax. Here I’ve found a nice range of mineral pigments, and the Copal resin I buy in the local market gives the darker colors a nice depth. Honestly, it took me almost a year to figure out the formula for these pigments.

DSC_0351When I think of wax and heat, I think of it melting off the surface. How stable is the technique?

Encaustic is one of the oldest painting techniques in the world, practiced by Greek artists as far back as the 5th century B.C. The combination of beeswax tempered with resin is applied to a rigid surface and is very stable, becoming more resistant to damage over time. The word ‘encaustic’ literally means ‘to burn in’. Each layer of the painting must be fused at high heat to form a solid surface, and this fusing also continues the process of hardening the resin.

This is your first time on the Merida Artist Studio Tour. What do you want to share with people about the work they’ll see?

This work is my visual experience of being immersed in the rich and vibrant story that is the Yucatan, and I hope visitors on the Artist Studio Tour in February will see the joy and love I have for my new home.

Visit over 25 new and returning artists at the Merida English Library Artist Studio Tour held Saturday, February 20th, 2016. Tickets go on sale mid January 2016. For more information and the list of artists, visit meridaenglishlibrary.com.

Big thanks to David Hubbard for the great photos!

Experience Art with Leïla Voight

Leïla Voight is an enigma. She’s a very private person with a very public persona. Her latest project, the multidisciplinary Centro Cultural la Cúpula, is about to open its doors to Meridanos, showcasing international artists Kimiko Yoshida and Tomoko Mukaiyama, and Mexican artist Ernesto Velázquez. Most people would shrink at the thought of a project of this scope, but Ms. Voight knows how to surround herself with the best, and on Thursday December 17th, the cultural landscape in Merida will have a new landmark.

Leila Voight

Leïla Voight ©Alison Wattie

Centro Cultural la Cúpula is an incredibly ambitious project you are embarking on…what made you decide to create this here in Merida?

LV: For many years we lived in Tulum. When we decided to make a change, we were invited to visit Merida by a dear friend who had just moved here from Playa del Carmen. We’d been here over 10 years ago and suffice to say, Merida looked radically different back then. So we took another look and kind of fell in love with the city. Even before we found this historic property that was las Caballerizas del Palacio Canton, I knew I would build a cultural center here one day. It’s an idea that has been fully formed in my head for many years—I only needed the time, space and place to make it happen.

Why do you think Merida is ready for this?

LV: From the beginning, I had a vision of Merida becoming again the international ‘living’ city that it once was; of people coming from all over the world to make their home here, which they’re now doing. And I know that the appreciation, enjoyment and collection of contemporary art, in all its forms, is an important part of connecting with a city and building a life in that city. I want Centro Cultural la Cúpula to provide that experience to both visitors and residents alike.

Have you had many naysayers during this process?

LV: My husband? (laughs) Actually he was very supportive of my vision, once I assured him we’d be able to maintain our own privacy. That said, I do have a good friend, the widow of Yves Klein, with art Foundations in both France and the US, who asked me if I was ‘wacko’—if I was prepared to give up two or more years of my life. Of course I said ‘Yes’!

As a private person embarking on a very public project, how do you align those two things?

LV: Well I am a Gemini… but I’m also a builder. And when you’re confident in a vision, whether you’re an artist, writer or entrepreneur, it has to come out. It has to find expression. And that’s what I’m doing with La Cúpula. I love to work with artists because I can make them the focus, put them at the forefront. Most artists don’t get the opportunities they need to thrive, either creatively or financially, and I believe as a society we have a duty to ensure that happens.

©KimikoYoshida_Lamarieejaponaise2003

©KimikoYoshida_Lamarieejaponaise2003

Coming back to the show…you know the artist Kimiko Yoshida personally. What can you tell me about her?

LV: She’s an amazing artist and a wonderful cook! She knows wine better than most French people. She’s a 200% Japanese foreigner, which means she’s fully Japanese but she can enter societies easily—something that can be difficult for Japanese people. In her first visit to Merida, we were still renovating our home. Kimiko and her husband melted into the culture immediately, with no help from me! She became almost Mayan…with her looks, her skills of observation, and her ability to understand and be understood. This metamorphosis shows in her self-portraits. Kimiko’s exhibition at La Cúpula is of a new body of art, and it will be up until January 31, 2016.

Tomoko Mukaiyama©Takashi_Kawashima

Tomoko Mukaiyama ©Takashi_Kawashima

And Tomoko Mukaiyama?

LV: Tomoko also visited Merida once before. A friend introduced us but we didn’t have a chance to connect until another friend with the Merida International Brass Festival (MIBF) suggested we collaborate. Tomoko is a contemporary pianist and performing artist, and as La Cúpula is about ‘Experiencing art in all its forms’, I jumped at the chance to integrate Tomoko into the Opening Night as well as for a solo recital on Dec 21st. I know the piece she’ll be playing but that’s it—she will create something unique the night of the recital.

Is she as powerful and sexy as the image on your invitation?

LV: She is! When she plays, it’s almost otherworldy. The minute she touches the piano, she becomes someone else. She’ll also be performing with the Merida International Brass Festival so if you miss her at La Cúpula, you may still get a chance to see her.

Your third artist is a furniture designer who works in the ancient art of parchment, which is actually goatskin. Tell me about Ernesto Velázquez.

LV: The word parchment refers to animal skin and Ernesto is a true ‘parchmenter’. His workshop is like an artist studio, with paints, canvasses, skins, frames—it’s amazing. Ernesto has taken furniture design, in terms of his approach and sensibility, to a new form. The pieces are like paintings, with layers and layers of color and texture. Ernesto is from Mexico City but lives in Merida, and we’re very excited to show his work.

What can people expect at the opening on December 17th?

LV: To be surprised, amazed, inspired, delighted…the opening will be like a grand meal with the furniture design as the appetizer, the visual art as the entrée and the music as the dessert.

What are you excited about for the future of Centro Cultural la Cúpula?

LV: Number one: to be self-sustaining through sales of art, performances, workshops, and yoga intensives. Number two: to use the charitable component of the foundation to provide workshops in art for children, the infirm and disabled, and those without access to this kind of opportunity. Number three: to open minds to the world of contemporary art. And lastly, to entice, beguile, captivate and enchant our visitors so that time and again, they come back to experience art at La Cúpula.

The Grand opening for Centro Cultural la Cúpula is Thursday, December 17th at 7 pm. For more information and to purchase tickets for Tomoko Mukaiyama’s solo recital December 21st, email lacupulamerida@gmail.com or visit them on Facebook at lacupulamerida.

 

 

Meet the Artist: Rodolfo Baeza

This interview was conducted in January 2015

The narrow staircase leads me up to a cathedral of light that is home to artist Rodolfo Baeza. The smell of oil paint is as rich and dense as the giant canvasses hanging from the walls, and it is here we talk about life.

Rodolfo Baeza

Rodolfo Baeza ©Alison Wattie

What drew you to painting?

Believe it or not I was a very shy insecure kid and painting and drawing was my escape from reality, from society, from talking to people.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an artist but my father is a surgeon so his concept of the world was much different then mine. When I wanted to go to Mexico City to study art he wasn’t really keen so I studied graphic design as a career, and then taught myself to paint.

Rodolfo Baeza

©Rodolfo Baeza

Have you always painted portraits?

I have always painted faces but since I exhibited in the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán MACAY two years ago, portraiture has become a new focus for me. When I paint a portrait I meet with my subject for a few hours, do a photography session and then I take all the images and create my own interpretation based on the conversation and the pictures.

I personally find your portraits to be very sensual. Why is that do you think?

If I could theorize, I suppose it is the way I look at life and in a way my painting is autobiographical. My paintings are an extension of me, my brain, my soul, my emotions. I bring a lot of passion to my work and perhaps that is what you are experiencing as sensual.

Is there anything else you’ve been passionate about?

Painting is an addiction for me but I have had others! When I lived in Mexico City I had a period of depression because the city is very absorbing. I didn’t know how to get out of this state so I turned to a friend who was a professional salsa dancer, and asked if he would teach me to salsa. From Wednesday to Saturday, every week for two years I went to the clubs to salsa dance and it too, became an addiction.

Where did you learn to speak English so well?

When I was 15 my dad sent me to military school in Nova Scotia for 10 months, to straighten me up. I didn’t love the school but I loved Canada! I learned English to survive and since then it has helped me as an artist—to be able to talk about my work with many different people is important to me.

Rodolfo Baeza

©Rodolfo Baeza

Has art brought you and your dad to a common ground?

My dad is very proud of what I have done as an artist and he comes to visit me when he can. We have the same character/personality but our goals and perspective on life are different. As we get older, the important thing is just to share life, to share what is common, to connect.

Is there a painter who has influenced how you paint?

I love the classical painters—Rembrandt, Carravagio, Goya. But as a modern influence, Lucien Freud is one of my favorites and I think you can see that in my work.

How do you refill your own creative well?

I don’t get ‘stuck’ creatively, but sometimes I just don’t want to paint. I come to the studio and I lay down, read, or I go out for coffee with my wife, my friends. We share food, stories, laughter and I always come back refreshed. Life doesn’t happen in the studio, life is outside, and everyday it fills me up.

Meet Rodolfo and over 25 other artists on the Merida Artist Studio Tour February 2o, 2016.

Meet the Artist: Manuel Taure

I don’t call myself an artist. I am simply a filter of my life.”

When artist Manuel Taure shared those words with me, I knew this interview was going to be intruiging, just like the man himself.

Manuel Taure in his studio

Manuel Taure in his studio ©Alison Wattie

Manuel, or Manu as his friends call him, has been making art since he was a child in Barcelona. After graduating from art school, he freelanced for many companies as a graphic designer, always dreaming that one day he would create for himself. At age 31, Manu bought a plane ticket to Brazil where he hoped to discover his own voice as an artist. The rest, as they say, is history.

Why did you decide to go to Brazil and how did you survive once you got there?

©Manuel Taure

©Manuel Taure

Going to Brazil was a life coincidence (laughs). My dad had just returned from there and at the same time, I met somebody who came from this little town in Brazil called ‘Pipa’ which means ‘kite’. In a way, I was putting my life up in the air to see where the winds would take it so I decided to go!

©Manuel Taure

©Manuel Taure

I also had to see if I could survive as an artist, in a completely different context from Barcelona. Once I got to Brazil, I made small watercolour paintings and charcoal drawings. I painted what I saw—people at the markets, on the streets, in the parks, at the beach. It was a way for me to earn a living but more importantly, it helped me to understand the different cultures more deeply.

How did you end up in Merida?

©Manuel Taure

For a while I went back and forth from Brazil to Barcelona until one day, I could not afford a ticket to Brazil. But I could afford a ticket to Mexico and ended up in Puerto Escondido. I made a great friend there and a few years later, he convinced me to come to Merida. I was living in Puebla and needed a change so I came to Merida for a visit and decided to stay because I loved the city. I still do!

What do you love about being an artist?

I don’t call myself an artist, I am simply a filter of my life. I try to be honest with myself and hope the art I make is honest. I feel lucky everyday that this is what I get to do, even though it has been a struggle at times. When I first arrived in Brazil and was painting and trying to sell my work on the street, I would get discouraged. Then I met an artist who said “There is not a canvas for every person but there is a person for every canvas—have faith in that.”

What music do you listen to while you work?

I love all kinds of music because I spend so much time alone and working. But the music that really fills my soul is Tinariwen—Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali.

Do you have a favorite artist?

An important artistic reference for me is the artwork from my father, Tomás Taure. I grew up with the scent of his oil paint permeating my bedroom. I also admire the work of Melva Medina and Abel Vázquez from “Nahualli, Casa de los Artistas” here in Merida. My own studio space was made possible through the support of these two talented and generous artists.

It seems you are constantly experimenting and teaching yourself new things. Do you have a vision for where your work is going, or do you let the experimentation decide that for you?

©Manuel Taure

©Manuel Taure

I have to play play play, always. Since I was a child, I have been drawing and painting and experimenting. I will never stop doing this, until I die. When I came to Merida I taught myself about printmaking and linocut/carving and now I teach this process every afternoon in my studio. This past summer I went back to Barcelona to be part of a printmaking show. I sold 90% of my art and used that to buy specialized carving tools to continue my work here in Merida. I am also working on a book. I would say my curiousity inspires what I do next.

You speak a lot about the importance of curiousity and play in your work. Do you have children?

(a long and thoughtful pause)

I felt I had to make a decision to be an artist, or to raise a family, but that it would be hard to do both. And so I made a decision to be an artist.

The Merida English Library Artist Studio Tour is such a lovely way for people to ‘see’ art. What is your advice to people when they look at art?

©Manuel Taure

©Manuel Taure

Art can be anywhere, not just in galleries and museums. Walk through your life with your eyes wide open. If you see an artist’s work in a gallery or museum, try to be inside the mind of this artist and really feel for yourself what the artist is trying to say. If an artist is being honest with themselves, you will see it in their work—and you will feel it in your own heart.

You were on the tour last year. What do you enjoy about being on the Artist Studio Tour?

People get to come into my world, where I create, and they get to experience the work in that context, which is very personal. Interacting with people and receiving affirmation for my work is what keeps me going.

What is the most important thing for you as an artist?

To learn new things. Learning keeps me fascinated…Fascinado!