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




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.

Conoce a la artista: Lorraine Toohey

Cuando llegué por primera vez a Mérida, en marzo del 2012, fue solamente para ver el lugar. Estaba vendiendo mi negocio y en busca de un nuevo desafío. Diez días después mi esposo y yo compramos una casa colonial de 100 años de antigüedad en el centro histórico de una ciudad que apenas acababa de conocer ¿suena familiar? Así es como a veces funciona aquí – Mérida te hechiza y “ya está”, has dejado tu antigua vida por una nueva y más brillante. Fue en ese viaje donde me encontré por primera vez con el trabajo de Lorraine Toohey, una ex maestra canadiense quien también había sucumbido ante el encanto de Mérida. Lorraine se ha enamorado de muchas maneras de la ciudad, se mudó desde Vancouver para iniciar una nueva vida aquí en México. Descubrí su pequeña casa y galería a tan solo una cuadra de mi nueva casa, y me gustó muchísimo su trabajo, tanto que me llevé dos piezas de arte conmigo a Calgary. Fue hasta cuando llegué a Mérida seis meses después que en serio pude conocer a Lorraine- artista, budista y alma afín.

¿En dónde estudiaste para convertirte en una artista?

Artist Lorraine Toohey

Artista Lorraine Toohey

Recibí mi BFA de parte de la Universidad de Alberta con una especialización en escultura. Era una estupenda escuela y estudié bajo escultores famosos como Anthony Caro, una figura clave en la escultura contemporánea por medio siglo, y Peter Hide, otro escultor abstracto, nacido en Bretaña, conocido por su trabajo con acero soldado.

Edmonton siempre ha tenido una comunidad artística muy brillante, especialmente en escultura con acero soldado y después de que me gradué, tuve un estudio en el centro por un tiempo. Fue durante esa época cuando fui invitada a un taller impartido por Caro en Londres y otro en NYC antes de que la vida me llevara a conseguir un trabajo de verdad. Yo era en ese entonces una madre soltera con un hijo joven así que regresé a la Universidad para obtener mi título en Educación. Cuando me gradué, no había oportunidades de trabajo así que me mudé a Vancouver donde comencé a enseñar. Yo era la jefa del Departamento de Artes Visuales y Escénicas en una preparatoria y en verdad disfrutaba ese trabajo, hasta que de pronto dejé de hacerlo (se ríe).

Como una madre soltera y maestra de tiempo completo ¿cómo lograbas incluir tu práctica artística?

©Lorraine Toohey

©Lorraine Toohey

No podía pagar un estudio donde trabajar con acero así que la mayor parte del tiempo trabajaba en ambiente del aula, en diferentes medios. Mi trabajo tomó un papel secundario en ese entonces debido a mis compromisos pero trataba de ocupar mis manos en algo.

¿Cuándo te mudaste a Mérida?

Como una maestra solía viajar constantemente en mis dos meses de descanso, vine a aquí por primera vez en el 2001. Varios años después decidí tomar una licencia y renté un pequeño departamento en Mérida. Mi hijo ya había crecido y lo único que yo quería era hacer arte, como mucha gente yo también me enamoré del lugar. Compré esta casa al año siguiente y era un total tugurio, así que regresaba en los veranos y supervisaba el trabajo hasta que llegó al punto en el cual ya me podía mudar.

Cuando nos mudamos por primera vez aquí, nos habían comentado que la comunidad yucateca era un poco cerrada- que es difícil ‘integrarse’ ¿cómo fue eso para ti, siendo una madre soltera, artista y extrajera?

Bueno, en realidad yo no conocía a muchos extranjeros pero en ese entonces conocí a Miguel Ángel Reyes quien era un importante grabador. Él se convirtió en uno de mis primero amigos y me presentó a muchas personas. Incluso yo me comprometí a aprender español ya que puede resultar bastante solitario si no hablas español. Viajé por América del Sur por años, lo cual ayudó. Ser parte de una comunidad artística igual resultó de ayuda. Pero definitivamente, Miguel fue quien me ayudó a abrir puertas y fue muy triste para mí cuando falleció hace algunos años.

¿Cómo has visto tu trabajo evolucionar, y eso tendrá que ver más con el lugar en el que estás viviendo o con el momento en el que estás de tu vida?

©Lorraine Toohey

©Lorraine Toohey

Es más debido al momento en el que estoy de mi vida. En Edmonton, la comunidad de escultores era muy machista lo cual no percibí hasta que estuve lejos de ella. Mi trabajo ahora refleja más mi interés en la naturaleza, en las formas naturales orgánicas, los lugares a los que he viajado y mi propio cuerpo físico y espiritual, y como ellos se relacionan con el mundo. Siempre he considerado la contención como buena idea para trabajar en escultura… ¿nosotros mantenemos el interior dentro o el exterior fuera? Para mí hacemos ambos, y estoy continuando mi exploración en este tema.

Tú practicas el Budismo ¿esto cómo ha influenciado tu trabajo?

Creo que influencía más la manera en la que trabajo que las obras que creo. En el budismo se habla sobre suavizar la necesidad de la simulación exterior, así que paso mucho tiempo a solas y estoy muy cómoda con eso.

Cuando fui a Sri Lanka el año pasado tuve un retiro silencioso de cinco días en las montañas sobre Kandy y fue una hermosa experiencia. Todo se hacía en silencio, lo cual al principio resultaba extraño- algunas veces declinaba y le hablaba al gato. Al mismo tiempo eso era liberador porque de hecho soy un poco tímida cuando estoy en grupo y el no tener que hablar era un alivio.

¿Entonces al final de esos cinco días tuviste uno de esos momentos Elizabeth Gilbert ‘Eat Pray Love’?

Me sentí tan calmada que el largo viaje de regreso en “tuk tuk” a la civilización fue una agresión hacia mis sentidos. Pero como el Budismo trata de enseñarnos, vivir en las montañas no es la meta. Es vivir conscientemente en el valle y visitar la montaña de vez en cuando si es necesario. A veces mi práctica artística es un valle, y a veces es una montaña. Acepto el proceso de crear arte, a veces, difícil y frustrante, y otras emocionante y profundamente satisfactorio, pero todo es necesario y estoy contenta con eso.

Una vez más, la Merida English Library será anfitriona de un tour que incluye 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 Lorraine Toohey. 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: Lorraine Toohey

When I first came to Mérida in March 2012, it was simply to check out the place. I was selling my business and looking for a new challenge. Ten days later my husband and I bought a 100-year old colonial in the Centro Historical district of a city I’d only just met. Sound familiar? That’s how it works here sometimes—Mérida casts her spell and ‘ya está’! You’ve given up your old life for a shiny new one. It was on that trip that I first encountered the work of Lorraine Toohey, a fellow Canadian and former teacher who had also succumbed to Mérida’s charms. Lorraine had fallen in love in more ways than one, and moved from Vancouver to start a new life in Mexico. I discovered her tiny house and gallery only blocks from my new home, and liked her work so much, I took two pieces back to Calgary. It wasn’t until I came to Mérida six months later that I actually met Lorraine—artist, Buddhist and kindred spirit.

Where did you study to become an artist?

Artist Lorraine Toohey

Artist Lorraine Toohey

I received my BFA from the University of Alberta with a major in sculpture. It was a great school and I studied under famous sculptors like Anthony Caro, a key figure in contemporary sculpture for half a century, and Peter Hide, another British-born abstract sculptor known for his works in welded steel.

Edmonton has always had a very vibrant art community, especially in steel sculpture and after I graduated, I had a studio downtown for a while. It was during that time I was invited to a workshop by Caro in the UK and another in NYC before life took over and I had to get a real job. I was now a single mom with a young son so I went back to University to get my degree in Education. When I graduated, there were no jobs so I moved to Vancouver where I started teaching. I was the department head of Visual and Performing Arts at a high school and I really enjoyed that work, until I didn’t (laughs).

As a single mom and full time teacher, how did you fit your artistic practice in?

img_0009_lrI couldn’t afford to rent a steel studio so mostly I worked in the classroom environment, in different mediums. My work took a backstage at that time because of my commitments but I tried to keep my hand in things.

When did you move to Mérida?

As a teacher I often travelled in my two months off and came here for the first time in 2001. Several years later I decided to take a leave of absence and rented a little apartment in Mérida. My son was grown and I just wanted to make art and like many people, fell in love with the place. I bought this house the next year and it was a total dump, so I’d come back in the summers and oversee the work until it got to the point where I could move in.

When we first moved here, we were told the Yucatecan community is quite closed—that it’s hard to ‘break in’. How did you find it as a single woman, an artist, an extranjero?

Well, I certainly didn’t know any other extranjeros but early on I did meet Miguel Angel Reyes who was an important printmaker and artist. He became one of my very first friends and introduced me to many people. I also made a commitment to learn Spanish because it can be really isolating if you don’t speak Spanish. I travelled in South America for years, which helped. Being a part of the art community also helped. But for sure, Miguel was my door opener and I was very sad when he passed away a few years ago.

How have you seen your work evolve, and does it have to do more with the place you’re living in, or the place you are in your life?

Lorraine Toohey

©Lorraine Toohey

It’s more the place I am in my life. In Edmonton, the sculptural community was very macho which I didn’t recognize until I was away from it. My work now is more reflective of my interest in nature, in organic natural forms, the places I’ve travelled to and my own physical and spiritual body and how they relate to the world. Containment has always been an interesting sculptural idea to me…are we keeping the inside in or the outside out? For me it’s both, and I’m continuing to explore this theme.

You’re a practicing Buddhist – how has that influenced your work?

I think it influences more how I work than the work I create. In Buddhism we talk a lot about smoothing over the need for outside stimulation so I spend a lot of time alone and am very comfortable with that.

When I went to Sri Lanka last year I did a 5-day silent retreat in the mountains above Kandy and it was a beautiful experience. Everything was done in silence, which was awkward at first—I’d slip up sometimes and talk to the cat. At the same time it was liberating because I’m actually quite shy in groups and not having to speak to anyone was almost a relief.

So at the end of 5 days did you have one of those Elizabeth Gilbert ‘Eat Pray Love’ moments?

I felt so calm that the tuk tuk and long road back to civilization were almost an assault on my senses. But as Buddhism tries to teach us, living up on the mountain isn’t the goal. It’s living mindfully in the valley and visiting the mountain once in awhile when you need to. Sometimes my artistic practice is a valley, and sometimes it’s a mountain. I accept the process of art-making as, at times, difficult and frustrating and at others, thrilling and deeply satisfying, but it’s all necessary and I’m content with 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 Lorraine Toohey. Visit the Merida English Library  for more information on the artists and details on the tour.

Living in Wonderment: Artist Eck Follen

It’s a long way from Jackson Mississippi to Mérida Mexico, the ‘southern’ city Eck Follen now calls home. Her career as an artist, teacher and entrepreneur had humble roots. “In the girls dorm of a Presbyterian college”, Eck shared when I asked her where it all started. “We studied painting and drawing and polite lady art, which I had no interest in.” Instead, Eck flourished in hotbeds of creativity more liberal than her origins, ultimately becoming a sculptor. With furniture as her focus, Eck found her passion in wood and metal, exhibiting in galleries and museums from Boston to Anchorage. A few of those pieces travelled to her home/studio in Mérida, and it’s here we talked about her life as an artist.

You started out as a textile designer and then moved to furniture. How did that happen?

©Eck Follen

©Eck Follen

“I initially studied textile design but grew frustrated with the medium. On a whim I took a woodworking class and my mind exploded with the possibilities of what I could do with wood, and then metal. I realized immediately I was meant to work in another dimension and did my MFA in Industrial/Furniture Design at Rhode Island School of Design.

Wood is very much like a textile and it felt familiar to me. My mom sewed when I was growing up so I understood the concepts of designing and creating a pattern, and then fitting the pieces together.” She pauses to stroke one of her four cats, curled up on the studio table. “I believe that everything we create is something we already know, deep down in our cells. We are creating what already exists inside us.”

img_9241Her studio is filled with blocks of encaustic wax and stacks of oil pastels, in colours that look good enough to eat. Shelves of found objects share space with whimsical sculptures made of unexpected materials. Over here, two Calderesque sculptures of ultra thin dowelling await their next iteration. Over there, rows of tea boxes stuffed with empty wrappers tell a story all their own. “I’m a collector of stuff,” Eck admits as she sees me eying the boxes of discarded wrappers. “I’ve been collecting those for years—my life in tea,” she laughs.

You seem to have worked in a variety of mediums as an artist. Is there a common denominator in your work?

img_0963“I would say yes. I have a fascination with line—with the idea that a change in perspective can alter what an object is, and I use line and linear shapes to get there. A three dimensional city on the ground becomes a fantastical linear composition from the air. A flattened metal bucket once again becomes a dimensional object in another medium, all through my interpretation of line.”

And of course the question on everyone’s mind…how did you find Mérida?

“My husband Charlie, who is also an artist, wanted to move to Mexico for a long time but the places we visited didn’t really fit. I think the catalyst was a friend’s 60th birthday party where someone said, “I just love that I’m going to be sitting here 30 years from now, looking at this same beautiful landscape.” That thought kind of jolted us out of our inertia and we became serious about finding a place to live in Mexico. After a trip to Isla Mujeres we visited Mérida, fell in love with the place, sold everything we owned and came here.”

Sounds like the move was metaphorically a new canvas, much like how you approach your art.

©Eck Follen

©Eck Follen

“Very astute,” Eck laughs. “I’m reminded of a friend who’s been a tapestry weaver for 50 years—there is a depth to her work that only 50 years of practice can give and I respect that immensely. I think I would go mad if I did the same thing or lived in the same place for 50 years, it’s just not in my nature. I get juiced up by learning new processes and Mérida has definitely given me that.”

“At this point in my life, I’m creating art to feed my own curiosity,” Eck says when I ask about her new work. “There’s a freedom in not having to placate a gallery or worry about putting food on the table.” She pauses. “That said, there is also a real challenge in having no parameters, but as I think of myself as a math-free scientist, the studio is my lab where I get to experiment, and play.” Eck smiles. “I think people on the studio tour will be surprised by what they see this year, and I’m excited to be a part of it again.”

I can’t stop touching things as I move around the room, her studio an obvious place of play and experimentation. “Play is an underrated art form,” Eck tells me, “and one of those words that has become derogatory, as in ‘if you’re just playing, you’re not really serious’. My philosophy is that play is close to child-like and child-like is close to wonder, and wonder is where you discover things. Living in wonderment is a very pleasant state to be, and at this stage of my life, it’s where I choose to live.”

Eck is one of over 25 artists featured on the 2017 Merida Artist Studio Tour on Saturday, February 18th. Visit the Merida English Library for more information on the artists and details on the tour.