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!





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!

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.

Saving Mama Luna

It was the seventh wave that got her. Took her down like a sandcastle, and with much less decorum. At least a sandcastle leaves hints of its former glory, upright and stalwart. There was nothing upright about mama, in those quiet seconds between an innocuous stroll and ‘woman overboard’.

They’d headed to the ocean for the morning, my man, my dog and my mama. After a week in the city she was dying to shake off her shoes, get her toes in the sand, breath in that life affirming sea air. And Iggy needed a first class romp in del Mar. Ric loves the ocean too. Loves to watch his dog flex his muscles in the surf as he endlessly searches for la pelota. It’s a spectator sport really – from the waiters and diners under the palapas, to the fervent sunbathers, to the clusters of grand scale Mexican families – everyone stops to watch a crazy dog sail over the surf and ride the waves back to shore.

It seemed just another Sunday beach day, until mama decided she wanted to get her feet wet too. With her cranky hip, she’s become a big swimmer and has no fear of water. She left her expensive runners on the beach and headed to the surfs edge, cane in one hand, hiked up skirt in the other. And this is where things get a little murky. By both accounts, as I wasn’t there to witness the heroics, it happened fast, and was over almost as quickly. Thanks to a dog who loves to retrieve and who thinks anything in the water requires ‘saving’. In this case, his instincts were stellar and we’re convinced he should be a Disney Dog.

Mama was only in a foot of the stuff, steady as she goes with her trusty cane and determination to enjoy every moment. But the ocean is a trickster – that seventh wave thing. You get lulled into a false sense of security then BAM! You’re on your knees with water above and an undertow below. The first thing she remembers is her cane being carried away, kinda like if you’ve ever tipped your canoe and watched helplessly as your paddle floats past you downstream. Another story. But she wasn’t the only one who noticed the cane. Iggy, stage left. He raced into the surf, grabbed the cane, swam into shore where Ric was sure he would play ‘toss the stick’. Instead, that dog dropped the cane to safety then raced back in to mama’s side. She grabbed his collar and, using him for ballast on one side with Ric’s adrenalin grip on the other, was unceremoniously hauled back to shore.

Sitting under the palapa several moments later, admiring the marks of adventure on her life worn knees, mama smiled at her heroes and promised, Scouts honour, that NEXT time she’d be more careful. Next time, she’d go in with a floaty.

Footnote: There are many traits I get from my mother but I am most grateful for her fearlessness, tenacity, and I-could-give-a-$%!@-what everybody-else-thinks attitude. As I find myself getting older, I realize just how important those things are 🙂