Susan R. Kirshenbaum

art and life - both the cherries and the pits

Colorful, Delicious Mexico, Part 1

Susan Kirshenbaum1 Comment
Found composition in the market.

Found composition in the market.

PART ONE

ART SEEN/SCENE

In March my husband Jack and I flew to Mexico City and Oaxaca for a week each. Wow, what a great trip. We saw and did so much that I just decided this has to be a two-part blog.

The weather was lovely - mostly dry and warm. There was a bit of a heat wave. (What place in the world isn’t having unusual weather?) And it’s a rather high elevation - 3-6ooo feet up - so that took getting used to.

We went to several art galleries and collections, small and large museums, various interesting shops, fabulous markets, and we walked and walked. All the while we were snacking on mangoes and sidewalk treats. Having lunch/dinner at 3pm meant that we had to lie down for a siesta in our B&Bs. Sometimes that would end up being the end of another very dense day.

Art in Mexico is political! It often refers back to peoples’ roots and Mexican history - there’s a lot of symbolism, skulls and skeletons, snakes and other animals, guns…

A huge contemporary art exhibit by xxx at Jumex in Mexico City.

A huge contemporary art exhibit by xxx at Jumex in Mexico City.

An art installation in a courtyard in Oaxaca brings together ancient functional tools with contemporary art installation.

An art installation in a courtyard in Oaxaca brings together ancient functional tools with contemporary art installation.

Lots of collaborative works shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

Lots of collaborative works shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

One of my favorite paintings by Oaxaco-born artist Rufino Tamayo. Seen in Museo Jumex.

One of my favorite paintings by Oaxaco-born artist Rufino Tamayo. Seen in Museo Jumex.

Contemporary yet so tribal in feel…All made of labels! This piece was a fav of mine in the Museum of Crafts in Mexico City.

Contemporary yet so tribal in feel…All made of labels! This piece was a fav of mine in the Museum of Crafts in Mexico City.

A tiny portion of a huge collaborative quilt shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

A tiny portion of a huge collaborative quilt shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

TATTOOS & PIERCINGS

Back in the SF Bay Area I now see people’s tattoos and piercings in a different light. Throughout Mexico I observed the ancient and contemporary art and artifacts made by and about the indigenous populations. Tattoos and piercings are a popular look in Mexican cities and it fits right in… (see below).

Here’s a contemporary painting shown in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Here’s a contemporary painting shown in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

EXPRESSIVE FIGURINES

As a figurative artist, I love human figures, and the works I saw on this last trip are some of the most expressive I’ve ever seen. Maybe I was studying them more than usual. Checking to see what their facial expressions and their hands were doing as well as their clothing, accessories, and if obvious - their bodies and genitals.

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STORYTELLING

A book?!? This particular display was an inspiration for my current work in the show “Barbie on the Cusp” - I created a book that opens out to 12.75 feet.

A book?!? This particular display was an inspiration for my current work in the show “Barbie on the Cusp” - I created a book that opens out to 12.75 feet.

Ancient writing and illustration tells us how they lived.

Ancient writing and illustration tells us how they lived.

Ancient painting tools

Ancient painting tools

Another story-telling vehicle carved out of sandstone.

Another story-telling vehicle carved out of sandstone.

Did I leave my iPhone behind at the museum?

Did I leave my iPhone behind at the museum?

THE DUALITY THEME

Good/evil, life/death, you name it, your counterpart is right there

Good/evil, life/death, you name it, your counterpart is right there

ADORABLE ANIMAL VESSELS

They are so cute!

They are so cute!

WALL ART: GRAFFITI, PAINT COLORS, POSTERS & SIGNS

A portion of a large wall in a great palette!

A portion of a large wall in a great palette!

A little of everything

A little of everything

Yummy peeling posters

Yummy peeling posters

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (1)

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (1)

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (2)

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (2)

Rounding the corner

Rounding the corner

Two mouths / wall

Just a restaurant sign…but more

Just a restaurant sign…but more

Hazard paint, grafitti and DISCO posters!

Hazard paint, grafitti and DISCO posters!

Emotional wall stencils

Emotional wall stencils

Love the (unintended) collaborative aspect of multiple graffiti artists

Love the (unintended) collaborative aspect of multiple graffiti artists

Politics and stencils on a wall - don’t know who Barcenas is…

Politics and stencils on a wall - don’t know who Barcenas is…

Covered moto + graffiti art wall outside of the market

Covered moto + graffiti art wall outside of the market

Old paint layers / wall

Old paint layers / wall

Graffiti and art mixed composition

Graffiti and art mixed composition

HEADS & SKULLS

An ornamental carved jaw bone painted silver! Most ceremonial objects like these were buried in the crypts.

An ornamental carved jaw bone painted silver! Most ceremonial objects like these were buried in the crypts.

The theme of the jaguar swallowing a man/soldier/conquistador is prevalent. This one is special with its abalone shell scales.

The theme of the jaguar swallowing a man/soldier/conquistador is prevalent. This one is special with its abalone shell scales.

Ancient gem-encrusted skulls make for some lovely art.

Ancient gem-encrusted skulls make for some lovely art.

STRONG PRINTMAKING EVERYWHERE

On the free tour of printmakers’ studios, this fellow was a fascinating speaker and artist.

On the free tour of printmakers’ studios, this fellow was a fascinating speaker and artist.

Little and big printing presses seemed to be everywhere in Oaxaca.

Little and big printing presses seemed to be everywhere in Oaxaca.

MAGNIFICENT MARKETS

I admit I love her ribboned braids (right), although they were a common sight in this very Indian market outside of the city of Oaxaca with people cooking meat on open flames in the middle.

This fellow surprised me: An older man with a manual typewriter in a Oaxaca City market, writing a letter for a customer.

The outdoor area where the antiques are spread out has graffitied walls behind it.

…AND CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE

Jumex, one of several contemporary art museums in Mexico City.

Jumex, one of several contemporary art museums in Mexico City.

Here’s a lovely glass building - it is an award-winning greenhouse in the Botanical Garden in Oaxaca.

Here’s a lovely glass building - it is an award-winning greenhouse in the Botanical Garden in Oaxaca.

BOLD COLOR, TEXTURE, PATTERN

Everywhere in the Historic District of Oaxaca there’s gorgeous, rich color - in the wall paint and added bonus of attractive graffiti art.

Everywhere in the Historic District of Oaxaca there’s gorgeous, rich color - in the wall paint and added bonus of attractive graffiti art.

Frida Kahlo’s Azul House (museum) is indeed the color of so much in Mexico, and so often seen in the strong combination with reds, yellows, oranges, and salmon pinks.

Frida Kahlo’s Azul House (museum) is indeed the color of so much in Mexico, and so often seen in the strong combination with reds, yellows, oranges, and salmon pinks.

Candy cane stripes make this a stand-out food stall in the market outside of Oaxaca.

Candy cane stripes make this a stand-out food stall in the market outside of Oaxaca.

STRANGE SITINGS

Loved looking up at the “junk trees” (non-indigenous) in bloom everywhere in March. So funny to catch sight of all the shoes in this tree (enlarge the image so you can see).

In a groovy, tiny Oaxacan cafe and mezcal bar, this art piece was on the shelf next to us.

In a groovy, tiny Oaxacan cafe and mezcal bar, this art piece was on the shelf next to us.

FRIDA, DIEGO, & TROTSKY

Love this image of Frida dead center. A highlight of our trip was the xxxx where most of the walls including the stairwells are filled with Diego’s ultra political murals.

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Back at Frida’s house (I was a never a fan before this trip - but I am now!) is her painting studio just as she left it.

Back at Frida’s house (I was a never a fan before this trip - but I am now!) is her painting studio just as she left it.

This is the urn (left) where her ashes are kept on display in her bedroom.

This is the urn (left) where her ashes are kept on display in her bedroom.

Frida’s death. I have two photos that relate top it directly. Because she was a tragic heroine, like a fairy tale.

And this is her death mask.

And this is her death mask.

Diego…I had so many favorite murals I wanted to show you all, but this one (below) seems most apt to our times about the moneyed class.

It’s still all about Wall Street.

It’s still all about Wall Street.

It’s an orgy. About gluttony, I think. Note the soldiers always in the back.

It’s an orgy. About gluttony, I think. Note the soldiers always in the back.

And Trotsky…lived with Frida and Diego for two years then he got a house and that’s where he was murdered with an ice ax. Right in his office, by a Stalinist. Another fascinating little museum not far from Casa Azul.

His desk where he was murdered while trying to record his story.

His desk where he was murdered while trying to record his story.

PRETTY, UNUSUAL, & TASTEY

Shrimp cocktail! A funky fun place near the market with great food and drinks. Very local.

Shrimp cocktail! A funky fun place near the market with great food and drinks. Very local.

Why did this place come up as the very best ice cream in Oaxaca? After a long dark search we found the ice cream shop. It turns out it’s made of soy milk in this super strange process. Not good at all!

Why did this place come up as the very best ice cream in Oaxaca? After a long dark search we found the ice cream shop. It turns out it’s made of soy milk in this super strange process. Not good at all!

Three of these moles are the real deal and the rest are more like stews. But so fun to try to them all!

Three of these moles are the real deal and the rest are more like stews. But so fun to try to them all!

Purple food! This was a splurge restaurant (La Casa) and the dish was very good despite how pretty it is. That’s purple potato puree.

Purple food! This was a splurge restaurant (La Casa) and the dish was very good despite how pretty it is. That’s purple potato puree.

Our daily favorites. Fresh, ripe, cut perfectly…

Our daily favorites. Fresh, ripe, cut perfectly…

The best soup I’ve had and one of my very fav dishes in Mexico. It’s ice-cold and lime-tangy with perfectly cooked shrimp. I could eat this every day.

The best soup I’ve had and one of my very fav dishes in Mexico. It’s ice-cold and lime-tangy with perfectly cooked shrimp. I could eat this every day.

We tried a lot of excellent local craft beers. This one has a great label although the style is not my favorite variety.

We tried a lot of excellent local craft beers. This one has a great label although the style is not my favorite variety.

How many times we walked past these offerings until at last we went for the mezcal. Thousands of local varieties and mezcal tasting rooms - like Napa/Sonoma. A boon to the economy.

How many times we walked past these offerings until at last we went for the mezcal. Thousands of local varieties and mezcal tasting rooms - like Napa/Sonoma. A boon to the economy.

THE WEAVING VILLAGE - A DEMO

At the Jacobo family of weavers in the village where it’s all about weaving, xxx, mama does the dyeing and spinning demo.

At the Jacobo family of weavers in the village where it’s all about weaving, xxx, mama does the dyeing and spinning demo.

Shades of pink to red come from dyes that are derived from a little beetle in the ladybug family called cochinella. It thrives on cacti in Mexico and was an original source of wealth in the “new world”.

Shades of pink to red come from dyes that are derived from a little beetle in the ladybug family called cochinella. It thrives on cacti in Mexico and was an original source of wealth in the “new world”.

Here are more of the ingredients of these natural dyes. Interestingly, although the traditions are ancient, the Zapotecs (who each speak a different dialect, from village to village) make these gorgeous rugs and are continuously developing new natural dyes and colors.

Here are more of the ingredients of these natural dyes. Interestingly, although the traditions are ancient, the Zapotecs (who each speak a different dialect, from village to village) make these gorgeous rugs and are continuously developing new natural dyes and colors.

LAST (BUT NOT LEAST) ART RESIDENCY WITH BLACK & WHITE PROJECTS AT PACIFIC FELT FACTORY

“BARBIE ON THE CUSP” - Barbie! Oh, where does SHE fit in?

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I created a storybook, which I also read aloud on video, and did an installation with my dolls, some costume props, and life drawings done on the spot. Everything is different from my usual work.

This image is from a market in Mexico - a wedding cake topper?

This is the project that I pitched and now I’m in the midst of my Art Residency with Black and White Projects at Pacific Felt Factory in SF. I took two weeks off in the middle of ALL this, and went to Mexico where I obsessed over Barbie the entire trip (without making any real progress). My iPad died. And I am self-identified as an iPad artist.
But for now - if you want to see what I’m working on in this mostly analog project installation show, and you live in the SF Bay Area, come to PACIFIC FELT FACTORY this Saturday, 4/13 from 3-5pm.

We’ll talk Barbie. You might even tell me your own personal Barbie story.

The name of the show is “Barbie on the Cusp”. Details:

“BARBIE ON THE CUSP”

BWP ART RESIDENCY PROJECT

BY SUSAN R. KIRSHENBAUM

DATE: SATURDAY 4/13

FROM: 3-5PM

(REFRESHMENTS SERVED)

LOCATION: 20TH ST BTW YORK & BRYANT, IN THE MISSION IN SF

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