It’s hard to believe that my time here in Mexico City is nearly finished! I was set up to give a talk about my work and the project at SOMA this afternoon, with a little goodbye gathering to follow. It was good to get me to organize my thoughts about my work and what has led up to this point for me creatively.
The piece that I have been working on here in Mexico City has become something of a cross between a pile of trash and the ruin of a pyramid. This was the one thing that remained consistent throughout my time here; however, the visual form of these ideas changed very significantly with my various talks with Carla, Adam, and Tatiana. It was a different experience for me to verbalize my process with them throughout its development. I found, however, as much as I might have resisted certain things, that it pushed me to bring ideas to the forefront of my mind much more quickly than they would have on my own… and it seems that this was a necessary thing with regards to the short term of my residency here. I feel that I was able to—in the end—very well express my experience through this piece.
The idea that I settled on was to, instead of producing a painting of a visual ruin, as I had in the past, to actually construct my own ruin out of paintings themselves. During my first two weeks here, I spent a lot of time visiting various sites for visual research and inspiration. Two that were very significant are the Anthropology Museum and the Basilica of Guadalupe, and paired with it La Casa Azul. I am very interested in exvotos, which I never really explored before my time here. They are very much a depiction of what I deal with in my work… taking a personal narrative and transforming it into an epic history of sorts. Throughout my stay in Mexico City, I have kept this blog journal chronicling my experiences, and so I decided to utilize this text as a diary and transform them into a series of my own personal exvotos.
At first with these pieces, I had thought to purchase folk art paintings from the local markets, and then I thought of holding workshops in English on how to paint to people who don’t speak English, and then I came up with this translation idea. The same went with the paintings themselves. I wanted the paintings themselves to be quick, a dashed off impression of place which would be indicative of my short time here… many, many attempts at trying to know this place, and each time a sense of failure resulting. Each of these paintings were produced in about 10 minutes, with some smaller pieces taking a shorter time, and some larger ones taking up to 18 minutes, but not longer. In the end, I had painted 305 of these exvoto style pieces in 29 days here, depicting a seven week period of my existence in Mexico (out of the 10 total that I have resided here). The imagery ranges from historic tourist sites, to everyday impressions of details about the city.
The paintings all extend over the edges, and thus have become more like an object, a museum artifact, a broken fragment of this larger whole, which I would perhaps love to imagine showing up at some point in the future as “figure A-19 fragment of a water mountain” paired with some incorrect illustration of what this ruin once looked like in all its former glory. There are additionally three other large-scale works on stretched canvas, which depict my interpretation of several Aztec myths that I have discovered a personal narrative within. They are painted with the space below marked out for an exvoto stlyle narrative, however, there are no words, for the text is already written by history and not by me. It is a narrative which underlies all aspects of contemporary life here.
And so soon I am to return to Denver and work to pull all of these thoughts together in the final work, which is to be presented at the Biennial of the Americas with the three other creative ambassadors, with an opening reception on July 16 at 8:00pm in the McNichols Civic Center Building in Denver, Colorado. It is all beginning to come together. I am very thankful to have had this opportunity.
It was lovely to have a little party following my discussion, enjoy some food, and a piñata—perfect! Special thanks to SOMA Mexico for hosting me during my stay here in Mexico City. I will be sad to leave it behind.