Sunday afternoon on Plaza Santo Domingo is always a lot of fun – as if all of the happenings there are a complex presentation of Performance Art. There are craftspeople who make and sell jewelry, wooden sculptures, rebozos (shawls) and huipiles (women’s traditional blouses) and much more displaying their wares on tables and in tents.
Often there are processions that include bands with musical instruments, shouts, and song. As I walked around the plaza, I noticed these public art presentations on the walls made by graphic artists. It looked like they were prepared as transfers that were applied to the cement surfaces.
On Sunday, there was also much dancing and celebration. I share it with you here:
In Oaxaca, food too is art. Cuisine is informed by ancient indigenous traditions and rituals and is made with local ingredients. To me, the chocolate cultivated and prepared here is among the most delicious in the world: chocolate drinks are prepared hot or cold and made with hot water or hot milk.
Mole, a traditional Mexican “sauce” made from a multitude of ingredients ground together including nuts, chocolate, coffee, and seeds is especially delicious here. It comes in different colors that vary according to the ingredients included: black, brown, red, yellow, and green and served with a variety of poultry and meats.
The presentation of food is art as well, whether in the market, or on the plate in a restaurant or in someone’s home. I have been having a great time eating my favorite dishes again, and finding new ones too. My new ritual “splurge” is arriving in the market in the afternoon when women from the towns that surround Oaxaca city arrive to sell their bread. My favorite: rolls filled with Oaxacan chocolate and cinnamon! Each woman personalizes her recipe and calls out to the customers in the market announcing what she offers that day. I love the colors, smells, and sounds of the market!
Another food adventure is the “Menu del Dia” or menu of the day. In my hotel, the Oaxaca Real, it includes a soup, a plate such as the one above, and a dessert like flan or Tres Leches cake, all for about $5!!
Visiting one of my favorite places, El Centro de las Artesanias one block from my hotel I was drawn again to the handmade kites I saw there during my last visit to Oaxaca. I remember their “faces” and that they seemed to be ephemeral beings that could magically float up into the sky. Looking more closely at the surface work this time, I could see that each contained a narrative, that each one told a story.
I also took in the richness of the textures – of the paper and the complexity of the materials used in the surface work. I hope to be able to study with this teacher too.
On Sunday, February 5, I went to the Centro de la Artesania ( Traditional Craft Center) to shop, and found that there would be a Mask Making Workshop the same afternoon. I finished the activities I had planned and returned in time to join the group.
Our teacher was Pedro Mendoza, an artist and mask maker from the town of Trinidad de Viguera. He brought two fellow artists from their community studio to help us learn about the mask making art form. He told us about his work and the use of the masks in rituals and celebrations in his town.
We began by learning to make a base for the mask: a beginning form without details like the forehead, eyebrows, nose, and lips. Next we learned how to use the newsprint material, tearing pieces and coating them with adhesive and forming them in pieces to sculpt the face.
I learned about symmetry in the “face” I created, and how to add the details so that the face would express what I desired. I worked to build in the eyebrows, nose, lips, and ears. After my mask dries, I will paint it. Here is a photo of my mask in progress:
I look forward to visiting Pedro and the other artists in their Trinidad de Viguera studio in the coming weeks.
I will be in Oaxaca, Mexico from February 3 until March 1, 2017. It is my goal to post each day sharing the abundant forms of artistic Expression here. Today (after recovering from a long journey complicated by an emergency landing by our Delta jet in another Mexican state), I ventured out into Oaxaca City, a place where as a practicing artist, I feel very much at home. On my way to the market, I encountered the artists participating in the event, “Casa Grafica”. Artists from 12 collective studios known a “talleres” and also 7 independent graphic artists joined forces to occupy a n historic two story building a few blocks from the Zocalo and install their work on its walls.
The event, created by La Comision (firstname.lastname@example.org) took place over 2 days, on February 3rd and 4th. Works presented included prints on paper of varied sizes, posters, designs on hats and tee shirts, and book covers. Critiques of politics and culture informed and inspired the works. Experiencing “Casa Grafica” was a wonderful way to begin my month’s sojourn in Oaxaca!