Candid shots taken during a presentation given by Deborah Kruger during her exhibition at the Old Train Station Gallery in Chapala, Mexico.
Candid shots taken during a presentation given by Deborah Kruger during her exhibition at the Old Train Station Gallery in Chapala, Mexico.
I snapped the central picture of this retablo in the home of Rudolfo Moralez, a famous Oaxacan painter now deceased. It was a very large doll, sitting in a nicho on the stairwell up to his studio. It had obviously been exposed to the elements and in fact was breaking open. For years, I tried to think of an association to begin a retablo dedicated to this wonderful man, as well as to the image itself. Finally, the image won out. Toys and elements of board games old and new surround her image. The blue rectangle with the silver star on it under the silver-leafed toy horse is a harmonica. That may give you some idea of the scale of the piece.
My friend Linda Levy challenged me to post a different photo of my art each day for ten days. I’ve skipped a few days thanks to a faulty memory, but here, at last, is day 5!!
Click on photos to enlarge.
This is one of the pieces I made for a Day of the Dead show at Jesus Lopez Vega’s Gallery in Ajijic opening on November 2, 2021 on Rio Zula, one block south of the Carretera. This piece is 20 inches high and 12 inches wide. It includes a miniature I made of an actual book entitled “Noche de Muerto en Michoacan, Muestratio Portico” that is sitting on the chair. Other offerings mentioned below are on the table, along with a photo of the dear departed.
Little Altars Everywhere
There’s no pleasing the likes of a departed soul.
Take for instance the corpses out for a stroll
on Day of the Dead with their garb all in shreds
when other departed remain in their beds.
They think they’re entitled to dead bread and beer,
flowers and candles and when you come near,
they’ll say they’re entitled to sweets and tamales.
Once a year this is how they get their jollies.
All over the city, we bring them their due,
and when it comes your turn, we will bring it to you!
What I Did on My Coronavirus Vacation
What I did was issue a challenge to six friends to all start out with the same materials and to create an art piece. Each of us here lakeside contributed a number of items and the only instructions were to use as many of them as we wished and to add items to make a work of art. In my case I chose to do a piece reflecting my activities during this time of “seclusion.”
Here are the items we all started out with: (you may click to enlarge images.)
It was my intention to show you the finished project, but as I was photographing it, I thought of six other elements I needed to add, so tomorrow–the finished project. Want to join us? Create your own Shelter in Place collage.
About the third day of my isolation, when I had to cancel a visit by a friend who has in the past been a fun art playmate, I came up with a plan whereby we could sorta do art together without breathing on each other. The idea was to find a couple of other artist friends and for each of us to contribute a bag of “stuff” to each of the others. No rules except that the same stuff needed to be contributed to each of us. As it turned out, the participants were my friend Brad, my friend Candace, Candace’s friend Jean and yours truly.
After a week or so to collect the stuff, I said I would go collect Brad’s stuff in Ajijic, drive to Chapala to give our stuff to Candace and she could give me the bags from Jean and her, then I could take all of our stuff back to Brad, Now, you might have noticed that we live in three different towns ,and since I haven’t been out of my house for two weeks except once two days ago to drive less than a mile down the mountain to the tiny grocery store at its bottom., this was a big expedition! And I was going to see people! Albeit from at least 6 feet away.
I showered, washed my hair, put on makeup and clothes for the first time in two weeks, and compiled a list of things to do and buy in town: i.e. visit bank, paint store, pharmacy, Walmart and Super Lake–the best miracle all-and-everything-American edibles store in Mexico–and disperse the art supplies. All ready to go, I went out to my car to find the battery dead! Now I have an electric battery charger, but I also have a very small garage, so once the car is parked inside it, the front bumper is just about one inch from the door of the cupboard that the battery charger resides within. And, without juice in the battery, I can’t shift the car into neutral to roll it back to get the cupboard door open or to get the engine in a position so jumper cables can reach from it to another car. Luckily, my gardener Pasiano was there and we finally jerry-rigged three separate sets of battery cables end-to-end and using the car of a friend who just happened to start painting a mural on the outside wall of my house that very day, we tried to charge the battery but alas.it was dead as a, well, dead battery!
Suffice it to say that my big plans were changed and my self-enhancement procedures all in vain. I called my friends, cancelled my plans and st 9 at night, Yolanda’s son, who just happens to both be a mechanic and to work in an automotive supply store, came with a new battery, installed it, and finally today I was off again. (This time I didn’t bother with makeup but I did again don clothing.) The plan was that I would put on my mask and collect Brad’s bags in Ajijic, take our material to Candace’s house in Chapala, and when I arrived, call her on my cell phone. She would open the gate from her upstairs apartment and I’d set our bags inside the gate and collect the bags of Jean and Candace.
When I got there, however, Candace had a more creative exchange in mind. Taking isolation to its furthest extreme, she was on the roof of her house letting down an incredible pulley-fueled bucket within which to put our bags. She then pushed a button and up they went. Her and Jean’s MUCH larger bags were hanging on a hook on the wall. I took them and was off to Brad’s and then homeward. The last time Brad came to my house, he brought me an ECHO, to which I immediately became addicted. “Alexa, play John Prine.” This time when I put on my mask and called to let him know I was waiting in my car outside his house, he arrived with art bags and an ice cream bar! Some men just know what women like! Thanks, Brad.
So. I was off with a car fully-laden not just with art materials but with 5 liters of paint, groceries, appliances and animal food from Walmart, food from Super Lake and business taken care of at the bank, and when I got unpacked and the former”stuff” swept to one side on my dining room table, I opened the four bags to reveal the items that were to become the materials for my next art project. A mighty heap, to say the least. Hmmm. I think I’m going to change the rules to say you don’t have to use all of the material. Perhaps at least one of each category of things? Upcoming, I hope, will be photos of our projects.. perhaps at different stages.
So, if you are an artist, or if you aren’t—why not mount a similar project with your friends and show us your contents of bags and final results? It’s a Challenge! Or, choose your own media. Want to bake a Lonely Artist Covid cake? Great. Write a poem? Paint a painting? Do a mural? Make an intriguing mask? Snap a photo? Do a video? Sing a song? Do a dance? All are welcome. Just link your contribution via a link to this blog.You can go HERE to see my answer to the challenge, HERE to see Candace Spence’s piece and HERE to see Jean Mulleneaux’s contribution. We’d love to see your answer to the challenge.
Click on photos to enlarge.
I think I’m on a jag. . . Can’t stop. 3:44 a.m. and I just finished another bracelet. Someone stop me before I create again!!!
At Rudy’s Scrap and Salvage, you’ll find the junk of dreams.
Sewing machines with treadles and pants burst at the seams
that you can mend upon them. Dining sets with mismatched chairs.
In his clothing section, shoes seldom come in pairs.
Lovely one-eyed dollies and lop-eared careworn rabbits,
uniforms and costumes, surplices and habits.
Little pails of misplaced parts like nuts and bolts and widgets.
Chairs fit for a giant and little chairs for midgets.
Crankshafts, axles, handlebars for 50’s era Schwinns.
Housegoods by the bushel and tools by the bins.
Whoever was responsible for making all these things
would barely recognize them with their scratches and their dings.
It’s a place for dreamers, for artists or inventors—
those a few steps out of time who lack corporate mentors.
Those bent on handing back our junk with which we tried to part
as startling new inventions or else objets d’ arte.
Taking worthless bits of junk and making priceless treasures
is, I must admit, one of my most primary pleasures.
You can keep your Bergdorfs, Neiman Marcus or your Saks.
I prefer my treasures in orange crates or gunny sacks!
Lately, several people have asked to see what I as doing before I moved to Mexico and started making retablos and writing this blog. When I searched for the word “study,” today’s prompt word, in my blog files, this blog published four years ago was one of the posts that came up and since it fulfills both purposes, I’m going to run it again.
My story begins in 1985 when I went to a coffee house in Santa Monica, CA for a poetry reading. It was an interesting situation–a dual reading between a local poet I’d never heard read before and his ex-girlfriend who also happened to be pregnant with his child. Although they had broken up and she had gone back to her estranged husband, the two of them were reading love poetry they had written to each other!!! Need I mention that it was a packed house? At any rate, if you’ve read my book, you know that it was love at first sight on my part. I not only thought he was gorgeous,but his poetry was smart and funny and real and I felt I knew him from the first time I saw him.
A year and a few months later, we were married and moved to northern California where the living was cheaper and where I intended to get a teaching job to augment his early retirement (from teaching) income so he could finally become the full time artist he’d always wanted to be. Prior to moving northwards and actually prior to our marriage, when I experienced writer’s block, the man whose poetry workshop we both attended had suggested that my problem was that I “knew” too much about writing. (I had been teaching literature and writing for 10 years prior to moving to CA to write myself.) He said the cure would be to try an artistic discipline other than writing that I knew nothing about–in my case, art. But I couldn’t draw or paint, I protested. So, he suggested I go to the dime store and buy a bunch of “stuff” and just play around with collage.
So, this is what I did, assembling a half dozen or so collages out the the most unlikely of materials–rubber mice, cut up thin metal jam and butter lids I’d collected on a European vacation, confetti, paper sculptures I’d cut out of pages of old poems. I know. Weird. I remember one of the titles was, “Party mouse wants to come out to play, but can’t.”
Jack, our writing guru, had said to bring my results to show him at the next workshop, but I was embarrassed and so left my collages in the car when I came up to class. When it was my turn to present, he asked if I’d done as he instructed and I admitted I’d left them into the car. “Go and get them,” he directed and because he was our God and because no one ever didn’t mind Jack, I went to get them. They were well-received, to my great surprise, and one woman who worked in a downtown L.A. gallery even offered to exhibit them. No, way, I protested, but I have continued to do art of one sort or another ever since.
After we moved to the Santa Cruz area, Bob did art full time until his death 14 years later. I never did get that teaching job. Instead I studied metal smithing and became a jewelry maker and paper maker. We made our living doing arts and crafts shows for the next 13 years, each doing our own thing–me, jewelry and him sculpture and ikebana vases–but in addition, we collaborated on art lamps that were constructed from river stones, bamboo, willow, basket making materials and my handmade washi paper. Bob did the wood and stone work. I made the paper from mulberry bark and applied it and in some cases designed and constructed the entire lamp of liana, bamboo, my handmade paper and various natural materials. Some of those lamps are pictured below:
We sold hundreds of these lamps, each one totally unique and although we sold every one we ever made, they were extremely time-consuming and hard to transport. We were not becoming rich, but we were doing exactly what we wanted to and making art exactly according to our own esthetic, not catering to fashion or what would sell. Eventually, I started to make my own lamps as well as doing all of the paper and application of paper for his and continuing to design and make jewelry.
At one show, a man actually came in and bought our entire booth. Every lamp, ikebana vase and every piece of jewelry!! That, I must say, was the highlight of our joint careers.
When Bob died and I moved to Mexico, it was the end of my lamp building career. I let each of his kids choose a lamp and sculpture, I saved two lamps for myself, sold the rest, and went on to the next stage of my life. But, since we did so many shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, I developed this very strange compulsion which consisted of looking for our lamps in every TV show and movie that I’ve watched since then. I had this feeling that one day I would see one of our lamps as part of the set for a movie.
Bob died in 2001, but, still, my eyes sweep the background of each movie scene. I must admit I do the same with magazines, and actually, thirteen years ago when I thumbed through an issue of House and Garden that had a friend’s garden on the cover, I suddenly had an overwhelming sense that one of our lamps was inside. I looked and looked. Nothing. Then, I concentrated on a many-page spread of the gardens surrounding a house outside of Santa Fe and when I looked closer, I realized it was the house of the man who had bought out our entire booth in Tucson–so although they didn’t show, the house pictured as the backdrop of the gardens actually was filled with our lamps!!! I know. Stretching it, but still.
Anyway, we are about to come to the end of this very wandering tale. Last night I watched a movie I’ve been putting off seeing for years. My friend and I had just spent two hours trying unsuccessfully to link my MacBook Air and my Samsung Smart TV. I was exhausted and decided to just watch Netflix on my computer. Not feeling like scrolling through a hundred different films, I clicked on “Life of Crime” with Jennifer Aniston. The movie was actually rather engaging and not the slapstick comedy I had envisioned, and I stayed the course. And it was in the very last scene that it happened. As the antagonist female was heading for the bathroom, there on the back wall was what looked like –ONE OF MY LAMPS!!! Four different times, I got glimpses of it. When the movie ended (great ending by the way) I replayed the last 5 minutes. Tried to freeze frame. Scrunched my eyes up. Yes! I was so sure it was one of my own small lamps–not one we’d collaborated on, but one of the first I’d done where I’d done my own design, execution and even the wiring.
Of course, I told Forgottenman, who happens to live 1500 miles away but whom I talk to at length via Skype each day. A few minutes later, he Skyped, “Is it this one?” with a perfect screen shot of the lamp. Yes, indeed it was. I remembered thinking I should cover the cord up with something. I remembered hand drying the paper with a hairdryer so it would shrink over the willow branches. I remembered binding it tightly with wax linen and spraying it with fire retardant. I remember making the handmade label and where I tied it on–at the bottom where the willow branches joined.
So, though I may have flaked out and quit the actor’s studio I attended while I was in L.A. studying film production and film writing—retreating with my tail between my legs as soon as casting directors actually started coming to see what we were up to—there was one of my lamps, bravely rising to the occasion–hanging securely on the wall and facing up to the camera like the star I knew it would one day be. Like a proud parent, I bask in its reflected glory.
It is one of my humble little lamps, non-assuming and plain, but here it is below, for all the world to see:
As well as a few more elaborate lamps by Bob Brown & Judy Dykstra-Brown made of Stone, wood, handmade washi paper, waxed linen and willow.
The prompt word today is study.
A “retable” or “retablo” was originally a frame or shelf enclosing decorated panels or revered objects above and behind an altar. It has since come to also designate the painting or other image it encloses. In Mexico, it is common for families to have smaller versions of the larger pieces seen in churches in their homes. At the time I moved here in 2001, I could buy the undecorated, unpainted ornamental metal frames for retablos in a local artisan market and I started making retablos myself that paid homage to saints, Mexican legendary figures, artists, family members and friends. Over the years, my subjects have grown, as have the retablos. Here are a few of the hundreds I’ve created over the past 16 years. Recently, as the metal frames get harder to find, I have started using simpler boxes which I have constructed for me.
“We’ll Always Have Paris”
Santa Cecilia (Patron Saint of Poets and Musicians)
Homage to Picasso
The prompt today was homage.