Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Storytelling connects us to the world

In December like a bird, I can't wait to migrate south to my home and studio in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Sitting here at my weathered wooden desk covered with paint and coffee cup stains I've been thinking about storytelling and how it connects us to the world. Originally practiced by elders, stories passed on knowledge and wisdom to new generations.

A humble art form practiced in Mexico are small retablos or laminas painted on tin. Deeply rooted in Spanish history they tell stories of miracles and represent the heart, soul and religious traditions of Mexicans from the 17th-19th centuries. I've always been fascinated with the colorful symbolism and allegorical storytelling found in these clever art works used on home altars to give thanks to the infinite number of Catholic saints. Usually painted by self taught artists working alone in their studio or workshop I've been waiting for just the right opportunity to get a piece of tin and give it a try.

My closest friend Gil Gutiérrez lives in a bohemian home that used to be a horse stable in the centro of San Miguel. He is without a doubt our town's most beloved musician. A virtuoso on the guitar, he has played with symphony orchestras across the U.S. and at Chicago's Millenium Park to a crowd of 10,000 people. My favorite place to hear him play is sitting around his kitchen table as his authentic music and vibrant spirit is an endless inspiration. He is building a home in the countryside near town and this past Fall was attacked by a stray rottweiler abandoned near his land. His arm was injured badly but healed quickly and he was able to get right back to making music. To commemorate and give thanks for this miracle I painted a lamina for him in the style of my compatriotas. My gifted friend is pictured with guitar on his land where he grows lavender and his favorite drink mezcal invoking the protection of El Señor de los Rayos. You might notice the surrealism of his extra hand in my painting with the popular cuernos symbol to signify that he won't let anything stop his music. A graceful bird carries the banner of musical notes and the hand painted text tells the story of the miracle. I used sponges to age the piece that was painted with Mexican acrylics on tin.

In this painting I wanted to celebrate the humble art and storytelling of Mexican lamina painting as well as the power of my friend Gil's music.
If you live in New York please be sure to catch Gil Gutiérrez live at Carnegie Hall with trumpet legend Doc Severinsen on January 28th.
I believe his music captures the sound and soul of San Miguel de Allende and to hear it you can check out his website or visit his blog: Gil Gutiérrez Music

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