Oaxaca’s Painting Biennial at MACO

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MACO stands for Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca. We had the good fortune to visit during the XVII Rufino Tamayo Biennial Exhibition. Tamayo,  born in Oaxaca, was one of the great Mexican painters of the 20th century. The exhibition of 50 artworks ranging from abstraction to realism is a juried show of painters working in the region.

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The witty mixed-media work  by Victor Suiser, above, is called “Tepeyollotl ruge con la voz de cuatrocientos jergas” Roughly translates, maybe, to “The Jaguar/Earth God roars with the voice of 400 hoodies.” (thanks, Google) Those are ten peso coins for eyes.

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Suave Patria by Sergio Garvel 2016

The work above, Suave Patria, Smooth Country, by Sergio Garvel is oil paint and gold leaf on canvas. It recalls the tzompantli , or skull racks of the Aztecs and Maya. The shopping cart might reference the carts protesters filled with stones during Oaxaca’s street battles of 2006.

The art students with me pointed out their favorite paintings. Several were drawn to Fernando Motilla Zarur’s photo-realistic self-portrait, oil on canvas, 2015. MACO is worth a visit no matter what is on the walls. The historic building was long ago the home of Spanish nobility. It was said to have been a home of the Conquistador Hernando Cortez, though  historians now dispute that idea.

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Autoretrato by Fernando Motilla Zarur

Fragments of 17th century murals adorn the walls. You can see them beside Zarur’s self-portrait(above).  Sarape #1 , (below) by Paul Muguet, 2016, was done with spray paint and masking tape. This homage to the humble blanket design in the context of a contemporary art museum is eye-poppping and provocative.

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Statuesque nudes on a runway is a jolting idea for a narrative painting. That is the theme of Samuel Melendrez Bayardo work, “El Aeropuerto de Paul,” oil on canvas, 2015.

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Detail of oil painting by Samuel Meledrez Bayardo
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Detail of work by Veronica Conzuelo Macedo

Veronica Conzuelo Macedo’s “Sorri mom I love graf” (detail, above) is a 21st century spin on the classic Mexican landscape. It is done in egg tempera on linen over wood.

This is just a small sample of the remarkable art in the exhibition. Some images were gritty, some witty, and few, I admit, I could not appreciate. Overall, however, I was struck by the keen technical skill and intelligence of the selected artists.

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Second Floor Gallery at MACO

MACO’s facebook page will have details about hours, and current exhibitions. I will leave you with one last image – A photo by Kutztown University student Samantha Kahres of a tourist admiring Siempre Verde (Always Green) by Anja Gerecke in MACO’s back patio.

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Photo © 2016 Samantha Kahres

More Death With a Smile

I promised more images from the exhibition “TO DEATH WITH A SMILE” or in Spanish “A LA MUERTE CON UNA SONRISA.” Thanks to Prof. Vicki Meloney for sharing the files, here they are.

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Save My Soul by Carlos Franqui

These Kutztown students are finalists, along with artists worldwide. The works are on display through Feb 9 in Mexico City at MUMEDI, The Mexican Museum of Design.

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Breathe Breed Bury by Malichi Hall

Finalists’ artwork can be found on the MUMEDI website.

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By Erika Mabus

First Prize in this contest includes a MacBook Air, a three night stay at the Museum’s boutique hotel in Mexico City and 3,000 pesos.

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Dead Zone by Kristen Demilfy

Prof. Meloney writes, ” the contest challenges cultural perceptions of death and dying. When can death evoke a smile (clever, funny, emotional)? We spent weeks researching the concept of death — Cultural connotations, discussing and dissecting our beliefs and traditions (sometimes the conversations has us rolling with laughter and sometimes brought us to tears).— thousands of entries worldwide, 400 finalists, only 22 from the united states and 16 of those 22 were from our Kutztown University Graphic Design class! Way to go KUCD!”

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Michael Oxendine

Some of the images are cartoon-like.

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Five More Minutes! by Morgan Mahoney

Others border on the surreal.

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Bliss by Kathryn Desiderio

Prof.Meloney pointed out that she Prof. Cunfer and Prof Tienken  are so proud of their junior year students. The final image, below, is by Natalie Bett, a grad student from Kenya, a student in our new MFA program.

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Music Shall Carry Me Home by Natalie Bett

All images © the individual artists, students at Kutztown University of PA. For more info on the Communication Design Dept at Kutztown, including our new MFA, visit the website.

Death with a Smile

MUMEDI is the Mexican Museum of Design, near the zocalo in the center of Mexico City. They host an international poster exhibition. The theme  this year is “To Death with a Smile.”

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by Sam Mickley

On Facebook, Sam Mickley posted her image (above) and this note, “Found out today that I’m a finalist for the Mumedi International Poster Contest “To Death With A Smile”!  400 finalists were chosen out of thousands of entries, 22 of which were from the US, and out of those 15 were from KUCD!  Congrats to everyone who made it!”

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by Andrew Hughmanick

The 15 Kutztown students honored designed these projects in Prof. Vicki Meloney’s and Prof. Elaine Cunfer’s Graphics 1 classes. Here is a selections of their diverse images.

by Elaine Knox
by Elaine Knox

Elaine Knox’s poster above is novel. She explains that she started with the concept of nature’s food chains and decided to depict a venus fly trap.

by Jamie Hubert
by Jamie Hubert

From Punk to The Bible, students found inspiration everywhere. Below is Cambrea Roy’s poster based on Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians.

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by Cambrea Roy

Jessica Strohecker created several wonderful images. She is not sure which one MUMEDI selected. Below is just one of her educational images on the concept of sepsis. 

Germs Kill Kill Germs by Jessica Strohecker
Germs Kill Kill Germs by Jessica Strohecker

Here’s an image by Miranda Pokras; it has a Venetian vibe.

by Miranda Pokras
by Miranda Pokras

These posters will be exhibited at MUMEDI, Mexico City for several months. And at the end of 2016, the exhibit will travel to Spain and Finland. As I get more images I will post them. Congrats to all the students and profs involved. We leave with a mysterious, somewhat surreal, illustration by Patrick Coyle.

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By Patrick Coyle

Printmaking at Taller La Chicharra, Oaxaca, 2015

Edith Chavez, center front, and Alan Altamarino, center back with KU students at Taller Chicharra.
Edith Chavez, center front, Alan Altamarino, at back & KU students at Taller Chicharra.

While ice storms hit the U.S. a group of Kutztown students spent 17 days of winter break in sunny Oaxaca, Mexico. We worked with a group of talented young printmakers in Taller La Chicharra (translates as the Cicada Studio).

Alan Altamarino  on press pulling a large scale print with Kevin McCloskey
Alan Altamarino on press pulling a large scale print with Kevin McCloskey.

Alan Altamarino, who also goes by MK Kabrito, runs the studio. He is a recent graduate of the School of Fine Arts at UABJO, Oaxaca. He specializes in large format relief prints. In the image above he carved MDF, multi-density fiberboard, to print a mega-print for his upcoming exhibition in Guadalajara.

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Nueva Vida, 2-color woodblock print by KU student Elaine Knox.

Printmaking studio classes were scheduled from 11-4, but at times the KU crew was still working happily as late as 10pm. Of course, they took a long dinner break around 3pm. Some brave souls sampled fried grasshoppers, a typical Oaxacan snack.

Pajaro Rojo, print, by KU Prof. Miles DeCoster
Pajaro Rojo, print, by KU Prof. Miles DeCoster

Each student created an edition of 15 black and white prints for a portfolio to exchange with their classmates. They also created a limited edition with a second color printed from a block of carved plywood.

Figura Prehispanica, detail, by Ashley Ridgway.
Figura Prehispanica, detail, by Ashley Ridgway.

We came as a group with a reservation, but Taller La Chicharra offers short classes for visitors throughout the year. Besides woodblock, they offer classes in serigraphy and engraving metal via electrolysis. Typically, courses are for half-days and last a week. The cost ranges from 500-1000 Mexican pesos, $40 to $80 U.S.

KU student Blake Myers sketching in the mountains of Mexico.
KU student Blake Myers sketching in the mountains of Mexico.

“Impressions From Oaxaca” prints from the KU workshop will be on exhibit at the Student Gallery, Sharadin Building, Feb 10-15.

KU students carving blocks at Chicharra.
KU students carving blocks at Chicharra. Photo: Miles DeCoster

We had time for trips to the Prehispanic ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla. A highlight was a journey to the petrified waterfall known as Heirve el Aqua.

Wolfgang and Brigid inking plates. Photo M.DeCoster
Wolfgang and Brigid inking plates. Photo: M.DeCoster

Muchas Gracias to Alan Altamarino, Edith Chavez, Marcus Lucero, Mariana Rivera, and all the wonderful Oaxacan artists who made our time in Mexico so memorable! Nos Vemos! See you again!

My Mexican Sketchbooks

America, mural detail, Chapel Atotonilco, Mex.
America, mural detail, Chapel Atotonilco, Mex.

In a few days I find out if I have enough students to run a sketchbook class in Oaxaca, Mexico. Info on the class can be found here. I’ve been looking through my Mexico sketchbooks. These pages remind me of the wonderful days I have spent in Mexico over the years.

Flower vendor, Guanajuato.
Flower vendor, Guanajuato.

Sometimes my drawings are quick pen sketches. Sometimes I take time to add watercolor washes. Often they are drawn to remind myself about a particular place, like the restaurant Itanoni in Oaxaca. My notes remind me of Itanoni’s fresh organic corn tortillas. Itanoni also serves a wonderful hot chocolate drink, called champurrado, a type of atole made of maize flavored with cane sugar and cinnamon.

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tule copySometimes I draw tourist attractions, like the giant Tule tree outside of central Oaxaca. I’ve seen people jump out of a taxi, snap a photo of the Tule tree and be gone in 60 seconds. Sketching forces me to catch my breath, to savor those few minutes I spent under the shadow of this ancient life form. Some call it the world’s largest tree. The Zapotecs believe it was planted by Ehecatl, the wind god,1400 years ago. With a circumference of 137 feet, it is wider than the giant sequoia of California.

The Weaving Teacher, Oaxaca.
The Weaving Teacher, Oaxaca.

zocaloOnce when I was drawing in the zocalo, Oaxaca’s central square, an old campesino asked me if I could draw his picture. I told him I would be glad to do so. He folded his arms across his chest and stared hard at me.

campesinoA crowd gathered. Some thought I was drawing him all wrong, some thought I was doing it right. In the end, I showed it to the man and he just laughed and walked away happy. The crowd turned their attention to the marimba players and the balloon vendors. I kept drawing and I felt connected to the throng, like I was a part of the wonderful human opera of Oaxaca. I have a new sketchbook and I look forward to visiting Mexico again.

OAXACA KU Study Abroad Winter 2015

Update: Kutztown U’s Oaxaca Course will be offered again. Tentative dates: Dec.27, 2015 to Jan.10 2016. Details in August. For a new non-credit 6-day (Jan 10-15, 2016) Oaxaca printmaking workshop see offering here via Oaxaca Cultural Navigator.

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Kutztown University is offering an affordable opportunity to study  in Oaxaca, Mexico with Prof. Kevin McCloskey. Oaxaca may the best place for a visitor to experience art in all Mexico. This beautiful colonial city is famed for its markets, street art, and printmaking studios.

Oaxaca Street scene, art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey
Oaxaca scene, street art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey

Students will experience many things they can’t do in Kutztown. For example: We’ll climb and sketch ancient pyramids. Visit a papermill that makes fine art paper from indigenous plants. Work with local artists. Drink spiced hot chocolate in the lobby of the chocolate hotel.

Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro,  Mexico
Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro, Mexico, 2008.

Located high in the mountains of Southern Mexico, January weather in Oaxaca is typically sunny with highs around 80°F

CDE 375: Drawing on Location in Oaxaca is a 3-credit Communication Design Elective. A hand’s-on course, students will complete a sketchbook documenting their personal response to the travel experience. Includes a 3-day relief printmaking workshop in a fully-equipped artist’s studio. Field trips to museums, markets and historical sites will provide immersion in the unique cultural traditions of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012
Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012

The cost?  For in-state (PA) undergrad tuition, airfare, shared accommodations, printmaking workshop, museum entries, and daily breakfasts should total approximately $2,400. Out-of-state students’ will be need to pay more. (Fees must be approved by KU council of Trustees.)

Young girl in one of Oaxaca's many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012
Young girl in one of Oaxaca’s many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012

Prof. Kevin McCloskey has been visiting Oaxaca for over 30 years. In 2007 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the visual arts of Oaxaca. He received a second NEH fellowship in 2011 to explore the visual culture of the Maya regions of the Yucatan and Belize.

Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.
Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.

He has written extensively about Mexican political prints. He has curated eight exhibitions of Mexican prints across the U.S, notably at the Fowler Museum, UCLA. In 2012, he was invited to Princeton University to lecture on Mexican prints at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Studies. Here are two of his recent  articles on the Oaxaca art scene, one at Project Bly, one at Printeresting.

Interested students can email for more info: mccloskey@kutztown.edu

Visit Printeresting for more on Maya Woman Printers.

My photos and story of my visit to Los Leñateros at printeresting.org
My photos and story of my visit to Los Leñateros at printeresting.org

Sometimes I get to write for Printeresting.org. It is a very cool site. In 2011 Printeresting won the Warhol Foundation’s Writers Grant in the blog category. I feel lucky when I get 100 visitors on a day to this blog, so I am delighted to write for the online journal, Printeresting. Jason Urban, one of the founding editors, is a Kutztown University Fine Arts grad. Though I’ve never met him, Jason is good enough to edit my work.

Click the link in line one, above, to see my story on Taller Leñateros, a women’s papermaking and print collective in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Founded in 1975 by poet Ambar Past, the collective now boasts nine members, mostly women of Maya ancestry.

I am blessed to be on sabbatical, researching and working in Mexican print studios. Here are a few photo out-takes from my visit to San Cristóbal.

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Woodblock prints on handmade paper by Los Leñateros.
The white building is Taller Leñateros.
The white building is Taller Leñateros.

Los Leñateros, which means wood-gatherers, use native plants in their paper making. Here Kari, a master bookbinder shows me the recycled bicycle they use to shred flower petals.

The stationary bike.
The stationary bike.
Maps printed offset, scored on an old Thayer and Chandler letterpress.
Maps printed offset, scored on an old Thayer and Chandler letterpress.

The see the whole story of this amazing print workshop click here.