Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mexican Retablos

Yesterday I was working on the frames for my prints, Blackwork Lovers, in the hallway outside of my (very narrow!) studio. I had the prints spread on the floor and was placing the frames around them, figuring out how to place the corner pieces, etc. My studio neighbor, Kelly McConnell came up the stairs - she hasn't been to her studio in months - and stopped to chat for a minute. She said that my prints looked like Mexican Retablos. And later in the day another neighbor, Tina Purves came breezing by and said, "Your pieces look Mexican! Must be the white..."

Hmmm. I hadn't consciously noticed this Mexican influence, but in the fall when I was working on my big diptych, Altared Self, I had been looking at some Mexican Folk Art, which had inspired my adding an angel to that piece.

Yesterday I was debating whether I still had time to make a top section to go over the Blackwork Lovers diptych, and I started to gather some cardboard for that purpose. I went down to the street to feed the meter, and noticed a beautiful baby boy in a stroller - his mother and a friend were waiting for the bus. I stopped to admire this baby. He had enormous brown eyes set in a perfectly round little face, and a cap of glistening black hair. He was smiling at me. I exclaimed how beautiful he was! The mother's friend then said to me, "I'm going to ask you something unusual. Would you please touch the baby? We are Mexican, and in our culture it is bad luck to talk about the baby without touching him." Well, heck yes! I said. I kneeled down and held his little hands and then cupped his face in my hands. Man, he was gorgeous. I stood up and asked what his name was. His name is "Angel" his smiling mother told me.

So I have to add an angel baby to the top piece of my diptych. And in the Tarot Lovers card, there is an angel above the couple...

When I got home last night I had an e-mail from Whitney Gallery saying that they want to extend the time that artists' works are up in the window, so the current artist will be up until the end of this month, and I will install the week of June 30th and my work will be up for July and August. Looks like I have plenty of time to finish this top piece!

Here is a link about that Mexican custom:


Rob S. said...

A very serendipitous moment (you seem to get a lot of that!), and therefore, the angel is a splendid idea.

I had no idea about that custom, either- it's very interesting. In the link you added there, a commenter noted a similarity to a North African custom. I do not doubt that they are one and the same, dating back to the 12th Century on the Iberian peninsula, when the Moors maintained their rule.

And this realization clears up a thing that I thought was curious: Not a few Somali women here in Portland have asked to pick up my youngest boy and just hold him for a bit. I thought it was sweet, and very un-Western, but I wondered about whether it was cultural, or that the women just really like babies. No doubt, it's both.

Don Gray said...

Martha, you are in tune with the universe! :)

Martha Miller said...

Hi Rob

So you have a daughter, and a son...
How many children in all??
Yes, a fascinating custom! That's neat that those women have asked to hold your baby - I'll bet he's a cutie!

Martha Miller said...

Hi Don

HARDLY! I think I'm just a walking sponge...