Artist Statement

Mexico is known for its long tradition in the arts and crafts. Its heritage extends to the Pre-Columbian Period through the Colonial Period and into modern times. Crafts vary in style and type throughout regions in Mexico. Such things as masks, costumes, ceramics and papier mache objects are important sources of income for many crafts people in Mexico. Beautiful, fantastic and at times, exotic crafts have continued to exist although there have been many setbacks. The craft traditions have had some disturbances in recent years causing many in the trade to look for other jobs with higher paying wages. As an example, the political protests in Oaxaca during 2006, forced many artisans, especially the woodcarvers, out of business. The many months of protests and upheavals, deterred tourists. Due to lack of tourists and consumers, many artisans sought other means of support including agricultural trades and immigrating to the United States. Oaxaca is once again calm and recovering from its stormy conditions. The only ingredients missing are the tourists, a key to the economic health of the region.

Mexico has been moving into an international economy, first with the production of oil and now through NAFTA. Although these approaches are generally good for Mexico’s economy, the new jobs created by these opportunities may eventually deplete many of the crafts people from the commercial market.

Since my first visit to Mexico in 1980, I became infatuated with the country, the people and the crafts. Mexico’s traditions dating back to the pre-conquest have fascinated me. These unfaltering traditions have become the basis of my art work. My art work depicts the dichotomy between Mexico’s past and present. The works are filled with references to the traditional crafts and cultures as well as contemporary trends including popular culture and kitsch. I collect Mexican crafts with an emphasis on regional masks and costumes. I travel throughout Mexico often to observe and record culture. During June of 1996 I had the opportunity to be immersed in Mexican culture, by conducting a four week printmaking workshop in Oaxaca. In March, 1997, my wife and I purchased a home in Oaxaca, Mexico. We reside there about eight months each year. I work in my art studio absorbing Mexican influences.

Many of my works refer to Day of the Dead which is a traditional Mexican celebration on November 2. It is somewhat related to the Catholic All Souls Day, and is a time when families remember departed loved ones. Graves in cemeteries are decorated and in homes, altars are created incorporating favorite foods and treats of the departed. I became interested in “Day of the Dead” when I saw the work of folk artists on my first trip to Mexico. The artists represented death with humor, affection and charm. The skeleton is the Mexican symbol of death and appears in all shapes, colors and sizes. They appear in a variety of media including clay, papier mache and wood. Many of my prints include skeletons that assist the main figures.

The artists of Mexico, especially the great muralists, like Diego Rivera, have effected my work. I admire Frida Kahlo, the great female artist from Mexico, in the Twentieth Century. Her paintings are fascinating and dynamic. She is a major influence on artists today. I often include her image, as well as objects from her paintings, in my art work.

Images that I find fascinating relate to lucha libre, bodybuilding and tattooing. The wrestling stars of lucha libre, are the figures that many Mexican children as well as adults admire intensely. I especially refer to El Santo in my art work because he is probably the most famous of all luchadors. The costumes, masks, color and ring action present a “getaway” to another world where frustrations and rousing adventures can take place. Super heroes are a popular art form today and bodybuilders represent super heroes in “live” form. Tattooing was an admired art form during the Pre-Columbian Period. Today tattoos take on many connotations including national pride, gang membership and individual expression. Many of today’s tattoos find their origin in the earliest peoples throughout the world.

Color is my main concern. The intaglio prints are made by a three plate, aquatint process: yellow, red and blue. When the colors overlap, an array of colors is produced. The colors are vibrant and appear to glow. A “dot” style seems to provide rhythm and surface movement to the prints. The paintings are based on contemporary culture in Mexico which borrows much from the past. Mexico’s history is intriguing from the Pre-Columbian era to the Spanish Colonial Period to modern times. The paintings intertwine figures from these periods.