Los alebrijes: From Dreams to the Big Screen!

There is no translation for this word, alebrijesAlebrijes are a folk art from Mexico, that depict imaginary creatures, made out of paper mache or wood. I bought one a few years ago in Oaxaca, and it was made out of wood.


They are all over the city and a favorite souvenir for tourists to buy. They were brought to life in the recent movie, Coco, in which they act as spirit guides for the dead in the land of the dead.  img_20190505_124558

Today at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia there was a special event that feature alebrijes, sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Center for Mexican Week. This was also PECO First Sunday at the Barnes so there was free admission for everyone. Artist Cesar Viveros spoke about the history of alebrijes, there was a small exhibition and a contest, and children decorated some alibrijes by gluing on different fabrics (paints were not allowed in the museum).

Viveros explained that the alebrijes do not have anything to do with Day of the Dead, as they do in Coco. The alebrijes are a relatively new addition to Mexican folklore. Pedro Linares, a Mexican artisan born in 1906, first created alebrijes in the 1930s. He was ill and while unconscious dreamt of these marvelous beings, who called out “alebrijes”  in his dream. Once well he wanted to craft these creatures since he attributed his healing to them. From them on, important artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera began commissioning his alebrijes and the trend took off. Now these animals are recognized and treasured around the world as Mexican folk art.


Lens on Latin America: Photo Exhibition in Philadelphia!



photo courtesy of David Acosta

Lens on Latin America

January 7 – March 22, 2019

open daily 8am – 10pm

Juror: David Acosta, Casa de Duende

Opening reception: Tuesday, January 8 at 6pm

An art exhibiton of innovative, experimental, and radical photography inspired by themes emerging from Latin America during the 60s and 70s – a time of profound cultural and political change.


East Alcove Gallery, International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut Street

lola_postcard 4×6

DaVinci Artist Alliance: http://www.davinciartalliance.org/dvaa-at-ihp/





An Interview with Visual Artist, Roger Chavez

This interview was conducted with Roger Chavez via e-mail. I met Roger in an art class he was subbing and we struck up a conversation after the class.

Deslumbrar: How did you become interested in art? Is this something you’ve always done?

Roger Chavez: My interest in being creative came at an early age through drawing, painting, or building in wood or other materials. It was an activity that always generated a joy, a challenge and a learning experience. Having this creative dialogue at an early age, it was not difficult to decide and pursue it as a career later in life and where painting became my focus.

Deslumbrar:  Does your ethnic background influence your art?

Roger Chavez:  I don’t necessarily think of my ethnicity as directly influencing my work or in other words I don’t consciously think about my ethnicity as a topic for my work.  If there is something in my work that alludes to my ethnicity, it is concealed.

Deslumbrar: What projects are you working on now? How has your art evolved?

Roger Chavez:  Recently, I have a grant from the Franz and Virginia Bader Foundation to research a group of small landscape paintings primarily executed on paper. The group of paintings are part of a bigger collection called the Thaw Collection. Owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Morgan library In New York City, I make visits to draw from the paintings and research the object files.  Studying works of art from collections has always been my way to challenge my own painting and to continue to learn all the complexities of painting. 

Studying these landscape paintings and making landscape paintings as well, I’m looking to develop an experience set apart from that of my current approach to painting. For many years I’ve worked with the self-portrait and the still-life, two subjects which are readily accessible and still. Confronting the changing landscape as subject breaks me away from everything I know, altering, adding to my approach in painting.  

Deslumbrar: How does teaching art fit into your artistic career/practice?

Roger Chavez:  Teaching has always been a positive experience. It tends to give back in how there is regeneration in energy to create as I experience the students learning and developing their ideas, concepts and abilities. This said however, teaching has always been second to my studio work in that it is the core of my learning and where I draw experience and knowledge from to teach.

Deslumbrar: Where can people see your art?

Roger Chavez:  My work can be seen at my website at www.rogerchavez.yolasite.com. I’m also represented by Stanek Gallery in Philadelphia. www.stanekgallery.com

Deslumbrar: Thank you for taking the time to share about your art!

Untitled-Still Life #36 (36)

Untitled–Still life #36


What is “American Art?” SWARM at PAFA!

“Americans are a whole hemisphere.” That was Nestor Armando Gil’s response to a question about PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts), the oldest “American” art museum and school in the United States, exhibiting SWARM., which consists of art in collaboration by a Cuban-American and Haitian immigrant and their workshop.  He meant that “America” included all of us from South America, Central America, the Caribbean and North America, and he clearly stated that PAFA is exactly where the art should be. Since both Armando Gil and Didier William, who teamed up to create the works in SWARM are immigrants in the United States, whether one considers “America” to be all the Americas or just the “United States,” their work is part of the “American” tradition. On August 4, 2018, at PAFA, the two artists and the guest curators of the exhibition, Laurel McLaughlin and Mechella Yezernitskaya, both from Bryn Mawr College, discussed the process and works in SWARM.

There are already articles and reviews about SWARM., which is at PAFA from June 30-September 9, as the exhibition opened over a month ago. There is a a detailed online document about it available at: pafa SWARM.  For this blog post, I will write about a few salient ideas from  the presentations and panel discussion.

Both artists were surprised at how much of their work was complementary and how they were influenced or inspired.  Both related to the spirituality and myth of their ancestry–santería in Cuba and vodu in Haiti. Even though Armando Gil had never used printing in his art (he is more of a performance artist), this became a common artistic language between the two. William’s work is detailed with an eclectic use of print and painting, and somewhat representational (with a lot of abstraction) but as he says “illegible.” I liked the skill and technique in both painting and printing that embodied William’s works, and that one could identify certain figures, yet the meaning was open to interpretation.


Artwork by Didier William

I wasn’t able to see the performance of Armando Gil’s “Boca,” but for sure it must have been shocking. In this installation he lies on the floor and substances that symbolize Cuba are poured into his mouth: sand, coffee beans, sugar and tobacco.

Armando Gil also spoke about his performance piece “El Panadero.” In this one, he made 1500 copies of a bag that said “CUBANO BREAD” and baked bread to put in them. He explained that the bilingual play on words could be rearranged to mean “Cuba no bread,” relating to the poverty on the island or “Cuban Bred,” born and raised Cuban. He went to Barcelona (where his grandmother had lived after leaving Cuba) and stood in a plaza with a baker’s hat on, and no shoes. He sang the baker’s song “Panadero, pan gratis” (Baker, free bread) and gave away the bread. His performance pieces tend to be “ritualizations of passages.”

Armando Gil paid more attention to the visual aspect in his pieces while working with William. His tobacco prints evidence that: img_20180804_153813

There are various sculptures in the exhibition, which show Armando Gil’s influence in the collaboration:

When asked about “theoretical influences”, William cited Frantz Fanon, among others and Armando Gil referenced Reinaldo Arenas (fiction), Bell Hooks, and specifically the book Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism, by Bell Hooks and Amalia Mesa-Bains.

SWARM. Forging individual and collective identities across diasporas, dislocations, and reformations is on exhibit in the Historic Landmark Building at PAFA in galleries on the first and second floor.

Puerto Rico on the Canvas: Diego Hiromi

I saw this painting at the opening of PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts) annual student show in May 2018. It has been on my mind ever since. I spoke with the artist, Diego Hiromi, at the opening, and he said that it has been hard for him being in Philadelphia away from his family and friends in Puerto Rico especially after the hurricane. I have friends from Puerto Rico and regularly have heard for months about the devastation that they and loved ones experienced due to the hurricane. This painting is a stunning and powerful representation. Technically it is spectacular, but I don’t even know how to explain the feelings that it invokes. I’ll just let the painting “María” speak for itself:


Hiromi also had other paintings in the exhibition which related to Puerto Rico. One of those that we discussed was a portrait of his grandfather, “La oración de abuelo”:


I am not usually drawn to realism, but Hiromi’s paintings are beautifully rendered and powerful. Full of emotion, they communicate a love for his family and native island. To see more of his work and read his bio, please visit his website:  http://www.diegohiromi.com/gallery/ He is definitely an emerging artist to watch out for!

You can still catch the student exhibition at PAFA this weekend! IMG_20180511_184903

Edna Santiago: Painting Puerto Rico!

No hay mal que por bien no venga is often translated in English as “Every cloud has a silver lining.” This is the expression that came to my mind as I conversed with Puerto Rican artist Edna Santiago at her recent exhibition “To Print or Not To Print” at DVAA (Da Vinci Art Alliance) in Philadelphia.


Santiago was compelled to start making art after the death of her only son, 11 years ago.  She worked for 40 years as a physical therapist as well as tending to her family, so art was put on the backburner. But after her loss, she began painting and proceeded to experiment with different media. Today Santiago specializes in printmaking, painting, and crafting lampshades from gourds. She maintains a studio and gallery in Puerto Rico, but is moving back to the Philadelphia area for most of the year, due to the recent storms and damage in Puerto Rico.

I saw some of Santiago’s work in person at DVAA. She is inspired by the sea, by the nature and people of Puerto Rico. I love her prints, which follow a long tradition of woodcut prints in Latin America. She showed me one of her plates made out of a softer material than wood. We discussed how important it was to determine the values (darkness and light) in a print. Santiago sometimes adds color to her prints–this happens  in the printing process itself or she paints a “finished” print.


Santiago is upbeat, optimistic and inpirational to me as an emerging visual artist. She said that we  might not realize what talents we have inside of us that haven’t yet manifested. I was impressed by her printing technique and knowledge, and her creativity wih the lamps. Her paintings of people communicated tremendous feeling and those of Puerto Rico’s landscape were enchanting and unique. Santiago has several exhibitions/showings coming up in the Philadelphia area. The next one is at the Mainline Art Center on May 5, 2018 in the Spring Craft Show. For more information on her exhibitions and art please visit her website: http://www.ednasantiago.com


Tarsila! Discovering the “Mother of Brazilian Art” at the MOMA in New York City.

A few children, from 7 to 9 years old, obviously part of a class, sat on the floor in front of the painting, “Composition (Lonely Figure),” by the great Brazilian artist, Tarsila do Amaral. Their teacher gave them instructions about what to draw and write in their notebooks. What a lovely sight to see these children having an art class at MOMA! (Museum of Modern Art, NYC).



Students of all ages, senior citizens, young adults, Brazilians, Americans, and tourists from many different countries packed the galleries. The work of the “Tarsila” had finally arrived at MOMA in New York.


I saw some of her paintings in São Paulo in 2014. I really liked the museums in São Paulo, MASP and the Pinotecas. (You can read about some other impressions on Brazilian art that I saw in São Paulo on deslumbrar). MOMA and the Chicago Art Institute collaborated on this initiative.


What I liked most about this exhibition was seeing Tarsila’s originals close up, and also reliving memories of Brazil. Each of her paintings invokes Brazilian culture and triggers saudade. And that’s really what she wanted. When she was living abroad, she began to identify more as a Brazilian and she wrote:


One thing that I just don’t understand, and I don’t agree with, is the “English Only” of some museums. This is not only an issue I have with MOMA, since I have also experienced this at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For this Tarsila exhibition, all of the labels and the audio guide were written in English. Of course, the audience for the exhibit is comprised of Americans from the United States, but in my opinion, it should have been bilingual, in Portuguese and English. There are some things that are difficult to translate, and would be helpful to have an explanation in Portuguese (or the language of the artist). In addition, in the audio guide there was an error in the pronunciation of “Sono”. Instead of saying “sono” the voice said “sonho,” which means “dream” in English. This completely confuses the meaning of Tarsila’s “O sono” (Sleep). Another advantage of a bilingual show is that it is accessible to more people. A bilingual exhibition of Tarsila’s work, which is important for Brazil and the rest of the Portuguese speaking countries, would have reached out as a “welcome” to Portuguese speaking people.

That, however, is a minor criticism. The exhibition is worth seeing, even in English. I adored looking at all of her pieces displayed, from the unknown sketches in graphite and ink on paper, to the huge canvasses in oil, for which Tarsila is most famous.

This is not an “objective” analysis or a pseudo-academic text. MOMA has already published the coffee table book and everyone can purchase that in the museum bookstore. You can also check out the interview with Caetano Veloso on youtube.com that MOMA presented, or do a Google search of all the criticism of the show by the famous art history experts. I prefer to offer a few observations and reactions to my favorite works.

First, as an artist, I really admire that Tarsila signed her pieces with only her first name. There’s this idea among artists in the United States, that if you are a “serious” artist, you need to sign with your last name. Tarsila proves this WRONG.

Tarsila painted Brazilian subjects, and she started, along with her husband, Oswald de Andrade, and other artists of different types (Mário de Andrade, Anita Malfatti, etc.) the Cannibalism Movement, Movimento Antropófago, and Modernism in São Paulo. Tarsila traveled to Paris in order to continue her art studies, and also around Brazil. In Brazil, Tarsila was inspired by various native subjects. She painted animals, landscapes, cityscapes, human figures, almost human figures, and nature. Overall, she used a non-realistic approach that encompassed surrealism, cubism, futurism and everything else that was going on at the time.


Born in 1886, on a plantation in São Paulo, she captures nature in a raw fashion. Cartão postal, (PostCard) has the same elements that you find in typical postcards of Brazil: palm trees, other tropical trees, animals, houses, fruit, water and hills. It is interesting that she mixes semi-tropical, desert plants with the water (river/sea). It’s as if this post card isn’t just to represent the popular tropical panorama, but also that of Brazil’s rugged and barren interior, o sertão.


“O sono” (Sleep) sticks in my head because of its surrealism mixed with the Brazilian landscape—the simple and essential palm tree.

The last work that one sees before leaving the gallery, is Operários from 1933. This is a representation of different phenotypes of Brazilians and urban factories.


The exhibition of Tarsila do Amaral’s work is at the MOMA in New York City, through June 3, 2018. For more information: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3871

Tarsila! Descobrindo a mãe da arte brasileira em MOMA

Umas crianças dos 7 a 9 anos, obviamente parte de uma turma escolar, se sentaram no chão em frente do quadro “Composição (Figura Só)” da grande artista brasileira, Tarsila do Amaral. Sua professora lhes dava instruções sobre o que fazer com seus cadernos de desenho. Que lindo ver aqueles meninos tendo uma aula de arte no MOMA! (Museum of Modern Art, NYC)




Dentro das salas lotadas, não somente circulavam alunos de todas as idades, mas também, idosos, adultos, brasileiros, americanos dos Estados Unidos, e turistas de vários países. A obra da artista brasileira, Tarsila, finalmente chegou ao MOMA de Nova Iorque!


Eu vi algumas das peças dela em São Paulo em 2014. Gostei muito dos museus de São Paulo, MASP e as Pinotecas. Eu fui em uma quarta-feira, no 28 de março de 2018, para vivienciá-la em Nova Iorque. O MOMA e o Chicago Art Institute colaboraram para fazer esta iniciativa. Especificamente, Luis Pérez-Oramas e Stephanie D’Alessandro prepararam e organizaram a exposição, com ajuda de Karen Grimson.


O que mais gostei desta exposicão foi a oportunidade de ver a sua obra original na minha frente e ao mesmo tempo reviver meus momentos no Brasil. Cada quadro de Tarsila invoca um aspeto da cultura brasileira, e inspira a saudade. E isso o que ela queria, porque quando estava fora do Brasil, começou a sentir-se ainda mais brasileira e disse:


Uma coisa que não entendo (e não gosto) de alguns museus, é o monolinguismo. E não é só MOMA que faz isso. Para esta mostra de arte, todas as inscrições (menos os títulos das obras) e a áudio-guia foram apresentadas em inglês. Claro, este evento se destina ao público estadunidense, mas na minha opinião, deve ser bilingue–em português e inglês. Existem certas coisas que resistem a tradução e é ilucinante ter o original no lugar para referência, e uma explicação em português (ou a língua do artista). Na áudia-guia que eu segui em inglês, tinha um erro com a pronúncia de “Sono” (disse “sonho” que significa “dream” em inglês) que realmente confundaria todo o significado da obra “O Sono” de Tarsila. Outra vantagem do bilinguismo é que acolhe a mais pessoas. Uma apresentação bilingue daria o “bem-vindo” aos lusofalantes a uma exposição de muita importância para o Brasil e o mundo lusófono.

Porém, é uma crítica menor. Adorei reparar sua obra desde os desenhos de lápiz e tinta em papel até os grandes quadros à óleo, pelos quais ganhou sua fama no Brasil e no exterior.


Não vou fazer uma crítica “objetiva” ou escrever um texto pseudo-acadêmico sobre Tarsila no MOMA. Já publicaram a guia que todos podem comprar na livraria. Também podem assistir à entrevista com Caetano Veloso que fizeram no museu, sobre a arte de Tarsila e o tropicalismo em youtube.com, ou até podem fazer uma busca de Google para os artigos escritos por expertos famosos de arte. Prefiro oferecer algumas das minha reações e observações sobre meus quadros favoritos da exposição.

Primeiro, como artista, admirei muito que Tarsila assinasse seus quadros com apenas seu primeiro nome. Existe a ideia entre alguns artistas estadunidenses que um artista plástico “sério” tem que assinar sua obra com o sobrenome. Tarsila mostra que isso não é verdade.

Tarsila pintou temas brasileiros e iniciou, com seu esposo Oswald de Andrade, e outros artistas de todo tipo, o movimento antropófago e modernismo em São Paulo. Tarsila viajou para París para estudar arte, e também pelo Brasil para explorar temática autóctone. Ela desenhou e pintou animais, figuras humanas, “quase” humanas, a natureza, o campo e a cidade. Sobretudo em uma maneira não realista. Tinha influência de cubismo, surrealismo, futurismo e tudo que estava se fazendo naquela época–nas primeiras três décadas do século XX.

Nascida em 1886, em uma fazenda de São Paulo, capta a natureza de forma bruta na sua obra. “Cartão postal” de Tarsila tem os elementos de muitos postais típicos do Brasil–palmeiras, outras árvores, animais, casas, fruta, água e morros. É interesante sua mistura de plantas da caatinga com o rio/mar–como se este cartão postal representasse não só a familiar paisagem tropical, mas também a do interior, do sertão brasileiro.


“O sono” fica na minha cabeça, por seu surrealismo misturado com o elemento brasileiro–essa palmeira primitiva e essencial.


A última obra que se encontra antes de terminar e sair da sala é “Operários” de 1933. Aquí tem uma representação de tipos de brasileiros diferentes e as usinas urbanas.


Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil continua no MOMA até 3 de junho 2018.

Historia en la Avenida de la Constitución

En la ciudad de Granada, en la Avenida de la Constitución, se encuentran diez esculturas de figuras históricas que tienen que ver con la provincia. Inauguraron esta galería de arte al aire libre el  26 de marzo de 2010–con aparencias y presentaciones del alcade del momento (José Torres Hurtado) y algunos descendientes de las figuras comemoradas.

La primera estatua es de un militar de la época de los reyes católicos, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. Nació en Córdoba pero peleó en Granada. La escultura es de su cabeza, nada más, y es muy grande. Lo llamaban el “Gran Cápitan.” Dirigió tropas de los reyes católicos en las guerras contra los reinos musulmanes en el siglo 15. Miguel Moreno Romera es el artista. Otras estatuas son de Elena Martín Vivaldi, Federico García Lorca, Manuel Benitez Carrasco, San Juan de la Cruz, Manuel de Fall, Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, María de la Canastera, Eugenia de Montijo y Frascuelo.


Federico García Lorca. (c) Celeste Mann

Manuel de Falla, gran compositor de música española, que vivió en Granada y se interesó por lo folclórico y F. G. Lorca, el dramaturgo/poeta, son muy famosos e integrados en la historia y cultura de Granada.  Ramiro Megías hizo la escultura de Manuel de Falla, y Juan Antonio Corredor hizo la de Lorca.

Manuel de Falla

Manuel de Falla (c) Celeste Mann

Pedro Antonio Alarcón era un escritor de origen humilde. Su escultura lo muestra sentando en un banco leyendo un libro. El nació en Guadix en 1833 y murió en 1891. Escribió “El sombrero de tres picos” –también es un ballet del maestro de Falla. La acción toma lugar en Andalucía. Su estatua fue hecha por Manuel Barranco.

P.A. Alarcon

Pedro Antonio Alarcón. Photo by Celeste Mann

Pero también hay mujeres representadas en este desfile de grandes. Por ejemplo, Maria de la Canastera nación en Granada el 27 de febrero de 1913 y era bailarina de zambras, y gitana. Su estatua la tiene en una pose de flamenco con tres sillas. Lleva un traje tradicional de flamenco con una flor en el cabello. Su cueva es aun muy famosa y visitada para el baile.

Maria la Cana

María de la Canastera. Photo by Celeste Mann

¡Visite esta calle bonita de Granada para conocer la historia y disfrutar de esa maravillosa arte!