Politics, history, and the arts through murals

Visiting Mexico City means taking in the larger-than-life murals of Diego Rivera. We visited three locations featuring these exquisite frescoes.

The Palacio Nacional (National Palace), which houses the office of the President and other cabinet departments, contains a historical timeline of Mexico as depicted by Rivera. It is difficult to capture the grandeur of these detailed murals of the Mexican civilization. I will share only two murals with you, one showing the indigenous cultures that flourished before the Spanish conquest, and one after.

After the Mexican Revolution Rivera was concerned with two issues, and these determined his artistic themes: the need to offset the contempt with which the conquistadors had viewed the ancient Indian civilizations, and the need to offset the anti-mestizo and anti-Indian attitudes of the European-oriented ruling classes during the porfiriato (the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz).

The role of the arts was to restore understanding of and pride in the heritage and cultures that the concept of Spanish superiority had subverted . . . early indigenistas [like Rivera] tended to glorify the Indian heritage and vilify that of the Spaniards as a means of rectifying a historical imbalance and advancing certain political ideas” (103). (Source: http://bit.ly/2sBTjbn)

Totonac Civilization

Ruins of the structures depicted can be found at El Tajín, Veracruz. At the Museum of Anthropology, we saw the rings and balls used in the ball courts in the upper left corner of the mural.

The Arrival of Cortés

… he depicts in dramatic fashion the violence and exploitation of the Spanish conquerors. Natives hanging in the background, the branding of the native in the foreground, and the reduction of the indians to slaves and pack horses show the cruelty and savagery of the Conquest.

In the center is La Malinche (Doña Marina), a native woman who became Cortés’ mistress and mother of his child Martín. Malinche knew both the (Aztec) Nahuatl language and Maya, thus enabling Hernán Cortés to communicate in both. She became a very valuable interpreter and counselor. The blue-eyed child staring outward at us represents the mixture of the races. (Source: http://bit.ly/2tubi3n)

At the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a magnificent art deco building that hosts visual and performing artists, is the famous mural, “Man, Controller of the Universe.” This is the recreation of the mural that Rivera painted at the Rockefeller Center and which was destroyed in 1934. It is almost impossible to capture the entire mural given its size and frequent visitors, so I show you the panel that caused the controversy.

Man at the Crossroads

Man at the Crossroads … is a whodunit tale that also illustrates the tensions between art and politics.

… the piece would have been stunning had it survived. He had this vision of the importance of technology in the future and the hope that there would be a coming together of workers and industrialists and businessmen to further mankind in general, … It was a very hopeful mural. (Source: Destroyed by Rockefellers, Mural Trespassed On Political Vision, NPR. http://n.pr/1G1R5Rj)


If you are ever in CDMX and want to get unobstructed views of Rivera’s murals, go to the Ministry of Public Education, a few blocks away from the National Palace. We had the entire grounds practically to ourselves. The building has two large courtyards with Rivera’s murals covering several floors in each.

Attempting to sum up his 235 panel cycle, Rivera later writes that his goal was “to reflect the social life of Mexico as I saw it, and through my vision of the truth to show the masses the outline of the future.” (Source: http://mo.ma/2sBNvia)

While all of the frescoes have their own story, these were my favorite. They depict the daily arts of dyeing and weaving.

Los Tintoreros (The Dyers)


Los Tintoreros 3

Los Tejedores (The Weavers)

The one mural I have not seen is Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park) located at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. Therefore, I must return to CDMX one day!

A Houston Fiber Festival

This past summer, the Knit at Night Guild (KANG) organized the first ever Houston Fiber Fest. The event took place the weekend of July 17-19, 2015. That very weekend, I was on my way out-of-town on business to South Africa and almost missed it. On Friday after work, I raced over to the Berry Center located in a suburb of Houston for about an hour before they closed. The exhibit area was large but very doable. Many yarn shops from the greater Houston area were there with their wares.

At Little Monkey’s Stitch and Spin, they had hand dyed two-stranded sock flats (those little bags hanging from the sides of the display). Each flat is already knitted together from 80% merino and 20% nylon. As you knit up your socks, you are basically, unraveling the flat. The result is two socks or mittens whose stripes or color patterns will match perfectly – very clever! You can find this shop on Etsy.

Little Monkey's Stitch and Spin

I thought the booth for The Barbed Dragon was a lot of fun. According to their website, the shop is “a Texan’s flight of fancy into the fiber arts.” The dragon motif carries through to the names of their gorgeous hand-dyed fibers and yarns such as Dragon’s Indulgence and Dragon’s Treasure. They are located in Burleson, Texas (had never heard of it) but you can find them online. I think this shop partnered with another called Brazen Stitchery because they had this wonderful sparkly yarn in the booth. The names of these yarns were also so creative like a sparkly hank of Zombie American Princess variegated sock yarn.

The Barbed Dragon

The Purl & Loop booth featured needlecraft kits by yet another Texan. I love Angela’s (the owner’s) story. As a career woman, she had little spare time to devote to crafting and would order kits that had all the materials needed to complete a project. Out of that need, she launched her shop primarily devoted to kits for the busy modern person who wants to create but has little time. She even features how-to videos on her website for weaving and needle felting.

Purl & Loop

Park Avenue Yarns lived up to its name with tastefully curated yarns and these lovely silk braids. The sheen is gorgeous and they are oh-so-wonderful to touch. They also carried packets of precut quilting squares in fabrics with modern designs and vibrant colors.

Park Avenue Yarns

Finally, the members of the KANG yarn-bombed the area outside the conference center with smile-inducing knitting and crochet. Trees, benches and even trash cans were covered in yarn! I particularly liked the crocheted mandalas hanging off the trees like ornaments. And no yarn-bombing in Texas is complete without a crocheted Texas flag!

HFF Yarn Bomb 1

HFF Yarn Bomb 2

HFF Yarn Bomb 3

HFF Yarn Bomb 4

HFF Yarn Bomb 5

It was one of the most delightful hours I’ve had. A bit rushed but very much worth the effort. Kudos to the KANG for a wonderful festival. The 2016 Houston Fiber Fest is scheduled for June 24-25, 2016. Mark you calendars!

HFF-LesterLogo

(Source)

Three Days in Bogotá – Día Dos

The highlight of our second day in Bogotá was a visit to the Museo Botero. Fernando Botero’s paintings and sculptures are characterized by disproportionately large people and objects. I felt as if I was looking at the portrayals through a different lens. They made me smile.

Museo Botero - Monalisa

Museo Botero - Pareja Bailando

Museo Botero - Concierto Campestre

The museum is located inside a roomy house built in the early 1700s for the local archbishops. It has wide verandas and beautiful gardens with views of the nearby mountains.

Museo Botero - Casa 1

Museo Botero - Casa 2

The museum also has a collection of art by international and local artists. This large textile was another favorite. It is the work of Olga de Amaral, a textile artist from Bogotá.

Museo Botero - Muro Tejido No. 98

The tapestry is called Muro tejido No. 98 (Ca. 1972), made from animal and vegetable fibers.

Museo Botero - Muro Tejido No. 98 a

Museo Botero - Muro Tejido No. 98 b

Our last stop was all about shopping! The Galería Artesanal de Colombia had countless tienditas (little stores) full of local arts and crafts

Galería Artesanal de Colombia

I fell in love with these exquisite crochet bags handmade by Wayúu women. The bags are crocheted with cotton thread and come in vibrant colors and interesting designs, each unique to the woman who made it. Multiple threads are woven together to make the straps.

Bolsos Wayuu 1

As young Wayuu women come of age, they learn to weave and crochet Wayuu Mochila bags. According to legend, the tradition comes from “Wale´kerü”, a spider that taught the women how to weave their creative drawings into the Mochila bags. Each design incorporated into every Mochila bag is unique to the weaver, telling a story through the bag’s colors, patterns and shapes. (Source)

Bolsos Wayuu 2

Along the long aisles of hammocks, baskets, bracelets and hats, there were more crocheted bags.

Colombian Crochet Bags

There were also textiles woven in bright colors.

Colombian Textiles

By the end of the day, my head was spinnng, possibly due to the explosion of color, or the altitude! Another amazing day in Bogotá.

Blogs That Make Me Smile or Laugh So Hard That I Double Over In Pain

Hannah at Not Your Average Crochet gave Agujas the Sunshine Award! I love the blooming flower cushions that she made – they’re so playful and make me smile. Thank you Hannah!

Sunshine Award

Now I get to nominate five blogs that brighten up my day:

Drawn2Knit & Crochet2 – Not only is Jennifer a knitter and crocheter, she’s a fabulous artist. I love her watercolors – so soft and whimsical. This is one of my favorite drawings by Jennifer. The character is named Genevieve and you can even purchase a print of it in her Etsy shop. (Image used with permission of the artist).

Genevieve, Drawn2Crochet

Angry Pear – I think you know that I love Angry Pear. Drew has me crying with laughter with Pear’s antics. Here, poor Pear finds that moths have made holes in her forgotten knitting. (Source: angriestpear.com).

moths-full - Angry Pear

Peas and Cougars – I recently discovered Rae’s alter ego. I thought I was going to pass out from laughing so hard. Have you noticed that I seem to be drawn to angry cartoon characters? (Source: peasandcougars.com).

waiting-2 from Peas and Cougars

The Knit Princess – Created by Allison (writer) and Melody (artist), this cartoon features a princess obsessed with all things knit. You can even purchase Knit Princess comic strip collections or t-shirts such as the one that reads “There’s no such thing as too much Stash.” Amen to that! (Source: knitprincess.com).

The Knit Princess 2009-03-07

Mister G Kids – Matt is a substitute teacher who happens to also draw. His depictions of the things kids say are funny, touching, heartwarming and just plain honest. (Image used with permission of the artist).

whats-wrong-honey-part-2

Thanks to these blogs for bringing a little bit of sunshine to my day!

Woven Hair Textile

More photographs from the husband taken at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center in Thailand. This textile is called Trailak (The Three Characteristics of Existence), 2012. It is woven entirely of hair.

Trailak by Thanawat Muncid

The placard reads:

From his faith towards Dhamma regarding Trailak (The Three Characteristics of existence) that teaches people to consider on truth of impermanence, incompleteness and non-self. This teaching inspired the artist to weave hair that is the symbol of body or impermanence to be created as a mixed media in the form of a pagoda referred to something we should remind and pay respect at all times. The objective of this artwork is to express idea, emotion and feeling obtained from considering corpse that is the mark of death in order to refine our mind from lust and omit wickedness with the aim to do good things and reach pure heart according to Buddha’s teaching.

Trailak by Thanawat Muncid - Close-up

I am assuming that the weaver used human hair to symbolize impermanence. The pagoda is incredible, with so much detail to give it its shape and ornamentation. It is rather interesting to me how buildings such as churches, temples and other holy places can last for centuries far outliving the humans who built them.

Baskets 4 Life Exhibit

While in Copenhagen, we went to the observation deck of the Rundetaarn. The Round Tower houses one of Europe’s oldest functioning observatories. From the observation deck, we could see the spires of the churches and rooftops of buildings across the city. Rather than stairs, you walk up the winding spiral path to the top. Walking down was much more fun!

Halfway down the tower, there is a large loft space for the museum shop and which serves as a venue for exhibitions. On the day we visited, the loft space was taken over with baskets – large and small baskets woven by hand using many different materials. It was an exhibit of Baskets 4 Life, a collective of ten Danish women who weave the baskets. According to their website, the purpose of the project is to highlight the need for baskets instead of plastic bags and to “break existing norms in relation to the appearance of baskets and the use of materials in making them.” As part of their mission, the group has started producing the baskets in Africa to create a source of employment and income for women. You can read more about the project at Baskets4Life.dk.

Here is a sampling of some of the beautiful baskets on display. My favorite is the crocheted one.

{Click on any image for a full-screen view.}

More Fabulous Quilts

More quilted beauties from the International Quilt Festival Houston 2012.

Flora …

Pink Snow by Vivian A. Kapusta, Canada.
Papaver Somniferum by Grace Meijer, United Kingdom.
Award of Merit.
The Button Box by Rebecca Navarro, Texas.
Detail of tree branch covered in button flowers.
Leaf Like Life by Dalia Eliraz, Israel.
Workmanship Trophy.

… and Fauna

Rainbow Lorikeet by Helen Godden, Australia.
Honorable Mention – Art Painted Surface.
Show Your Colors; Stand Out From the Crowd by Kristin Vierra, Nebraska.

Home Sweet Home

Berne House Quilt. Made by members of the Bernese Quilters in Switzerland. 150 different blocks were made separately and then put together.
Colores by Michelle Jackson, New Mexico. The quilter was inspired by a photo of an old adobe house in New Mexico.
Lazy Afternoon by Michelle Jackson, New Mexico. “I love the character of older homes. This one was inspired by a photo of a house taken in Madrid, New Mexico, as it basks in the afternoon sun.”
The Jennings Homestead by Suzanne Mouton Riggio and 26 members of the Milwaukee Art Quilters, Wisconsin. “… a group of 40 artists, have been meeting for over ten years in the business space [of the homeowners]. In gratitude … the group made a slice quilt of their Victorian home.”
Tutti Frutti Village by Susan Bleiweiss, Massachusetts.
Honorable Mention – Art Whimsical.
The quilter used hand-dyed sandwashed cotton.

What’s black and white and red all over?

Lady Dova by Deborah Stanley, California. Inspired by the horse race scene from My Fair Lady.
Searching for Coco Chanel by Teresa Shippy, California.
The Red Shoes by Linda Stone, California.
Flamenco by Jin Gook Yang, Korea.
Wrath by Dianne Firth, Australia.
“…wrath can be used to describe the uncontrollable forces of nature that wreak havoc on humankind through fire, flood, cyclones and other disasters.”
Convergence by Latifah Saafir, California. “‘Convergence’ is about coming together and meeting at a common point; but, it is also about approaching limits.”

Peace Quilts

The Rainbow Staircase by Nairn Stewart, Canada. “The individual steps, which are high relative to the size of the figures, represent the obstacles which threaten women’s security.”
Let the Sunshine In by Anna Hergert, Canada. “The collective spirit empowers women around the world, whether rich or poor, covered or uncovered, old or young, oppressed or free, no matter what our skin color or spiritual convictions.”

Award Winning Quilts

This is the second year of enjoying the breathtaking artistry of quilts at the International Quilt Festival Houston 2012. It was like seeing works of art at a museum. It was sometimes hard to believe that what I was seeing was actually pieces of fabric. My camera loved the quilts so there are many photographs. If you can’t wait to see more, you can visit the Textile Ranger at Deep in the Heart of Textiles. She was there too although we didn’t bump into each other!

These quilts were all award winners. For a complete winner’s list and even more quilt pictures, go here.

America, Let It Shine by Sherry Reynolds, Wyoming.
The Handi Quilter® Best of Show Award.
“The 5,121 Swarovski cystals represent the words of the Constitution, Star Spangled Banner, Pledge of Allegiance and the age of the country.”
ElaTED by Ted Storm, The Netherlands.
The Founders Award.
“To challenge myself, I started with my least favorite color and fabric: brown and plaid.”
Hot Africa by Janneke De Vries-Bodzinga, The Netherlands.
The World of Beauty Award.
“I was in Kenya during the dry season, took this photograph, and made a quilt of this impressive moment.”
Crème de la Crème by Bonnie Keller, Chehalis, Washington.
Award for Traditional Artistry.
“I put the vibrant green Morris reproduction backing fabric with the right side facing inward in order for it to shadow through to the front, creating a subtle grayed background.”
Fiesta Mexico by Karen Kay Buckley and Rena Haddadin, Pennsylvania.
Master Award for Innovative Artistry.
“The original appliqué and quilting designs were inspired by the bright colors in Mexican pottery and flora.”

More quilt pictures coming soon.

The Happy Hooker

I love it when someone can take a simple object like a crochet hook and make it come to life bursting with personality. That’s what Stephanie of Obey Crochet does with her irreverent and oh-so-funny hook humor.

She doesn’t mean to incite a battle between crocheters and knitters, but it is too funny to resist.

Even though I am mostly a knitter and only an occasional crocheter, I can’t help but crack a smile at her hook humor. Then I come to discover that she’s a fellow Texan! Go grab some more laughs at Obey Crochet. I will close with one more drawing that all hookers and sticksters can surely agree on.

{All images in this post belong to Obey Crochet.}