This week I went out to dinner with a friend. I thought I knew where the restaurant was located, and I headed up Calle 60. It soon became clear we were walking in the wrong direction.
“I think we should be going the other way,” said Jo.
“Uh… yah… probably,” I agreed.
But what a good thing I chose the “wrong” way, because it turned out to be the “best” way… Once we got going in the other direction we found ourselves in front of a gallery we both wanted to visit. “Let’s go in,” Jo suggested.
Nahualli: Casa de los artistas is a showroom of sculpture in all sizes, lithographs and original canvases by Abel Vasquez and Melba Medina, a husband-wife pair of artists.
In his native Oaxaca, Abel learned cabinet making from his father. He said that he never imagined he would be drawn into the artists’ life, but obviously, he found the muse too tempting to resist, and he enrolled at La Esmeralda in Mexico City, the school where Frida Kahlo once taught. Now known as La Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado, Abel excelled in sculpture; his works in bronze, stone, and iron are quite magnificent. At the gallery he also has some interesting pieces of ceramic that feature iridescent resin coatings. The composition and vibrant color of his paintings challenged my mind and pleased my eye.
He works in a variety of styles. His surrealistic pieces remind me somewhat of Leonora Carrington. Like her he takes everyday themes and uses them to portray the magic of Mexico. But unlike Carrington, Abel Vasquez’ figures are lighter and fuller – not so dark, stark and sinuous.
Melba Medina is from Morelia, Michoacán. She paints women at their daily chores but weaves in elements of mysticism and contemporary imagery. Clearly the Latina and pre-Hispanic cultures are her preferred themes. Her technique is masterful, and the seductive, erotic elements of her compositions are definitely arresting.
Both Abel and Melba have long teaching curriculums, but Abel told me they have backed away from that for the moment. Now they spend the majority of their time creating new work for the gallery.
I spoke to him about my own resurgent interest in painting, but confessed that I still have not developed my own style. “I am so influenced by other artists and I find myself trying to recreate their work,” I said.
“But I bet you are moving forward with each canvas, “he replied.
When I got home, I dragged out my portfolio. And yes, I can see he’s right. Just as turning the “wrong” way on Calle 60th took me somewhere special, all my “not-quite-right” drawings are the stepping stones to where my own art needs to be.