Behind The Scene in Merida’s Art World

It only happens one day a year……

One day each year, the English Library in Merida hosts a Studio Tour to raise funds for its library programs. Thanks to my sister Pauline, who was staying in nearby Progreso, we booked our Merida trip to coincide with that one day. There were 22 studios featuring 29 artists participating, so Larry and I were very grateful that Pauline and fellow artist, Joanne had scoped out the tour and artists ahead of time, narrowing our tour down to 10.  For the sake of this blog, I will condense our day even further.

First Stop:  Rodolfo Baeza.  The door to the studio was still locked, and as we tugged at the string which jangled a bell somewhere upstairs, a face appeared at the first floor window.  “The gallery opens in five minutes,” she said and disappeared.  A man in a panama hat, sweat beading on his brow, pushed open the studio door from within and as he taped a poster to the door, apologized for the delay.  “Mexican time,” he said and held out his hand in greeting.  I asked if he was Rodolfo, and he said no, we would meet him soon.  Soon, stretched out, and we learned the man with the poster was from Powell River, BC, and looking at making Merida his home.

 

This painting was a visual clue that this doorway might lead to the studio of an artist.

In time the door opened and we trundled up an impossibly narrow and steep set of stairs that opened into a spacious light-filled studio.  Many canvases, a few of them works in progress, sat on easels and stacked against one another against the walls.  There were finished ones too, and it quickly registered that the eye on the door outside told of the skill of the artist within.  Broad, bold, layered strokes told a very personal story on each canvas….the soul within exposed in their eyes.   Rodolfo’s specialty….portraiture.

This bold self-portrait was captured by Pauline in the 2016 studio tour.

Rodolfo, the son of a surgeon, knew early on that he wanted to be an artist, but this career was not supported by his family.  So instead he studied graphic design and taught himself to paint.  A giant printing press in the middle of his studio is one of the remains of his studies and Rodolfo uses it to create artist proofs when he is preparing to make prints.

The studio is filling up with more tour-ists, so we move on.

No need to guess what might be going on inside this room….

Douglas Greenwood was born in Florida and has stayed true to his early conviction that art was his life; murals, logos and book illustrations, and he tried oils, pastels, water colours, mixed media and acrylics.  He moved to Merida in 2007 to continue with his painting and as these photos show, he can paint most anything he puts his mind to, but now his medium is acrylics.

Douglas uses the colours of Mexico as a backdrop for his street scape sketches. This is one of the styles he teaches in his art classes.
Douglas displayed cartoon, graphic, impressionist and abstract styles throughout his gallery.

Since 2010, Douglas has been sharing his enjoyment of creating art by conducting painting classes.  His wine/painting pairing is especially popular and would have been a choice of mine had we had more time…..next year.  And next year we will also be sure to make time for coffee in the coffee shop/gallery that adjoins his studio.

A gallery cafe surrounds guests with his interesting art, next to Douglas’ studio. Photo credit: Pauline Dueck

We leave that studio/gallery, inspired, and walk to several more.  The sun is searing now and Larry and I enjoy a quick refreshing break in the upstairs lounge outside Cy Bor’s tiny studio while Pauline and Joanne discuss Cy’s work in progress–a blue patterned plate stacked with lemons, glistening with flavour. Cy’s pastels are displayed throughout the house, bringing with them a freshness you can taste.  I am in awe of her ability.

Again the space becomes crowded and we walk several blocks to Casablanca, the home of artists Steven Lemire and his wife,  Sanda.  It is Steven’s art that is on display on this tour, but at first sight, it is their home that takes my breath away.  I take it all in, including that art, and I know that I could live there forever.

‘Flow’ (left) and ‘Azure’, two large-scale paintings to the right as you enter Steve and Sanda’s home. Photo credit: Pauline Dueck

 

The large painting on the right, a full 2m by 3m, is called Yellow Ribbon for Missing Children.    Photo credit: Pauline Dueck

High ceilings allow the heat to drift upwards and the wall of glass, open to the spacious back yard, brings the sunshine and grass indoors.  I know I should be looking more at the art–but for now I leave that to my sister who understands it better than I do, and I take in the details of the home–the polished ceramic tiles salvaged from a nearby property and reinstalled here, the hammock hooks that anchor the art, the tall wood doors leading to another part of the home. The master bedroom with its rustic stone wall and a sunken concrete tub.

‘Abyss” the massive painting above the bed sold the day of the Studio tour.

This is a house made for outdoor living in the sunshine of Merida.

I enjoyed everything about this home, and I resisted the urge to jump into the refreshing coolness of the pool.

We tear ourselves away and move on to yet another stunning studio–this one a new home and studio for David Aldrich and his partner. As with the previous home this one is made for easy living, with the doors, windows and light blurring the lines between being indoors and out.

Another beautiful home studio, this one belonging to David Aldrich, who spends half his time in Merida and the other half in Vancouver.

Personal portraits line the walls of the living room, and as my sister observed, appear to be joining the conversation with us.  David made the transition from being a technical illustrator when computers became part of illustrating, and his time and talent were freed, to be applied to canvas.

At home with David……       Photo credit: Pauline Dueck

Chatting with these artists in their homes and seeing their studios was an extraordinary treat. And so we continued on to meet Ernesto Novelo, whose large but modest studio in east Merida gives no indication of his place in the international art world.  I am most intrigued by his engravings..large pieces where he has mixed local sand with paint, covering the canvas with a generous layer of this medium.  He then etches deeply into the wet mixture, and adds other colours and fine details.

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Look closely at the lower edge of the photo to see the etching in the sand/paint medium and to appreciate the detail of Ernesto’s work.

Ernesto studied first to be a lawyer, but it was his love of making art that became his career.  He is now working in water colour, creating the most whimsical, charming pieces, and filling his days with mentoring young artists and creating opportunities for exhibitions…paying back what the art world provided to him.

Our final stop is a working studio for three young men, Juan Pueblo el Pelana, Irvim Victoria and CM Pliego.  It appears that this spot is where art, life, laughter and love abide in some sense of order and disorder.  It is a place where creativity abounds– there is art on canvas, on cardboard, on the walls and one which both Larry and I fell in love with–a reclaimed door or possibly window shutter with  the hinge still attached.  Juan Pueblo

CM Pleigo painted this lovely piece and then promptly traded it for something he couldn’t recall, because he wasn’t crazy about it.

It is also here where Joanne was drawn to a ‘Where is Waldo?” style canvas.  In it she found several cartoon characters that her now-adult children enjoyed.  She asked about and learned the back story: Pueblo and his friends used to host neighborhood fund raising parties–music, drink, dancing, but one day the police came and shut them down.  They did not have a license for such events.  So, Pueblo and one of his artist friends painted a picture showing all of the people he would invite to his party to end all parties.  Homer Simpson, A Ninja Turtle and so on.  The ultimate guest list.

What a creatively chaotic and wonderful idea from an artist’s mind!   Photo credit: Pauline Dueck

We leave the studio in the heat of the late afternoon, tired but inspired.  If it is possible, I am even more enamoured of Merida than before.  Next year I aim to be here for the studio tour and a home and garden tour.  A weekend is just not enough.

 

Note: Steven and Sanda’s home, Casablanca is available as a holiday rental at www.CasablancaLiving.com

Special thanks to Pauline for alerting us to the Studio Tour, and for sharing her photos and artist details with me, also to Joanne for her getting us to the studios efficiently. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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