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new ruelas print in progress

24 Oct

Julio Ruelas (1870-1907) was a Mexican artist from Zacatecas who is quite influential for the small body of work that he left behind in his short lifetime.

Ruelas traveled through Europe before studying art in Germany and is best known for his dark, symbolist imagery and fantasy-based subject matter. A well-known illustrator in his lifetime, upon his return to Mexico, he created paintings and prints for the magazine “Revista Moderna”  which appealed mostly to artists, poets and critics. He died before the beginning of the Mexican Revolution of “excesses” (tuberculosis) and was active at the Academia San Carlos (post-revolution it became the National Art School).

His most well-known image is known as either “The Critic” or “Criticism” and shows Ruelas, who most often depicted himself and his friends in his work, with what can only be described as a crazy looking hybrid beast that is part bat and part mosquito on his head (who is also wearing a top hat, a symbol, i’m going to assume, of the privileged bourgeoisie of the Porfiriato).  We can gather that the critic is not Ruelas’ friend.  In fact, it seems that criticism debilitates him to the point that he functions as if he’s had a lobotomy.

I’ve always been fascinated with the symbolists.  One of the first artists I can remember obsessing over is Gustave Moreau.  When I was nineteen and studying in Paris, I visited the Musee National Gustave Moreau.  Unlike Ruelas, Moreau left thousands of images behind after his 72 years of life.  You can pretty much rifle through them when you visit the museum.  Like Ruelas, Moreau also counted writers and critics as his friends and was a well-known illustrator.

I’ve not found any literature that physically links the two artists, and Ruelas arrived in Paris to carry out the last three years of his life at least five years after old man Moreau had passed away.  But, like most artists within the same movement, I’m sure that Ruelas was very familiar with Moreau’s work.  It sure seems like it when you compare their imagery.

I know that I am attracted to the symbolists because of the narrative nature of their work.  They are telling fantastical stories:  myths, legends and nightmares.  It appeals to the fatalistic aspect of my personality that I usually keep under wraps as a functioning adult.

I am drawn to the critic mainly because of that crazy little beast, but also because it addresses the part about being an artist that is the toughest for any sensitive person.  Sitting in a room listening to what seems to be remarks that tear apart your images, your vocabulary, your ideas, can be rather painful.  It can also be character building, however, and can improve your communication skills, prepare you for dealing with jerks and can teach you to b.s. about your work.  All of those skills are very useful as a professional artist (and as a woman).

I learned to almost relish critiques (though I often had to self-medicate before or after with a vodka cocktail) during graduate school because it was an opportunity to see how the art world looked at my work and for me to prove to myself whether or not I could handle the criticism.   I’m going to be honest, most of the time it wasn’t pretty.

I was not making conceptual art, I was not making big, beautiful paintings, I wasn’t making anything “sexy”.  I was making prints about my childhood, or immigrants, or the zapatistas in chiapas.  And it was all at some point called “didactic,” “too narrative” or “illustrative.”  Some of the dirtiest of dirty words in the contemporary art scene.

And sometimes it was called beautiful, honest, charming and just plain awesome.  You win some, you lose some.

It’s two years after I finished graduate school and my art career is not dead.  In fact, I would say it’s doing better than ever.  Granted,  it’s not flourishing at art fairs or in contemporary art museums like many of my colleagues’ work.  It also isn’t just sitting forgotten in a drawer or languishing in a trash bin.  It’s at galleries and boutiques, it’s selling at community fundraisers and in museum gift shops and, most importantly, it’s hanging on a number of walls of people whom I know and people who I don’t know.  My relatives have some of my work.   Poets and activists, teachers, students and all kinds of people collect my work.

I work at a museum and I see every type of art come through the front door.  I love every kind, from super traditional works on paper to super ephemeral contemporary pieces that are more markers of our current times.  Some of it (from both sides of the spectrum) will last, most of it won’t.  And all of my colleagues are very similar.  There is room on the art palate of most individuals to savor a little bit of everything.  Some people will love your work and others will hate it.  It’s a crap shoot.  Take the good advice and discard what is useless.

People tend to forget this in graduate school critiques.  Professional critics tend to forget this in art journals.  Or, if they don’t forget it, they forget to remind their readers that this fact is true:  As long as you put your work out there, you will have an audience.  Some of your colleagues will show at galleries, some at museums, some at libraries, universities, community art centers, in books, on buildings, in advertisements, on t-shirts or socks, in an impromptu show that someone throws up on a chainlink fence, on a tv set, you name it.  And they are all fulfilling the goal they set when they went into art:  to communicate with their audience.


My response to Ruelas. Image in progress.

So, in response to Ruelas and his aversion to criticism, I created this piece, tentatively titled “Self-Portrait:  Response to Ruelas.”  In it, criticism has created a nice compost heap in my head from which creativity springs.

Instead of a bat/mosquito, a hummingbird/colibri feeds from the plants the emerge from me.

It’s a piece I felt I had to make.  It addresses a number of things, times and memories for me.  It connects me to Ruelas, to Mexican history, to Moreau and Paris.  It connects me to the nineteen year old who heard at a critique that her work was boring, and then strove to work at it until it wasn’t.  It connects me to myself now.  A thirty-three year old woman who has always been an artist and always will be.


July Print Sale @ MOLAA

5 Jun

Okay, so for those of you who have been asking me where you can purchase my prints….I have a tangible, concrete, legit location for you that does not involve sending money via the internet, sending a check off to a mailbox you’ve never seen and that allows for us to interact!

From July 15th-18th, my prints will be on display and for sale during the Museum of Latin American Art’s “Destination Peru” trunk show.  I will have a couple of tables set up with framed prints and racks of unframed prints for sale plus a number of blocks, tools, etc. just for display.  I will be available on Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday to talk to the public about my work, the process of printmaking, why all the people I make have such round faces, why there are always cats in my prints and why, recently, I’ve begun incorporating German into my work.  Or, we can talk about food, traveling and grumpy great-grandmothers.

The museum is hosting a couple of events in association to the event–and they vary in scope, cost and entertainment–so check it out:

Thursday night (I will be there), July 15th, MOLAA hosts it’s monthly “Happy Hour” called En la Noche at MOLAA.  It includes complimentary booze tasting, antojitos and margaritas for sale in the cafe, live music, gallery tours and my prints for sale in the lobby!  Admission is $10 if you don’t have a museum membership (Membership begins at $25 for students and educators!).

If you can’t find a babysitter or you’re just not into the whole happy hour scene, MOLAA will also host a Peruvian Independence Day festival as a part of Target Free Sundays on Sunday, July 18th.  ADMISSION IS FREE to this festival and includes music and dance performances, face painting and art workshops for the entire family!  I will not be available to tend to my table on the 18th as I will be coordinating the festival, but my mom has agreed to watch the table and answer questions about her hija the entire day (what a lovely mom!).  So you’ll get to talk to someone in my family who remembers all of the stuff I’m chronicling in my work.

All day Friday and Saturday, I plan to be at my little tables, peddling my wares–so please stop by!

The exhibitions that will be featured in the exhibitions during the sale are

Manchuria:  Peripheral Vision (a Felipe Ehrenberg retrospective) and Mariana Castillo Deball (installation and prints).

For more information about molaa, visit their website or give them a call at 562-437-1689.

More updates as the date approaches!

Solo Exhibition: February 16-March 9

17 Oct

I’ve confirmed a solo show at La Sierra University in late winter/early spring.  The exhibition will include work from my thesis exhibition plus new work.  It will also be in conjunction with a community printmaking workshop held in the printmaking studio at La Sierra University’s art department.

I’m really looking to transform this into an opportunity to educate people about the history and processes of printmaking, so it will also include an “educational” aspect as an intro to the exhibition.  I was very impressed by an exhibition of Goya’s “Disasters of War” that I saw in Barcelona which included a short intro to printmaking in the room adjacent to the gallery.  It was still lacking in explaining the process, however, as I found myself having to explain to my mother–step by step–the process of printmaking. 

For the upcoming exhibition, I will be working with a designer from the department to create text panels with images from my own workshops and studio work that pictorally and verbally describe the process of printmaking.  I’ve noticed–from just telling people what I do when they ask–that the general public has a very vague idea of what printmaking is, though they are SURROUNDED by prints on a daily basis.  My goal is to increase the visibility of printmaking, to have people understand it and to hopefully turn a  new generation on to the medium.  Printmaking provides so many possibilities in mark-making and in the distribution of art!  We need a resurgence of the dissemination of images and information–especially in these times!

More info will be posted as I work out the kinks of this exhibition.


7 Oct

This Dia de los Muertos, I am happy to participate in a group show with a number of up-and-coming as well as established Los Angeles based artists.

Ritual Duality:  A Dance with Death opens on October 18th at the Mexican Cultural Institute of Los Angeles and runs through November 4th. 

The reception takes place on Saturday, November 1st from 6-11 p.m. with live music by Buyepongo, a local cumbia conjunto.

The Mexican Cultural Institute is located at la Placita Olvera (Olvera Street) accessible via the Red Line or by bus!

Dia de los Muertos

22 Sep

I didn’t begin commemorating Dia de los Muertos until about six years ago.  I was not raised in the Mexican tradition, my father’s family being out of the picture my entire life.  We moved out of Los Angeles before I turned ten, into the suburbs where the only skeletons come out on halloween (and are never smiling) and so I missed out on the special day we pay homage to the deceased.

I don’t remember exactly when I first became fully aware of Dia de los Muertos, but I suspect it was in an art history course in college.  I vaguely remember a documentary about mexican folk traditions, becoming utterly mesmerized by the marigolds and old women sweeping the graves of their dead.  I’ve always been very interested in my own dead:  the relatives that make up the part of my family I am not familiar with.  My paternal grandmother, Maria Luisa Noble, may still be alive somewhere in Pachuca or she may be dead.  I don’t know what she looks like but, from the stories that have been (maliciously) passed down about her, I find this woman fascinating.  I feel the same about la Dorita, a grand-aunt that died as a baby, and la tia Cata, a grand-aunt who made her way across the slums of Peru delivering babies in exchange for chickens by kerosene lamplight.  

My work is about family histories in general, homages to those–alive and dead–who make up my personal narratives.  I built an altar once–dedicated to my very much alive younger sister when she graduated from high school.  I am sure it creeped out more than one relative, but it was a way of expressing my pride and love for her, in the tradition of the Mexican lineage we have never really been a part of.

Thus, I approach Dia de los Muertos as an outsider–from the inside.  I feature skulls regularly in my work because I feature a lot of dead people (literally and figuratively), people who are no longer a part of my life but have made an impact.  I see skeletons as a symbol of change and passing from one existence to the other and, of course, in the usual Western tradition:  as a symbol of mortality (the skull of adam!).  I see them as chubby, jubilant, living and plastic.  I see them as babies and mothers and tios and tias.  They become real people to me with histories and lives and loves.  And, similar as they may seem, they are all unique.

It is in this spirit that I will be participating in a couple of events this October/November, that you are very much invited to participate in!

Dia de los Muertos Printmaking Workshop!

Saturday, October 11

11 a.m.-2 p.m.

All materials Included:  $35

Museum of Latin American Art

Join me as we explore the linocut utilizing the iconic image of the calavera!  Create a singular character or a pantheon of characters that will interact in the scene that you create for them.  I will instruct participants on image development, transferring the image onto the plate, proper cutting methods, safe cutting, inking and printing on a variety of papers.  Participants will create a small edition of prints to trade, give away to loved ones or sell!

for more info: 562-216-4108

Dia de los Muertos Exhibition at the Mexican Cultural Institute (Placita Olvera)

October 17-November 4, 2008

Closing Reception:  November 1st

More info TBA
























Once again my colleague, Jennifer Gutierrez Morgan, is organizing a Dia de los Muertos Exhibition.  Last year, we exhibited here in Long Beach at the Viento y Agua Gallery in an exhibition titled Crossing Over:  Una Nueva Existencia.  This year, it will take place at the Mexican Cultural Institute at la Placita Olvera (Olvera Street) in downtown Los Angeles. 

The exhibition opens with a “soft” opening and closes with a large celebration on the 1st!  I will be posting more information as it becomes available to me!

For everyone in Long Beach and the surrounding areas: I’d like to invite you all to participate in the month-long Dia de los Muertos activities going on at the Museum of Latin American Art.  Every Sunday (minus the 19th) we will host Dia de los Muertos themed workshops!  These workshops are FREE and Open to the Public!  On November 2nd, molaa will host it’s own Dia de los Muertos Family Festival with entertainment, food, workshops for adults and children, an altar contest and a muerto look-alike contest.  For more information, visit

These are pretty much my Dia de los Muertos activities this year.  I hope that some of you will sign up for the workshop–it should be a lot of fun!  And I hope to see the rest of you at Olvera Street!

A couple of things that may have slipped past…

3 Jul

El Mundo, Linocut, 2006

I’ve been really busy lately.  Working full-time plus as an educator and administrator both at the Museum of Latin American Art as well as the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, wrapping up my MFA (the second draft of my thesis is due at the end of the week) and generally trying to balance life, relationships, etc. while still having a bit of fun.

I am attempting to catch up on everything and am doing a decent job about it, but a couple of things may have slipped that you’d be interested in:

I had a review of my MFA show (or rather the work in my MFA show) in the District Weekly of Long Beach. Kevin Ferguson, a friend of mine and a journalist, wrote the article.  It was a very kind article, and allowed me to really read new things into my work that I had not necessarily acknowledged before.  You can read it by clicking here.  The title is “Telling Stories.”  Quite apt.

The second thing that I almost forgot about, was the fact that I was honored with a Beverly G. Alpay Award for Working Visual Artists this year.  This is very exciting, as I am in dire need of a few things (such as flat files, paper, ink, etc.) and this cash award will alleviate the pain establishing a new little studio can inflict upon an emerging artist.  I receive this on July 25th at the Palos Verdes Art Center.

Speaking of emerging as an artist, I was lucky enough to make another sale over the weekend at the Catalyst Summer Art Annual in downtown Los Angeles.  Heidi Spring, a painter and member of the collective made this connection for me, by showing my artwork to curator Liz Brizzi.  I was thus invited to participate at the last minute and actually almost didn’t do it!  Thanks to a conversation with Suzanne Justice, another painter who I happened to run into at Costco while taking my passport photos, I decided to just go ahead with it.  

The results were the sale of a copy of “El Mundo,” which is based on an actual photograph of me and my sister dressed in our “ballet” leotards, a favorite costume of ours when we were kids.  We are pointing at a globe in which only Los Angeles exists.  The freeways, river, ocean, our church and apartment are shown.  Holding the globe is the calavera of Mrs. Bowden, our downstairs neighbor from Highland Park.  She gave us the globe in order for us to expand our knowledge of the world and to see what lay beyond our little neighborhood.  It did put a curiosity in us to explore the world, and gave my mom the itch to travel.  Thus began our adventures in a small apartment in front of the 110.  

It is a piece that is dear to me, and I am happy to let it go.

Lastly, I have found time to read again and am making my way through Across the Line, a catalogue of the complete works of Jacob Lawrence.  Lawrence, an African American artist that came of age during the height of the WPA projects in Harlem, is my absolute favorite artist.  He tells stories and depicts everyday situations in the lives of black folks in the US in the 20’s and 30’s.  Whether relating the plight of black working women in New York, or telling the story of lynching in the south, his work is not only sincere but also technically sound and aesthetically pleasing.  A true Modernist, his compositions appear to be simple yet are extraordinarily well thought-out, his shapes are bold and engaging with a complex tension between the background and the foreground.  Most importantly (to me), his work relates a narrative of supreme importance:  the history of African Americans in the United States in a beautiful way.  It would be my true dream to become as relevant and prolific an artist as Jacob Lawrence.  

The Whitney has a great and informative site on him:

That is pretty much what is going on right now.  Things are moving, as usual.  And moving in the right direction.

New Studio

25 Jun

In making the transition from student to professional artist, I have begun working out of a studio collective in Signal Hill.  

I am now sharing a space with about five other artists, including fellow printmaker Natalie Price.  We are located in an industrial section of signal hill, only a few miles from my home.  I am attempting to visit the studio at least once a week.  Hopefully, by the time the summer is over, I will have established a regular working schedule.  

The collective is in the midst of attempting to organize an open studio/reception in late July.   As the date approaches, I will have more info to share.