The Duality of the Cosmos: Water and its Landscapes

Interview of Guadalupe Aguilar by Ernestina Yépiz, translation by Dianne Hofner Saphiere

This article first appeared in Spanish in the online magazine Fogones: La poética del paladarI share this translation here because Guadalupe is a terrific local artist whose work I much admire. I encourage VidaMaz readers to get to know her work. Guadalupe also makes and sells kombucha here in town.

The installation in Culiacán Photos by the artist

The work of Guadalupe Aguilar, together with and in each of the creations that compose it—which in each one is complete also—establish a dialogue, almost an intimate conversation, with the landscape, poetry, writing, the creative process and creation itself. In this context her artistic vision is to permit yourself to be touched by the subtle, experiment the sublime and get a hold of the ungraspable: that which is so fleeting that we can only feel it and make it our own at the instant or sum of moments of the aesthetic experience.

Guadalupe Aguilar holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and a Master’s in Art History from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of UNAM. Her creative production has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In her work as a contemporary artist she explore the relationship between art and nature; she does the same with philosophy and poetry. In her work she uses forms of expression and manifestation including installations, video, weaving, writing, drawing and sculpture.

Several exhibitions stand out in her artistic career: Über das gluck or The way of the possible, at the Cultural Institute of Mexico in Austria in 2005; The water in a thread in the Kunsthalle Krems, Austria in 2006; Words in flight, in La sala Naranja in Valencia, Spain in 2007; in 2008 Agudeza or Acuity at the Huuto Gallery in Helsinski, Finland; Inverted shipwreck in Culiacán, in 2011; Filiform Suns in the Contemporary Gallery at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana in Mexico City in 2012; Armonía or Harmony in the Gaals, in Culiacán, Sinaloa in 2016; Rangoli-Solitaire in Mysore, India in 2016.

Currently, in one of the galleries of the Museum of Art of Sinaloa, Guadalupe Aguilar is exhibiting Azul profundo or Deep Blue, a sculptural piece in which she dialogues with the marine watercolors and drawings of Maestro Edgardo Coghlan. That very intimate conversation is the theme of this interview. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

What sparked the idea of creating Deep Blue?
It all started with my reflections and readings on our inner consciousness of time, precepts taken from the philosophy of Edmund Hüsserl, primarily. The idea initially was to make a cut in the surface of the sea, with the aim of detaining the incessant coming and going of the sea’s dermis, but not it an image but rather in an object, and that is how the piece came to be. I now live so close to the ocean that these past two years I have reflected on the infinity of its surface and all it holds.

The environment and the landscape always influence.
Yes, although if I go a bit further back, I believe this idea began to germinate in my mind in 2006 or 2007, when I lived in front of a mighty river. The movement of the current got me to thinking about the fleetingness of nature and its ephemeral forms. So, I captured these thoughts in a video and sculpture. The project was titled, El agua en un hiloThe water in a thread, and it was comprised of two reticular cuts in the flow of the current, where the common thread between the two pieces, the video and the sculpture, is the Danube, in a cube and in pixels.

Certainly, contemplating the water in a thread leads us to the abstraction of thinking about the flow of time.
Yes, both pieces pose an exercise around the idea of time and invite us to think about the present, the result equates the internal weight of the past and the future. The here and now.

Why did you choose the Masin (Museum of Art of Sinaloa) for the Deep Blue exhibition?
In 2011 I exhibited the Otra forma or Other Form there, a piece measuring two square meters and consisting of a grid of pins as a support for geometric parts of the plant world. There I saw for the first time the marinas that Master Edgardo Coghlan made, which tour part of the Sinaloan landscape and geography. Since then, I have dialogued with his work and Deep Blue is the result of that conversation. I consider, moreover, that it is important to explore the Sinaloan landscape, which during this long confinement has been denied to us. It is a good moment to revalue our environment and promote its care.

Does Deep Blue mark a distance from your previous work? I ask not in a conceptual or thematic way, but rather for the type of materials you utilized: paraffin, crystal, metal, steels cables and LED lamps.
Distance in the sense of moving away from, no. I actually think that I always repeat myself, including with the type of materials. In addition to the piece described in question one, that corresponds to an installation exhibited in Kunsthalle de Krems, Austria in 2006, I’ve also made drops of resin and clung to the idea of stopping the path of the water drops. Once I made rain with needles and other times sculptures of resin or paraffin. The drops of resin were never exhibited, but the persistent rain of needles was part of the Soles filiformes exhibition which took place in the Contemporary Gallery of the Cloister of Sor Juana.

I had the opportunity to see your poetic-conceptual, visual and auditory proposal. I remember you used paraffin. A lot of time has passed since then.
Yes, quite a bit, I believe; it was in 2012.

What was the last exhibition you had prior to Deep Blue?
I believe Deep Blue is an obvious continuation of the exhibition mounted just a few months ago in Bauprés Gallery in Mazatlán, which included objects that detain the fugitive forms of the landscape surrounding my Mazatlecan habitat. That exhibit was entitled The Permanence of the Ephemeral.

What artistic projects are you currently working on?
A huge imprint of the tormented sea and on stopping the mind.

Street Art Tour in Concordia

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers, Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being part of this community, for helping do good work here in Mazatlán, for enjoying the beauty and the people of our adopted city, for encouraging my photography and my writing.

Today I am joined in wishing you happiness by Chema—José Manuel Velarde Chávez, of Concordia; his wife Claudia Belén; and their son Angel Adán. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Chema is a graphic designer. By day he works in Mesillas on CAD programs on a computer, designing furniture and sizing parts so that the carpenters can do their magic. In the early mornings and evenings, however, Chema loves to draw and paint. He wakes up before dawn, turns on some music, and paints in his patio while the rest of the family slumbers.

A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to spruce up the street where he lives. His wife’s family owns most of the two block street, so he asked his in-laws for permission to paint murals on the alley walls.

The first mural he painted was on a door that no one uses anymore. He painted a charro or Mexican cowboy kissing a pretty lady in 2018. “Aw, you painted it for your wife,” I asked. Chuckling, he quickly caught on and said, “yes, yes, that’s right!”

In 2019 Chema added a catrina for Day of the Dead: she happily dances with the all-too-true caption, “In Mexico death is living culture.” This is a link to him painting the catrina.

After those two wall murals, Chema painted a window with some flower pots, then the wings that every town now seems to have to have for Instagram photo ops, his version of Frida (faceless, as he reminds me “her eyebrows are her distinctive trait”), and my personal favorite, a gorgeously colorful xolo or xoloitzcuintli dog, the intelligent, hairless pets of the Aztecs.

The family lives on the now very picturesque Callejón Nana Chon— Encarnación Valdéz Avenue, in this beautiful historic mining town called Concordia.

Chema tells me that he and Claudia have been pleasantly surprised at the response to his artwork, and the fact that it appears to be contagious. Residents of another nearby street have now painted and installed benches, and he’s thinking they are planning to paint murals as well. He hopes that the street art might provide another attraction for the busloads of tourists who visit here to tour the church and enjoy a raspado (shaved ice) in the plaza.

The couple and their family decorated the callejón or alleyway at Christmastime. Chema tells me that neighbors and townspeople came over to donate decorations they had to add to the display, so it became a real community effort. When we visited last week the alley was all decked out in Valentine’s finery. They even light it up at night for lovers to enjoy—evidently the callejón is known as lover’s lane! Soon they will be putting up superheroes in preparation for Día del Niño or Children’s Day.

The most challenging aspect of his voluntary beautification project? Finding the time to paint. He works 8-6 every day, till 1 on Saturdays. When he comes home he’s tired. In the winter the sun sets early, and he can’t paint in the dark. But he loves painting the murals in any spare time he can find, and Angel Adán loves watching him do it.

When we visited Chema had a Quetzalcoatl plumed serpent (which he’d drawn to resemble a dragon) ready to begin painting on Sunday. After that he hopes to paint a totem of the busts of three Aztec warriors: a jaguar, an eagle and a woman. I know I can’t wait to see either of these newest paintings! He is also planning a homage to Concordian musicians, including Greg’s favorite, Roberto Junior (“El Coco No”).

On Sundays Chema and his family open a “bazaar” or art market in the alleyway, where they sell handicrafts including painted roof tiles. He has painted since he was 15 years old; he loves it. As a young child he drew. He remembers his father loved to draw, and when he entered elementary school, his Dad bought him a set of colored pencils. It was his favorite gift ever.

I met Chema because my ahijado, Carlos, shared with me photos of Chema’s very colorful Mexican-themed street art, and I then got in touch with him in hopes of watching him paint. I invited Greg to join me for a ride to the mountains for the afternoon, and we found our spirits soaring from meeting a lovely young family so committed to spreading good cheer in Concordia and beyond. I trust you might join us in heading up to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Nana Chon
Who is the alley named after? Quite an incredible woman, actually. You can see a statue of her in front of the town hall on the plaza. Incarnación (“Chon” for short) Valdez was the town midwife, a strong, wise woman who singlehandedly stood up to the French army. You see, the French had their eyes on the gold that came out of the mines in Concordia and Copala. The men and older boys of both towns banded together in an effort to defeat French colonization of this area. The women and children remained in town, unprotected. When the French army arrived, they herded the local population into the homes along this street and threatened to harm the women and children unless they told the army where the men and boys were. Nana Chon stood up to them, encouraging everyone to remain silent. Her bravado gave them hope. Fortunately, I am told, the women and children were not killed or harmed, the location where the men lay in wait for the army was kept secret, and the Sinaloans were able to defeat the French.

Concordia is an excellent day trip from Mazatlán, just one hour southeast. The church and plaza are gorgeous, El Granero restaurant is delicious and was very careful about observing sanitary protocols during the pandemic, and you’ll enjoy walking around the quaint streets and visiting with the friendly residents. Chema paints portraits and would welcome work for hire; you can contact him through his Facebook page.

Home Update February 1st

Jorge, Dianne and Zata

It’s a new month! Can you believe it’s already the second one of this new year?! Where has time gone? There are so many people in town for the Serie del Caribe; please take precautions for your health and safety, as hospital occupancy and COVID infections continue on the rise.

This past week we finished up the basic structure of the Home for Juan Manuel! It looks great! The inside walls are now plastered, the cement floor is finished, and a hole for the septic tank has been dug. A woman has kindly donated a ceiling fan with a wall switch, so we will use this one for this project and keep the hotel’s ceiling fan for a future project (this one is much nicer). We are coordinating with the authorities to have electrical and water connected to the house. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This coming week Zata will seal the floor, put waterproofing on the roof and outdoor walls, finish the hot water connection and build a platform for the tinaco. If time remains, he will work on bringing electricity from the pole to the house and begin to install a drainage system in the back of the house for used water. A friend of Yolanda’s will come to build the septic tank, making it out of block in the front so it’s more accessible for the truck that will pump it out.

The biggest challenge we’ve had for several weeks has been an inability to secure the house, which stops us from finishing up anything inside. A woman has kindly and generously volunteered to install windows, but she has been out of town for a few weeks. The wooden door we got from the hotel needs to be resized, but we can’t find a carpenter to do that for us affordably. Without an ability to secure the house, we can’t install finishes such as sinks, switches and toilets, as they will get robbed. Thus, the five of us met today: Greg, Jorge, Yolanda, Zata and me, and decided to bite the bullet and buy security bars for the two missing windows and a security door for the front. Once secured, Zata should be able to quickly proceed with installing interior fixtures.

Bless you all! This is a love-filled, charitable project for a very good cause, and your generosity and cooperation are making it possible. Thank you. Should you or anyone you know care to help out, the ways to donate are:

  • Click the “Donate” link in the right-hand column on this VidaMaz.com website, and pay via PayPal.
  • Go to any OXXO and donate to BanCoppel account 4169-1603-7041-0699 (photo below) in the name of Yolanda Medina.

  • Canadians who prefer to email money can send it to Jeanette Leraand: jleraand@gmail.com
  • Contact Yolanda via WhatsApp at 669 431 4529 to arrange a time to meet and give her your donation.
  • Contact me at dianne@vidamaz.com and I’ll pick up your donation.

A Home for Juan Manuel Update Jan 26th

The great news last week included that so many of you were once again so very generous with your donations. Thank you!! You want this house built and finished as much as I do and almost as much as Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo! Funds received to date are 108,797 pesos. Total paid out thus far is 68,687, with a balance remaining of 40,110. This is terrific news, as last week we had gotten very tight. 

Yolanda and I were able to go to the Aguamarina Hotel on Wednesday and pick out a nice selection of the things they are selling (they are closing their doors as the hotel will be demolished and a huge development á la Camino al Mar will go in its place)—generously donated to us free of charge. We were able to get a couple of wooden doors (that need to be resized for our purposes), a ceiling fan, a bunch of electrical outlets and switches, light fixtures, a plastic table, and a couple of tambos or plastic garbage cans to use to store water. We also got quite a bit of bedding and kitchen items which we can put to good use in this and other projects.

This week’s plan is to plaster the interior walls of the house and begin installing electrical and plumbing finishes, including the kitchen and bathroom sinks and toilet. The lady who has donated these items has also promised us her old tinaco, which we won’t get for a couple more weeks. Thank you!!!

This morning I received a note from a lady who has most kindly and generously offered to conduct a fundraiser amongst her family and friends to raise the money needed to build the wheelchair ramps that I had hoped to build for both Juan Manuel and his neighbor, Don José. As of last week, I’d given up on that dream. Bless her. I need to get her estimates on cost, so she knows how much to aim for in her campaign.

Thank you all! The house is a solid structure, with a roof and drainage. We have what we need for the interior; now we just need to finish that up and then install windows and doors. We are getting closer! If you or a friend or neighbor would like to help out with this project, the ways to donate are listed at the end of the original post.

Lunchtime at the Work Site

I have procrastinated too long on this one. As you all know, construction of Camino al Mar, the huge new commercial and housing development where Dairy Queen used to be in the Golden Zone, is finally and after much delay almost complete. Every time we drive through the GZ at lunch time, I marvel at the hundreds of workers there hurrying to grab lunch from the dozens of food trucks and carts. The hustle and bustle has been calling my camera for lunch. But getting away at lunchtime, somehow, has been really difficult.

Well, today I finally broke away from work to take some photos. Sadly, there are far fewer workers these days, and also far fewer food trucks, so much less hustle and bustle. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy my 45 minutes with these hard-working women and men! The hardest part, as always in Mazatlán, is to prevent my subjects from vamping for the camera. It is really a challenge here to get casual, natural photographs of people as they are all so friendly and obliging. I of course had about a dozen of them ask me where their photo would be, so here are the picks of the litter, so to speak. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I do love how housewives create pop-up businesses here to service laborers. The food looked absolutely delectable! The workers raved about the quality of the food, and it is all very affordable. I was offered several samples, but was too busy taking photos during the short lunch hour to waste time eating, lol.

I trust you’ll enjoy these glimpses into daily working life here during COVID. I was very pleased to see all the masks in use; not universal, by any means, though every worker had one. While I love my birds, it was really nice to take photos of humans for a change! It’s been way too many months! Don’t worry; I kept my distance and my mask on. These photos are taken with my zoom lens. Stay home as much as you can and stay safe! Hospitals are full and cases are on the uptick.