Clothes Keeping Tradition

Doña Maria Esther Zuno de Echeverria (1924-1999) was so concerned about the increasing custom in the 1970s of Mexicans to forego, and therefore to possibly forget traditional clothing, that she commissioned artisans to clothe dolls wearing traditional clothing from all the regions of Mexico. These artists created clothes worn for special occasions such as ceremonial dances as well as the clothes traditionally worn for every day.

The Museum of the Revolution (MUREF) here in Juarez has just opened a display of these dolls in a show called Vestidos de Tradición Por Amor à México.

Filling the main floor of the museum the glass cases show the wide diversity of clothing worn with an explanation of when the clothes were worn, and the and how the clothes for the individual maniquíns were made whether by hand or by machine.

Fascinating display which runs through September 22. – david Sokolec

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Uncaged Art, Caged bodies


At the entrance to “Uncaged Art” we are told there is a saying that the Quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala, cannot be caged or it will die.

This exhibit at the Centennial Museum on the UTEP campus shows the work of mostly Central American immigrant teenagers ranging in age from 13-17 who were kept at the camp in Tornillo. This was the largest detention center for children in the US with some 2500 children being kept at its height before closing this past January.

With the help of two instructors, detainees made art with what was at hand. The instructors suggested they create images which reminded them of home. The result is a series of drawings and sculptures with scenes of the quetzal, churches and home life.

In many ways heartbreaking, yet also a testament to the resilience of these kids in what must have been an unimaginably difficult emotional time.

The exhibit is up through October. – david sokolec

Haunting images of a troubled land.

For the last number of years when people think of Tamaulipas, if they think of it at all, it is probably only as a place of violence. However much like Juárez, which often suffers much the same sort of reputation, there is more to the area than the horrible things people do to each other.

Local artist Jair Tapia was awarded a three months arts residency there and has produced a haunting work entitled “Espacios en Vigilia” which was shown last weekend at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez.

This was Tapia’s first visit to Tamaulipas and his work is something of a visual tone poem reflecting his impressions of Victoria and the surrounding area. Four projectors present a simultaneous stream of images. This is not a straight forward portrait in the usual sense. In fact, there seems to be little or nothing which even tells us where we are. There are no people or well-known landmarks to indicate geographical specificity. This is the polar opposite of those old travel shows of the This is Tamaulipas! variety. Instead the mostly pastoral scenes create an impression of a mostly beautiful area, but the background music as well as the images themselves which, though often beautiful, nevertheless give a sense something is off, that there is something definitely seriously amiss. There is a sense, if not specifically of danger, then of foreboding running through the series.

I found that long after I left the museum the images, or more specifically, the mood of disquiet evoked stayed with me, and actually continued to grow stronger throughout the rest of the evening.

Through this series of seemingly random images located somewhat out of time and place, Tapia has been able to evoke the sense of both beauty and danger he felt while living there, and has enabled us to feel something of the same.

Unfortunately, for technical reasons, this will only be shown once more this upcoming weekend, but hopefully he will be able to find a way to get the necessary equipment and venues to show it in other places. It is a beautiful and haunting work and deserves a larger audience.-David Sokolec.

Border art themed openings

There are two openings this focused on border issues.

Tonight (Friday) Metalworker extraordinaire and good friend Ale Carrillo-Estrada is opening her solo show “Itinerant Dialogues” at Xolo Gallery 2800 N Piedras from 6 -9 pm. A too brief summary is that she fuses carefully constructed jewelry and other metal items with themes concerning immigration and border culture.

Tomorrow from 2-4 at the Chihuahua Desert Museum on the UTEP campus there will be the opening of “Uncaged Art”. This important and probably heartbreaking show is the art work of 13-17 year old immigrant children who were held in the detention center at Tornillo. Current UTEP President Diane Natalicio as well as other special guests will speak at 3 and I’m hoping it will show that you can cage the body but not the spirit. – David Sokolec

Sensory Riches at Museo de Arte

The Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez here has a new director, Christian Diego Diego, so what better for an opening show than to go back to basics.

In her show “Cromática”, Tania Candiani explores the three primary colors as a means of showing and helping preserve indigenous traditions and craftsmanship as well as showing how colors, in this case, the red, yellow and blue primary ones, can and should interact with all of our other senses. She also wants to remind us of how the making of these colors for textiles and other things is an interaction between the fabricated and the natural world. As curator Blanca de la Torre notes red dye traditionally came from the Cochineal bug and therefore from the animal world, anil blue (azul anil) from plant life and the yellow pigments were made from the mineral world. So there is this man-made natural world interchange.

Each room in the exhibit is devoted to one of these three colors and provide information on how these colors are made as well as ways of interacting with the items to heighten our other senses. In the main “red” room there is an enormous loom hooked up to a loudspeaker and at the opening we were treated to a symphony of sorts by the playing of the loom. In the yellow room there are yellow birds, which are actually ocarina which can be played by means of an attached bellows. These birds are reminiscent of whistles often found in the south of Mexico . For years I used to have a black clay bird whistle I bought in Chiapas.

Each room also features a series of hand embroidery with quotes about the specific color featured. There is also detailed information as to how these colors are formed, videos showing traditional methods of dye making and large hanging examples of wool both dyed and undyed.

All of this is specifically related to native cultures and I believe at some point during the show there will be dances by the members of the Raramuri community. The show itself runs until June 16.

This is a really exciting show and a great beginning for this new chapter in the museum’s history. – david sokolec

Margarita Cabrera Named Texas Artist of the Year

Congrats to Margarita Cabrera for being named Texas Artist of the year by Art league of Houston. The former El Paso resident was cited for her work deeply involving communities and inviting the audience as active participant in her projects. She will be given a huge solo show later this year and a gala dinner. You can read more about it at: https://www.artleaguehouston.org/2019-ALH-awards – david sokolec

Busy arts week in Juarez

This week (April 1-7) is going to be pretty busy for cultural activities.

Monday is the opening for the week long Fiesta de los Libros book fair at Centro Cultural de la Frontera. There will be presentations, workshops and films. This will also be one of the venues for the usual wonderful Ambulante documentary series, which has been travelling throughout Mexico and will finally open here. The series begins at the center on Friday April 5,but for more info and other locations check out http://www.ambulante.org.http://www.ambulante.org

On Wednesday this month’s Charlas Fotográfico kicks off at Cafe San Angel with Juarez born Mexico City based photographer Luis de la Luz. The talk starts at 7. For more info on the rest of this month’s talks check out the Facebook page.

On Thursday night at 7 the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez will open Tania Candelaria’s show Chromatica.

On Saturday from 2-7 there is Festival de los Sueños at Plaza Cervantino.

And, of course, the the show on King Tut which opened Friday at Centro Cultural Paso del Norte continues with free admission on Wednesdays.

So there’s no excuse for staying home.-david sokolec