Jul 142016

During a month-long trip to Chapala with his wife in June 1975 to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, Walden Swank painted a prize-winning picture of the lake. The painting, which won best-of-show and a purchase award in a show entitled Two Flags Festival of the Arts in Douglas, Arizona, now hangs in a museum south of the border in Agua Prieta. Swank later did a second painting of the lake, shown here, as a gift for his wife.

Walden Swank. Lake Chapala. 24 x 48". 1975

Walden Swank. Lake Chapala. 24 x 48″. 1975. Reproduced by kind permission of the artist.

Walden Swank was born in Kansas on 2 June 1933, but the family moved to Colorado when he was in his teens. Swank attended Littleton High School in Colorado and then served in the U.S. Navy from 1951 to 1955. While in the Navy,  he designed the insignia for Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron Eleven. This proved to be the start of a long career in design and fine art.

After leaving the service, Swank studied Graphic Design and Illustration at the Colorado Institute of Art, from where he graduated in 1956. His first regular job was at The American Greeting Card Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Swank then worked for a series of advertising agencies and graphic design firms, before forming his own company, Design Studios, Inc., in 1964.

In 1988 he began a career in fine art after additional training at the Art Student’s League of Denver. He retired completely from commercial art and design in 1995.

His work has been in numerous group and solo exhibitions across the U.S., and won numerous awards. His shows include University of New Mexico; Two Flags Festival of the Arts; Lake Worth 47th Anniversary; Taos Connections Art Gallery; Poudre Valley Art League’s 29th Annual Art Exhibition; La Ventana Art Gallery; Colorado State Fair; The 10th Annual Pikes Peak Watercolor Society Exhibition; The Heartland Exhibition, Merriam, Kansas; Westbank Art Gallery, Austin, Texas; Marks & Marks Art Gallery, Denver, Colorado; Taos National Exhibition of American Watercolor VIII; Taos Art Museum at the Fechin House; and Bold Expressions, Northern California Arts, Inc., Sacramento Fine Arts Center.

His work has been published in Southwest Art magazine and is in several corporate collections including Johns Manville and The Motorola Corporation.

Walden Swank sells his work via his Waldens Fine Art store on ebay.


My thanks to Walden Swank for permission to reproduce his painting of Lake Chapala, and for information contained in an exchange of emails in May 2012.

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Jul 072016

Photographer Michael Heinichen (born ca 1944) is best known for his portrait of Dave Sheridan, used on the cover of the first issue (June/July 1972)] of The Rip Off Review of Western Culture, published in the summer of 1972. The Rip Off Review of Western Culture was a short-lived underground comics magazine from San Francisco that featured the work of many noteworthy underground artists and writers.

Cover of "The Rip Off Review of Western Culture", Vol 1 #1 (June/July 1972). Photo by Michael Heinichen

Cover of The Rip Off Review of Western Culture, Vol 1 #1 (June/July 1972). Photo by Michael Heinichen

Heinichen lived in Mexico for some time – certainly more than he originally intended. His link to Ajijic is via Beverly Johnson who was already living there. In 1969, Johnson returned to California to renew her tourist papers, and met and fell in love with Heinichen. Early in 1970, they returned to Ajijic where Heinichen taught Johnson photography and darkroom techniques.

Some of his work was included in the “Fiesta de Arte” in May 1971 at the home of Frances and Ned Windham at Calle 16 de Septiembre #33 in Ajijic. More than 20 artists took part in that event, including Daphne Aluta; Mario Aluta; Beth Avary; Charles Blodgett; Antonio Cárdenas; Alan Davoll; Alice de Boton; Robert de Boton; Tom Faloon; John Frost; Dorothy Goldner; Burt Hawley; Peter Huf; Eunice (Hunt) Huf; Lona Isoard; John Maybra Kilpatrick; Gail Michael; Bert Miller; Robert Neathery; John K. Peterson; Stuart Phillips; Hudson Rose; Mary Rose; Jesús Santana; Walt Shou; Showaltar (?); Sloane; Eleanor Smart; Robert Snodgrass; and Agustín Velarde.

By summer 1972, Heinichen had amassed a significant body of work from his travels around Mexico and had also separated from Johnson and moved to Jocotepec to live with his new girlfriend, Laura Katzman.

In September 1972, Allyn Hunt, writing in the Guadalajara Reporter, reviewed a month-long, two-man show at El Tejabán in Ajijic of work by Heinichen and young Mexican artist Adolfo Riestra. Hunt clearly liked the “sharp, many-toned photographs of Michael Heinichen featuring Mexican beach- and mountain-scapes.” Heinichen had taken his camera all over Mexico, “seizing those images one always hopes for but seldom gets…. The delicate range of greys in these pictures is proof of Heinichen’s discerning eye and technical nimbleness.” (Guadalajara Reporter, 23 September 1972)

The following year, it seems that Heinichen and Katzman visited Columbia. On their return to Mexico City, they were arrested at Mexico City international airport and charged with possession of a kilo of cocaine between them. They were each sentenced to seven and a half years in jail.

Heinichen was one of 68 American and 7 Canadian prisoners at the American wing of Lecumberri men’s prison who held a 13-day hunger strike in 1974, which drew press attention. Described at the time as aged 30 and “a photographer from Kingsville, Texas”, Heinichen argued in the press that the couple had been coerced into making statements and had not been allowed to contact the U.S. embassy. He said that the couple were planning to get married, but that judicial authorities kept stalling the process. [The Dispatch, Lexington, N.C. – Aug 7, 1974]

It is unclear exactly what became of Michael Heinichen and Laura Katzman, though a record exists of a divorce, in May 1984 in San Francisco, between a Michael Heinichen and his wife Laura.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Jun 232016

Artist Daphne Aluta moved to Ajijic with her then husband Mario Aluta in the late 1960s, and lived there for about twenty years. In September 1985, she was the first female artist to ever have her work featured in the Chapala area monthly El Ojo del Lago; all previous art profiles had highlighted male artists.

Daphne Aluta. Portrait. Courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

Daphne Aluta. Portrait. Date unknown. Courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

In Ajijic in 1974, Daphne Aluta married Colin MacDougall in a small ceremony at the home of Sherm and Adele Harris, who were then managing the Posada Ajijic. Despite this remarriage, Aluta continued to sign her artwork Daphne Aluta.

Born Daphne Greer on 24 June 1919 in Detroit, Michigan, she attended Cranbrook School for Girls and then the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit. She married and moved to Santa Barbara, where the first of her four children was born.

Her marriage to Turkish painter and architect Mario Aluta, who was 15 years her senior, is recorded as taking place in 1960.

Daphne Aluta. Ajijic. Reproduced by kind permission of Ricardo Santana.

Daphne Aluta. Ajijic. Date unknown. Reproduced by kind permission of Ricardo Santana.

During her time in Ajijic, in addition to her painting and sculpture, Aluta designed and built several homes in the village.

As an artist, her group exhibitions in Mexico included the Casa de la Cultura in Guadalajara (1970); the “Fiesta de Arte” held at a private home in Ajijic (15 May 1971); the ex-Convento del Carmen in Guadalajara (1980); the Club Campestre La Hacienda (1985) on the main Guadalajara-Chapala highway; and the “Help Save Lake Chapala” exhibit in Mexico City (1988).

Other artists showing in these group exhibits included Mario Aluta, Beth Avary, Peter Huf and his wife Eunice (Hunt) Huf, John Frost, Bruce Sherratt, William Hartung, Antonio Cardenas, Tom Faloon, John Frost; Lona Isoard, Michael Heinichen; John Maybra Kilpatrick; Gail Michael, Bert Miller; Robert Neathery, John Peterson, Eleanor Smart, Shaw, Hudson Rose, Agustín Velarde, Georg Rauch; Betty Warren; Gustel Foust; Laura Goeglein; Carla Manger; Jo Kreig; Donald Demerest; B.R. Kline; Eleanor Smart; Hubert Harmon; De Nyse Turner Pinkerton; Eugenia Bolduc; Emily Meeker; Jean Caragonne; Tiu Pessa; Sydney Moehlman; Xavier Pérez, Nancy Bollembach, Luisa Julian, Conrado Contreras, Rick Ledwon and Enrique Velazquez.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Jun 092016

Photographer and illustrator Haig Witwer Shekerjian was born 3 November 1922 in Chicago, Illinois, and finally laid his camera to rest at the age of 79 on 21 August 2002 in Schenectady, New York. He and his wife, Regina, were regular visitors to Ajijic from 1950 on, and spent several months each year in the village during the 1970s and 1980s.

Haig’s parents were Haig Rupen Shekerjian, a rug salesman originally from Constantinople, Turkey, who became an art lecturer at the Art Institute in Chicago, and Frances Louise Witwer, a concert pianist from Chicago. His cousins included Brigadier General Haig W. Shekerjian.

Haig Shekerjian. ca 1970. By kind permission of Michael Eager.

Haig Shekerjian. ca 1970. By kind permission of Michael Eager.

Haig attended Oak Park and River Forest Township High School in Oak Park, Illinois. His interest in photography started at an early age and, as a teenager, he was an avid member of the school’s Camera Club. After high school, he studied at the Eastman School of Photography in Rochester, New York, and at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. A 1943 yearbook entry shows that he was not only handsome, but also an accomplished actor, and member of the University Dramatic Club.

On leaving university, Haig joined the U.S. Navy in November 1943. In early 1944, before leaving to serve for the remainder of the second world war in the Pacific, Haig married Regina deCormier, his lifelong love.

Working as a Navy photographer, Haig Shekerjian was in the first landing party at the Battle of Iwo Jima (1945), saw action elsewhere, and photographed the Japanese surrender. He was the recipient of several military decorations. Haig’s return to the U.S. was noted in a poignant local newspaper entry in December 1945 which stated that Haig, “was one of 11,382 High Point Navy veterans returning from Guam on the U.S.S. Cowpens.”

Regina DeCormier Shekerjian (1923-2000) was a well-known author, translator and illustrator of children’s books. The couple, and their two sons (Tor and Jean-René), lived for many years in New Paltz, New York, where Haig was Art Director of the Media Services Center at the State University College for over 30 years, until the age of 75.

Taking a sabbatical break over the winter of 1950-51, Haig and Regina spent several months living in Ajijic. (Regina later published an article about why Ajijic was an excellent choice for anyone seeking an inexpensive art-related summer). They returned several times until the late 1970s and early 1980s, often staying a few months.


Haig Shekerjian. ca 1970. By kind permission of Michael Eager.

Haig was apparently never very interested in the commercial aspects of photography, though his work appeared in many books, publications and literacy works, and his work was rarely exhibited or sold, though he gave away a few photographs as treasured gifts. His peers recognized the quality of his photographs and in 1977, one of his photos was included in the inaugural exhibition of the Catskill Center for Photography in Woodstock, New York.

Together with Regina, Haig Shekerjian illustrated several books, most of them written by Nancy Willard and aimed at young readers. They included The Adventures of Tom Thumb (1950); Life in the Middle Ages (1966); The boy, the rat, and the butterfly (1971); King Midas and the Golden Touch (1973); Play it in Spanish : Spanish games and folk songs for children (1973); The merry history of a Christmas pie : with a delicious description of a Christmas soup (1974); All on a May morning (1975); How Many Donkeys? A Turkish Folk Tale (1971); and The well-mannered balloon (1976).

The Shekerjians also co-wrote, with close relative Robert deCormier, A Book of Christmas Carols (1963); and A Book of Ballads, Songs and Snatches (1965).

Michael Eager, owner of La Nueva Posada hotel in Ajijic, remembers the couple well: “Haig had short gray hair with a goatee and was rarely without his Greek sailor’s cap. Both he and Regina dressed casually, Haig with jeans, checkered shirt, and somewhat “beatnik” looking. He was never without his camera.” Both Haig and Regina loved the local people, music and traditions.

The dining room of La Nueva Posada in Ajijic has a permanent exhibition of Haig’s evocative photographs of what the Lake Chapala area was like years ago—clear evidence, if any were needed, of the couple’s immense enthusiasm for the area and its people.


  • Poughkeepsie Journal, Poughkeepsie, New York: 19 February 1944, p5;  23 August 2002, p 4B.

Other photographers associated with Lake Chapala:

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

May 052016

The Clique Ajijic was a group of eight artists that existed as a loosely-organized collective in Ajijic for three or four years in the mid-1970s. Many of the photos of Clique Ajijic artists and their paintings were taken by John Frost, the artist-photographer who was a long-time resident of Jocotepec. The photo below (believed to be by Frost) shows several members of the Clique Ajijic, together with family and friends, at the opening of a show in Galería OM in Guadalajara in October 1975.

Clique Ajijic artists at opening of show at Galeria OM, November 1975

Clique Ajijic artists at opening of show at Galeria OM, October 1975

  • A = John K. Peterson
  • B = Kate Karns
  • C = Adolfo Riestra
  • D = ? Dionisio Morales (Ajijic artist)
  • E = ?
  • F = Sydney Schwartzman
  • G = ?
  • H = Todd (“Rocky”) Karns
  • I =  Hubert Harmon
  • J = Tom Faloon
  • K = Gail Michaels
  • L = David (son of Gail Michaels)
  • M = Alejandro Colunga
  • N = Synnove (Shaffer) Pettersen
  • O = ?
  • P = ?
  • Q = ?
  • R = ?
  • S = Arq. Enrique Lázaro (gallery owner)

If you can fill in any of the missing names, please get in touch.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Apr 282016

Muralist Guillermo Chávez Vega (1931-1990) is not usually associated with Lake Chapala, but is responsible for one of the area’s earliest surviving murals. The murals, painted in 1971, are in the private sailing club Club Náutico, in La Floresta, Ajijic.

The murals are painted on the four sides of a pyramid-shaped roof “dome” on the northern side of the main lounge. They show local historical events from pre-Columbian Indian rituals to the heroic resistance of insurgents occupying Mezcala Island during Mexico’s War of Independence.

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural in Club Náutico, Ajijic

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural (1971) in Club Náutico, Ajijic

Sadly, one additional mural by Chávez Vega, painted in the lobby of the club, and depicting a woman reposing in a hammock made of fishing nets, was lost during renovations in the 1980s.

Guillermo Chávez Vega was born in Guadalajara on 23 March 1931. Best known as a muralist, he was also a painter, watercolorist and engraver. Besides murals, he also painted family scenes and landscapes, especially of the Jalisco coast, and a popular series of watercolors of Guadalajara. He held about 30 solo exhibits and participated in 20 group exhibits during his distinguished artistic career.

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural (1971) in Club Náutico, Ajijic

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural (1971) in Club Náutico, Ajijic

Chávez Vega completed his formal primary and high school years at the Colegio Instituto de Ciencias in Guadalajara. In his later years at that institution, he illustrated the school’s Revista Juventud (Youth Magazine).

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural (1971) in Club Náutico, Ajijic

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural (1971) in Club Náutico, Ajijic

In 1948, he began formal art studies with José Vizcarra in Guadalajara. From 1950-51, he studied art at the San Carlos Academy in Mexico City, and then returned to Guadalajara to continue his studies at the Escuela de Artes y Letras of the University of Guadalajara. In 1952, he joined a study trip to south-eastern Mexico, looking closely at Mayan art and motifs. In 1956, he illustrated Artes y Letras, the University of Guadalajara magazine.

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural (1971) in Club Náutico, Ajijic

Cuillermo Chávez Vega. Detail of mural (1971) in Club Náutico, Ajijic

From 1957 to 1962, Chávez Vega gave painting and drawing classes in the Escuela de Artes Plásticas of the University of Guadalajara. From 1958 to 1960, he gave art classes at the Universidad Femenina de Guadalajara.

He painted his first murals, including one in Ciudad Guzmán in the south of Jalisco, in 1957. In 1960, he started working as an illustrator for the artistic-literary magazine El Despertador. In 1963, he was granted a Jalisco State scholarship to travel to Europe and the Middle East. In 1968, he was asked by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz to travel to Poland and paint a mural in Warsaw as a national gift from Mexico to the Polish people. From 1969 to 1989, Chávez Vega ran the Guadalajara branch of the Instituto de Amistad e Intercambio Cultural Mexico-USSR, which promoted a better understanding between Mexico and the Soviet Union.

He painted at least 25 murals, most of them located in or near Guadalajara. His murals include “The Reform and the Constitution” in the Palacio de Justicia in Guadalajara, and “Guadalajara, Homage to Humanity” in the city’s International Friendship Center (Centro de la Amistad Internacional). Also in Guadalajara, in Preparatoria número 3, in 1988, he painted his final mural, “Revolutionary Latin America”. Murals by Chávez Vega can also be admired in the Centro de Arte y Cultura in San Pedro Tlaquepaque, and in the building of the Sindicato de Trabajadores del IMSS in Mexico City.

Guillermo Chávez Vega received the Jalisco prize for plastic arts (1960) and the Silver Medal of the Jalisco State Government (1964). He died in his native city on 5 July 1990 and his remains were later interred in the Rotunda of Illustrious Jalisicienses in 2002.


  • My sincere thanks to the administration and members of Club Náutico for graciously allowing me to view and photograph the murals that are in their care.
Mar 312016

Portraitist De Nyse Wortman Turner Pinkerton (aka De Nyse Turner) was born in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on 3 December 1917 and died in Naples, Florida, on 3 April 2010, at the age of 92.

De Nyse Turner. Still life (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

De Nyse Turner. Still life (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

Pinkerton resided and worked at Lake Chapala, for at least part of each year, for more than thirty years, from 1970 to 2004.

She grew up in Utica, New York, and studied at the Utica Country Day School, Smith and Hollins Colleges, and The Art Student’s League in New York City.

Her maiden name was Wortman, and she had two marriages, the first to Lee Turner and the second to Edward C. Pinkerton.

She was an active supporter of several environmental organizations including the Friends of the Animals, the Nature Conservancy Marine Program, the World Wildlife Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Foundation.

Pinkerton was a prolific painter and during her lifetime completed more than 7000 portraits in pastel and oil.

Her work has been exhibited at The Peale Museum; The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Concoran Gallery, and The National Galleries in Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

De Nyse Turner. Portrait (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

De Nyse Turner. Portrait (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

During her time in Chapala, she was one of a group of artists showing in an exhibition in May 1985 at Club Campestre La Hacienda (km 30 on the Guadalajara-Chapala highway) entitled “Pintores de la Ribera” (Painters of Lakeside). This group show also included works by Laura Goeglein, Carla W. Manger, Jo Kreig, Donald Demerest, B.R. Kline, Hubert Harmon, Daphne Aluta, Eugenia Bolduc, Emily Meeker, Eleanor Smart, Jean Caragonne, Tiu Pessa, Sydney Moehlman and Xavier Pérez.

The striking portrait of Neill James that hangs in the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic is by Pinkerton.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Mar 172016

American sculptor and painter Mym Tuma had her studio in San Pedro Tesistan, near Jocotepec, the town at the western end of Lake Chapala, from 1968 to 1973. Tuma, formerly known as Marilynn Thuma, has become an important figure in the contemporary American art world.

Tuma was born 23 September 1940 in Berwyn, Illinois. She studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, at Stanford University in California and undertook graduate work at New York University.

After university, she moved to Mexico, setting up a second floor plein air studio in San Pedro Tesistan to experiment with three dimensional works. This was a formative period in her artistic development, fostered by the support, moral and financial, of her mentor Georgia O’Keefe (1887–1986), the “Mother of American modernism”.

Mym Tuma: La perla (1970)

Mym Tuma: La hojancha (The Original Seed) (1970)

Tuma first contacted O’Keefe, fifty years her senior, in 1964 when she was studying in Irving Sandler’s modern art seminar for postgraduates at New York University. Despite the age difference, O’Keefe and Tuma discovered they shared several common interests. O’Keefe, then living on a ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, bought one of Tuma’s early works, and the two women corresponded for a decade. (The story of this correspondence is told by Tuma at OkeeffeAndMe.com).

The studio in San Pedro Tesistan had neither electricity nor running water. In her “Feminist Artist Statement” on a Brooklyn Museum webpage, Tuma recalls her time there:

“In the high plateau of southern Mexico, overlooking Lake Chapala, I painted in remote San Pedro Tesistan. In that village were only two vehicles: a red Firebird, and a paneled truck, until I arrived in 1966 in a Volkswagen bus. I rented a studio for $8 per month and worked with an assistant, 17-yr. old Cruz Robledo who I taught to drive. She suppressed her giggles learning how to control the VW on cobblestone streets, rumbling down a string of plastered, cracked and chipped adobes. Women like Cruz worked at home, sewing and cooking, but she had a streak of independence. She did not let people, or men subordinate her. She grew more confident, while working on my sculptures, sanding fiberglass to smooth curves. She helped me prepare my paintings. Her mother still scrubbed clothes on rocks at the edge of Lake Chapala, her Aunt Deodata partnered with another woman near my studio. Cruz respected my work. I tutored her to become as independent as I myself.

In the Sixties, women lost children and we heard church bells tolling for them in my 2nd floor plein aire studio. Cruz crossed herself and whispered sad news. We’d rest to watch the peaceful blue haze over the distant mountains and breathe. We shared ideas sanding my shaped sculptured paintings, far from the conflict in Vietnam. I felt militant about my work, in that time and remote place, to quote T.S. Eliot, “to construct something upon which to rejoice.” Convinced that one day it would bolster women’s power and equality in the U.S.

Before I left, we strung a rooster pinata from the church to my studio, and invited mothers with babes, and small children. They filled the floor eating cake and cream. Women nursed babes in rebozos around us. Cruz decided to become a midwife to help reduce suffering she saw among her sisters. As difficult as living in Mexico was, its vibrant colors, forms of energy, and simple life inspired my organic principles. For centuries, rituals of planting and harvesting maize surrounded my studio. However my materials/methods were innovative and contemporary to the 20th century and beyond.

I showed an elderly American Modernist painter the forms I had so much theory about—Georgia O’Keeffe. We debated issues and theories. I created 17 sculptured paintings, traveling 3,500 miles to the U.S. and back, over five times to garner O’Keeffe’s fiscal mentorship.”

O’Keefe’s letters to Tuma include many references to financial support. Perhaps the most poignant is the one dated 3 July 1968, shortly after Tuma has visited New Mexico:

“I am glad you came and were here a few days. Do not sell your car or part with your dog. I will send you the two thousand that you need to get your next three paintings done . . . . It may take ten days or two weeks. If I send it may I consider your black creation mine?”

The “black creation” was a fiberglass sculpture called Obsidian, which Tuma duly took north on her next trip to New Mexico.

After her time at Lake Chapala, in 1974, Tuma toured New South Wales and Western Australia, painting and sketching as she went, before establishing her studio on the East End of Long Island, New York. She is widely recognized for her work in the category of organic minimalism, which is influenced by oceanic and coastal forms, such as beach pebbles, sand, sprouting seeds, and spiraling shell forms.

Her “sculptured paintings” have been exhibited at many galleries, including Guild Hall (East Hampton), the Parrish Art Museum (Southampton village), and the Clayton-Liberatore Gallery (Bridgehampton), all in New York State. Tuma is a charter member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and lectured at the Brooklyn Museum in 1992.

Examples of Tuma’s sculptured paintings are in the permanent collections of several museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, D.C., the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford, Palo Alto, as well as in the private collections of Henry Geldzahler, Tipper and Al Gore, and others.

Tuma has also written several art-related books, including The Sea, the Simplicity of the Sea, and Other Poems, (Come to Life Graphics, 1984) and Radiant Energy, Light In My Pastel Paintings (2005).

Mym Tuma is yet another of the many famous artists who have found inspiration while at Lake Chapala, where the light, lake, people and scenery combine to stimulate creativity.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Feb 252016

Jack Harris Rutherford lived with his first wife, Dorothy, and their four children, in San Blas in 1963, before moving to Ajijic in about 1966. He remained a resident of Ajijic, making occasional visits to San Blas, until 1971, when the family relocated across the Atlantic to southern Spain.

Rutherford was born in Long Beach, California, on 11 May 1931. At age 11, he took art classes with eminent watercolorist Hans Axel Walleen (1902-1978), who was President of the American Watercolor Society from 1957 to 1959. In his early twenties, Rutherford, increasingly disenchanted with where U.S. society was headed and with working in his father’s oil company, opted to focus on art, taking lessons with Austrian-born Karl Seethaler, the then Director of Long Beach Academy of Art in California. Rutherford became an active participant in the “synthesis of art” cultural group in California and in 1957, was appointed Director of the School of Fine Art, Long Beach, California.

In 1963, he felt his artistic development was being seriously constrained by the position, and decided, in his words, “to dedicate all my energies to my purpose as an artist… I sold up my home and with my wife and four sons fled to Mexico to lead the life of a vocational artist.” In San Blas, Nayarit, Rutherford founded a short-lived “Academy of Art” with himself as director.

Jack Rutherford: San Blas Customs House (1963)

Jack Rutherford: San Blas Customs House (1963)

In early 1965, German artist Peter Huf and his future wife Eunice Hunt met Rutherford in San Blas. (The couple later lived in Ajijic for many years). Huf recalls that Rutherford “had just arrived with his wife and four sons. He had dug out of the sand the walls of some abandoned building and hung his paintings on the walls.” Peter Huf and Eunice Hunt had their first art show in Mexico on the walls of the beautifully-proportioned Old Customs House, then in ruins, but since restored.

Jack Rutherford. Ajijic Sketch (ca 1963)

Jack Rutherford. Ajijic Sketch (ca 1963)

Rutherford held numerous exhibitions during his time in San Blas and Ajijic. For example, in early 1964, an exhibit of his paintings opened at the Mexican-North American Cultural Institute in Guadalajara. Even then, according to a contemporary newspaper article, Rutherford planned to eventually move to Europe to paint and study. (Colony Reporter, Guadalajara, 6 February 1964). In August 1965, he had a successful one-man show at the Posada Ajijic; the following month he and his family went back to San Blas. (Colony Reporter, Guadalajara, 2 September 1965).

Jack Rutherford. Ajijic bedroom (ca 1963)

Jack Rutherford. Ajijic bedroom (ca 1963)

Rutherford was also a founding member of the Grupo 68 art collective in Ajijic. Grupo 68 was founded in 1967 and initially comprised Peter Huf, his wife Eunice Hunt, Jack Rutherford, John Kenneth Peterson and Shaw (the artist Don Shaw). (Rutherford dropped out of the group after a year or so, but the others remained as a group until 1971.)

In September 1968, Rutherford was one of 8 painters and a sculptor whose works were displayed at the “re-opening” of Laura Bateman’s Rincon del Arte gallery at Calle Hidalgo #41 in Ajijic. (The other artists were Alejandro Colunga, Coffeen Suhl, Peter Huf, Eunice (Hunt) Huf, John K. Peterson and (Donald) Shaw; the single sculptor was Joe Wedgwood).

From December 1968 (through to January 1969), Rutherford was part of the group show for the re-opening of La Galeria in Ajijic, a show entitled “Art is Life; Life is Art”. (The other artists were Tom Brudenell, Alejandro Colunga, John Frost , Paul Hachten, Peter Huf, Eunice (Hunt) Huf, John Kenneth Peterson, José Ma. De Servin, Shaw, Cynthia Siddons, Joe Wedgwood.)

In April 1969, members of Grupo 68 had a collective show at La Galería, Ajijic. The announcement in Guadalajara daily Informador (20 April) lists the participating artists as John Kenneth Peterson, Charles Henry Blodgett (guest artist) and “El Grupo” (John Brandi, Tom Brudenell, Peter Huf, Eunice (Hunt) Huf, Jack Rutherford, Shaw, Cynthia Siddons and Robert Snodgrass).

Rutherford’s website features numerous paintings and sketches from his time in Mexico.

In 1971 Rutherford returned to the USA, and then went to Spain. In Spain, he lived for almost thirty years in an historical olive mill in Andalucia, where he directed an art school “Arts and Growth Center” and ran his own art gallery.

Jack Rutherford. Ajijic influences (ca 1963)

Jack Rutherford. Ajijic influences (ca 1963)

According to his website, Mexico has always remained “a strong influence on his art” and Rutherford continues to take return trips and longer stays in “this spiritual country, scene of his artistic liberation”. In recent years, Rutherford has visited, and exhibited, in La Manzanilla on the Pacific Coast of Mexico several times.

Jack Rutherford has exhibited, lectured and taught in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. His one-man exhibitions outside Mexico include:

  • USA: Richmond Public Library, Richmond, Virginia; Studio Gallery, Norfolk, Virginia; Atelier 7, Long Beach, California; Topanga Community Center, Topanga Canyon, California; Parkview Gallery, Long Beach, California; The Waterfront Gallery, Pensacola, Florida; Phoenix Museum Docent Committee, Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Spain: Nerja Library and Cultural Centre, Nerja; Caja de Ahorras Provincial de Malaga, Velez Malaga; Sala Tres, Marbella; Galeria del Arte Melia, Granada; Galeria Pintada, Nerja; Alberdini Galeria, Competa; Parador Hotel, Nerja.
  • Germany: C.A.G. Gallery, Bremen; Galerie Krencky, Herford; Galerie im Oha, Bunde; America Haus, Munich; and Kunst zu Hause, Cologne.
  • Denmark: Midtyllanos Avis-Lordag.

For an introduction to Jack Rutherford’s approach to teaching art, see the Youtube video Art Course by Jack Rutherford.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

 Posted by at 5:58 am  Tagged with:
Feb 112016

John Liggett Meigs (1916-2003) was an American artist and designer who was a student of Peter Hurd.

Meigs sought out Hurd in San Patricio, New Mexico, in 1951, and in 1953 began to assist Hurd on his fresco mural in Lubbock, Texas, at the West Texas Museum (now the Holden Hall at the Texas Tech University). The mural depicts pioneers and influential leaders of West Texas. The two other artists working on the project, which took two years to complete, were Hurd’s wife Henriette and Manuel Acosta.

Meigs became very good friends with Henriette and Peter Hurd. He bought a small adobe house in San Patricio and spent forty years converting it into a 23-room dwelling that Peter Hurd dubbed “Fort Meigs.” In about 1968, Hurd and Meigs jointly bought the home in Chapala previously owned by American poet (and friend) Witter Bynner. Although there is no evidence that Chapala influenced Meig’s work in any way, the artist visited Chapala on several occasions.

Landscape by John Meigs

Landscape by John Meigs.

Born in Chicago on 10 May 1916, Meigs only discovered the details of his interesting childhood when he signed up for the Navy during the second world war, and learned that he had been kidnapped by his biological father as a one-year-old and given the assumed surname of MacMillan. Meigs never knew his real mother, but grew up with his father and his father’s new partner. They moved frequently, but eventually settled in San Antonio, Texas, where Meigs first became interested in art. His father died in 1931 when Meigs was only 15 years old. Meigs and his foster mother then moved to California where Meigs later attended the University of Redlands.

Meigs with his Hawaiian shirt designs. Credit: Dennis Oda, Honollulu Star-Bulletin

Meigs with his Hawaiian shirt designs. Credit: Dennis Oda, Honollulu Star-Bulletin

Meigs worked as a reporter in Los Angeles and Hawaii, and as a designer of houses and clothing. He was one of the earliest designers of Hawaiian aloha shirts, and his shirt designs were the basis of a 1997 exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Prior to taking his art seriously and studying with Hurd, Meigs had also served in the U.S. Navy during the second world war.

Meigs went on to become a very successful artist, producing landscape and architectural images in a variety of media, from ink and oil to watercolor and photography. He held over fifty solo exhibitions, in locations ranging from Santa Fe and Roswell in New Mexico to New York City, Lubbock (Texas) and Honolulu.

In 1960, the Society of California Pioneers, based in San Francisco, commissioned him to paint a series of watercolors of Victorian homes in the city for an exhibition at the Society’s headquarters later that year.

meigs-john-cowboy-in-american-printsIn addition to his art, now found in private, corporate and academic collections, Meigs edited several books about art: Peter Hurd – The Lithographs (1968), Peter Hurd Sketch Book (1971) and The Cowboy in American Prints (1972).

The biography of Meigs by Mark S. Fuller provides chapter and verse of the artistic and social circles in which Meigs developed his career. He could count among his friends the artists Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keeffe and Rolf Armstrong, poet Witter Bynner, oilman and cattleman Robert O. Anderson, and actor Vincent Price.

According to Fuller, the major retrospective show of Peter Hurd’s works in 1964-65 came about because Meigs had visited a museum in 1963 to show them his own canvasses but had then asked the museum purchaser why the museum didn’t mount a show of Hurd’s work.

After Meigs and Hurd bought the Bynner home in Chapala, Meigs visited various times, and gradually brought Bynner’s extensive book collection (included in the sale) back to New Mexico. (By the 1970s, Meigs estimated he had 40,000 volumes in his personal library.) Meigs also regularly brought back select handicrafts and ceramic pieces.

In November 1993, a decade before his death in August 2003, Meigs received The Governor’s Award for Excellence & Achievement in the Arts from the State of New Mexico.


  • Mark S. Fuller, 2015. Never a Dull Moment: The Life of John Liggett Meigs (Sunstone Press)

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Jan 282016

Lona Mae Isoard (1904-1992) lived in Ajijic for some years in the 1960s and early 1970s. She was born 8 November 1904 in Colorado, and died 22 September 1992 in Walnut Creek California, aged almost 88. Her husband Max C. Isoard (1900-1974) was a physician. The couple appear to have lived most of their lives in California, with addresses in San Francisco (1928), followed by Sacramento (from 1930-at least 1955). In September 1951, Lona and Max Isoard arrived back in New York from Le Havre, France, on board the Liberte.

A 1938 newspaper article reveals that Isoard was a well-known polo player: “Among the players in the first game, will be Mrs. Lona Isoard, prominent in state polo circles” (Santa Cruz Evening News, 14 May 1938).

Did she have a daughter? In about 1936, a  Lizzie Lona Isoard (their daughter?) was born in Sacramento. In 1957, a Lona Isoard (unclear whether mother or daughter) was in the graduating class at Sacramento State University, California.

Lona Isoard: Still Life with Fruit. (ca 1972)

Lona Isoard: Fruit Still Life (ca 1972)

By all accounts, Lona Mae Isoard was quite an eccentric character. The late Tom Faloon commented to me that she was a “nutty lady”, adding that her sister and brother-in-law also lived in Ajijic. Katie Goodridge Ingram, former gallery owner, remembers that Lona lived at one time in the small, lakeside cottage belonging to “Russian” dancer Zara. (This cottage later became known as “Iona’s cottage”, taking its name from another eccentric American, a former teacher and world traveler, Iona Kupiec, who lived there from 1962).

Isoard was active in the local Ajijic art scene and occasionally exhibited. For example, her work was included in the May 1971 group show, “Fiesta of Art”, held at the private home of Mr and Mrs E. D. Windham, Calle 16 de Septiembre #33, Ajijic. (The other artists involved were Daphne Aluta; Mario Aluta; Beth Avary; Charles Blodgett; Antonio Cárdenas; Alan Davoll; Alice de Boton; Robert de Boton; Tom Faloon; John Frost; Dorothy Goldner; Burt Hawley; Peter Huf; Eunice (Hunt) Huf; Michael Heinichen; John Maybra Kilpatrick; Gail Michael; Bert Miller; Robert Neathery; John K. Peterson; Stuart Phillips; Hudson Rose; Mary Rose; Jesús Santana; Walt Shou; Showaltar (?); Sloane; Eleanor Smart; Robert Snodgrass; and Agustín Velarde.)

An example of Isoard’s work, a still life of fruit, was included (along with works by many of the other artists in the 1971 group show) in A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería (Guadalajara, Mexico: Boutique d’Artes Gráficas, 1972).

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

 Posted by at 7:31 am  Tagged with:
Jan 212016

American artist Peter Hurd (1904-1984) spent most of his life in New Mexico, but also had connections to Lake Chapala. In about 1968, together with  fellow artist and former student John Liggett Meigs, Hurd bought the home in Chapala previously owned by poet Witter Bynner. Although there is no evidence that Chapala influenced Hurd’s work in any way, the artist visited Chapala on several occasions, and presumably was accompanied on some of these trips by his wife, artist Henriette Wyeth.

Peter Hurd: Country Scene (undated)

Peter Hurd: Country Scene (undated)

Hurd had life-long ties to New Mexico. He was born on 22 February 1904 in Roswell and died there on 9 July 1984. His parents named him Harold Hurd Jr., but called him “Pete” and, in his early 20s, he legally changed his name to Peter.

In 1918, he studied at New Mexico Military Institute, and three years later entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1923, he left West Point to study at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Soon afterwards, Hurd settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, so that he could study art under the illustrator N.C. Wyeth. He worked for a decade as Wyeth’s assistant and, in 1929, married Henriette Wyeth, Wyeth’s eldest daughter.

The couple moved back to Hurd’s native New Mexico and established the family home and studios on a ranch in San Patricio. Henriette Wyeth later became very well-known for her own portraits and still life paintings, “considered by many art scholars to be one of the great women painters of the 20th century”. Two of the couple’s children, Ann Carol Hurd and Michael Hurd, also became professional artists and continue to live on the family ranch in San Patricio.

Many of Peter Hurd’s works are set in Southeastern New Mexico, in and around the ranch in San Patricio and in the Hondo Valley:

In the 1930s, during the depression, Hurd focused on producing inexpensive lithographs for a larger audience. Convinced of the need for gallery representation in New York, he drove there with a portfolio and quickly convinced several gallery owners to display his lithographs.

During the second world war, Hurd was a war correspondent for Life. He became a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1942. Hurd’s wartime works varied from quick plein air sketches to watercolors and egg temperas (his preferred medium). After the war, Hurd traveled in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

From 1953 to 1954, Hurd, together with Henriette and two of his students – Manuel Acosta and John Meigs – painted a fresco in Lubbock, Texas, at the West Texas Museum (now the Holden Hall at the Texas Tech University). The mural depicts pioneers and influential leaders of West Texas, and includes a self-portrait of Hurd himself, sketchpad in hand.

A later Hurd mural, “The Future Belongs To Those Who Prepare For It”, was saved from destruction when its original location, the Prudential Building in Houston, Texas, was about to be demolished. It was rehoused in 2011 in the Artesia Public Library in New Mexico. The story of how the mural was moved makes for interesting reading.

Cover of Folkways record

Cover of Folkways record

Hurd was also an accomplished musician. In 1957, he collaborated with Folkways Records to release an album, Spanish Folk Songs of New Mexico, on which Hurd played the guitar and sang the lyrics (Spanish and English) of various ranchera songs.

From 1959 to 1963, at the invitation of President Eisenhower, Hurd served on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Hurd’s first major retrospective exhibition, in 1964/65, was held at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The catalog for the exhibit, entitled Peter Hurd : A Portrait Sketch from Life (1965) was written by Paul Horgan, a lifelong friend.

A 1967 portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson by Hurd, meant to be the president’s official portrait, did not find favor with its subject, but remains in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The debate about the painting generated plenty of press coverage, which brought Hurd’s art to a much wider public.

Hurd illustrated several books, including The Story of Siegfried by James Baldwin (1931), and the same author’s The Story of Roland (1957); Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge (1932); Deep Silver. A story of the cod banks, by Nora Burglon (1939); Great Stories of the Sea and Ships, edited by N.C. Wyeth (1940); Murder and Mystery in New Mexico by Erna Fergusson (1948); Sky Determines by Ross Calvin (1948); Montana: high, wide, and handsome, by Joseph Kinsey Howard (1974). Hurd’s portrait of Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr. for the cover of Time (22 July 1966) was featured in a 1969 National Portrait Gallery exhibit of the magazine’s cover art.

Books about Hurd’s work include The Peter Hurd Mural (1957); Peter Hurd. The Lithographs, edited by John Meigs (1968); Peter Hurd sketch book, edited by John Meigs (1971); Peter Hurd: Insight to a Painter, by James K. Ballinger and Tonia L Horton (1983); My Land Is the Southwest: Peter Hurd Letters and Journals, edited by Robert Metzger (1983); Peter Hurd: A Memorial Exhibition, by Walt Wiggins (1984); The Art of Peter Hurd from the Permanent Collection, Roswell Museum (1985);

Hurd’s work can be found in many major museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum; Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, Roswell Museum, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico, and the National Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Jan 042016

D. H. Lawrence, together with his wife Frieda, and friends Witter Bynner and Willard (“Spud”) Johnson, visited Mexico in March 1923, initially staying in Mexico City.

By the end of April, Lawrence was becoming restless and actively looking for somewhere where he could write. The traveling party had an open invitation to visit Guadalajara, the home of Idella Purnell, a former student of Bynner’s at the Univeristy of California, Berkeley. After reading about Chapala in Terry’s Guide to Mexico, Lawrence decided to  catch the train to Guadalajara and then explore the lakeside village of Chapala for himself.

Lawrence liked what he saw and, within hours of arriving in Chapala, he sent an urgent telegram back to Mexico City pronouncing Chapala “paradise” and urging the others to join him there immediately. Lawrence and his wife Frieda soon established their home for the summer in Chapala, on Calle Zaragoza. In a letter back to two Danish friends in Taos, Lawrence described both the house and the village:

“Here we are, in our own house—a long house with no upstairs—shut in by trees on two sides.—We live on a wide verandah, flowers round—it is fairly hot—I spend the day in trousers and shirt, barefoot—have a Mexican woman, Isabel, to look after us—very nice. Just outside the gate the big Lake of Chapala—40 miles long, 20 miles wide. We can’t see the lake, because the trees shut us in. But we walk out in a wrap to bathe.—There are camions—Ford omnibuses—to Guadalajara—2 hours. Chapala village is small with a market place with trees and Indians in big hats. Also three hotels, because this is a tiny holiday place for Guadalajara. I hope you’ll get down, I’m sure you’d like painting here.—It may be that even yet I’ll have my little hacienda and grow bananas and oranges.” – (letter dated 3 May 1923, to Kai Gotzsche and Knud Merrild, quoted in Knud Merrild’s book, A Poet and Two Painters: A Memoir of D.H. Lawrence.)

DH Lawrence house in Chapala, ca 1950, Photo by Roy MacNicol

DH Lawrence house in Chapala, ca 1950, Photo by Roy MacNicol

Life was not without its incidents and travails. Frieda, especially, was unconvinced about the charms of Chapala:

Lawrence went to Guadalajara and found a house with a patio on the Lake of Chapala. There, Lawrence began to write his “Plumed Serpent”. He sat by the lake under a pepper tree writing it. The lake was curious with its white water. My enthusiasm for bathing in it faded considerably when one morning a huge snake rose yards high, it seemed to me, only a few feet away. At the end of the patio, we had the family that Lawrence describes in the “Plumed Serpent”, and all the life of Chapala. I tried my one attempt at civilizing those Mexican children, but when they asked me one day, “Do you have lice too, Niña,” I had enough and gave up in a rage. At night I was frightened of bandits and we had one of the sons of the cook sleeping outside our bedroom door with a loaded revolver, but he snored so fiercely that I wasn’t sure whether the fear of bandits wasn’t preferable. We quite sank into the patio life. Bynner and Spud came every afternoon, and I remember Bynner saying to me one day, while he was mixing a cocktail: “If you and Lawrence quarrel, why don’t you hit first?” I took the advice and the next time Lawrence was cross, I rose to the occasion and got out of my Mexican indifference and flew at him.  – (Frieda Lawrence: (1934), Not I, But the Wind… Viking Press, New York (1934), p 139)

The house the Lawrences rented was at Zaragoza #4 (since renumbered Zaragoza #307) and became the basis for the description of Kate’s living quarters in The Plumed Serpent. The Lawrences lived in the house from the start of May 1923 to about 9 July that year.

Interestingly, the house subsequently had several additional links to famous writers and artists.

Immediately after the Lawrences departed, the next renters were American artists Everett Gee Jackson and Lowell Houser, who lived there for 18 months. They did not realize the identity of the previous tenant – “an English writer” –  until the following year. Their time in Chapala is described, with great wit and charm, in Jackson’s Burros and Paintbrushes (University of Texas Press, 1985).

[Jackson visited Mexico many times and made several return visits to Chapala, including one in 1968 when he, his wife and young grandson, “rented the charming old Witter Bynner house right in the center of the village of Chapala. It had become the property of Peter Hurd, the artist…” In 1923, Bynner and Johnson stayed at the Hotel Arzapalo. In 1930, Bynner bought a home in Chapala (not the one rented by Lawrence) and was a frequent winter visitor for many years.]

Lawrence house in Chapala - ca 1963

Lawrence house in Chapala – ca 1963

Over the years, the house on Zaragoza that Lawrence and Frieda had occupied was extensively remodeled and expanded. The first major renovation was undertaken in about 1940 by famed Mexican architect Luis Barragán. Another large-scale renovation took place after the house was acquired in 1954 by American artist and architect Roy MacNicol (mistakenly spelled MacNichol in Moore’s The Collected Letters of D.H. Lawrence).


Quinta Quetzacoatl

In the late 1970s, Canadian poet Al Purdy, a great admirer of Lawrence (to the point of having a bust of Lawrence on the hall table of his home in Ontario), wrote a hand-signed and numbered book, The D.H. Lawrence House at Chapala, published by The Paget Press in 1980, as a limited edition of 44 copies. [If any generous benefactor is reading this, I’d love to own a copy!] The book includes a photograph, taken by Purdy’s wife Eurithe, of the plumed serpent tile work above the door of the Lawrence house.

The town of Chapala today would be totally unrecognizable to Lawrence, but the home where he spent a productive summer writing the first draft of The Plumed Serpent eventually became the Quinta Quetzalcoatl, an exclusive boutique hotel.


  • Goldsmith, M.O. 1941. “Week-end house in Mexico: G. Cristo house, Lake Chapala.” House and Garden vol 79 (May 1941). Describes the remodeling of D.H. Lawrence’s one story adobe cottage by Luis Barragán, the “talented young Mexican architect.”
  • Harry T. Moore (ed). 1962. The Collected Letters of D.H. Lawrence (Two volumes), (New York: Viking Press).

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Oct 192015

Famous American photographer and photojournalist Horace Bristol lived in Ajijic from 1967 to 1976.

Born in Whittier, California, on 16 November 1908, Bristol studied architecture at the Art Center of Los Angeles, before moving to San Francisco in 1933 to work as a commercial photographer. By chance, Ansel Adams lived near Bristol’s studio and the two became friends. Bristol was introduced to other leading photographers and artists including Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.

In 1936, Bristol became one of Life Magazine‘s founding photographers. He went on to produce half a dozen Life covers. His photos also appeared in the pages of Time, Fortune, Sunset, and National Geographic.

In 1938, Bristol worked with John Steinbeck to document the plight of migrant farmers in California’s central valley during the Great Depression. Life turned down the story and Steinbeck opted to write his findings as a novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Bristol’s photographs from this time were later known as “The Grapes of Wrath” collection.

When the U.S. entered the second world war in 1941, Bristol was recruited to the U.S. Naval Aviation Photographic Unit. He traveled to Africa and Japan, helping to document the invasions of North Africa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

bristol-book-coverAfter the war, Bristol settled in Tokyo, Japan, sold photographs to magazines in Europe and the U.S. and became the Asia correspondent for Fortune Magazine. Bristol published several books (on Japan, Korea and Bali) and established the East-West Photo Agency.

This productive period of his life came to an abrupt end in 1956 with the death by suicide of his first wife, Virginia, following a hysterectomy. Bristol was so distraught, he burned many of his negatives, packed his photos away and retired from commercial photography.

The following year, he married Masako, a Japanese librarian 20 years his junior. A decade later, the couple moved with their young daughter, Akiko, to Lake Chapala, where their second child, Henri, was born. During their years in Ajijic (1967-1976) Bristol worked as an architect, designing and building several lakeside houses.

In 1976, the family moved to Ojai, California, because Bristol and his wife decided that they did not want to bring up their two children as expatriates. Almost a decade later, Henri, then 15 years old, had a high school assignment to read The Grapes of Wrath. This prompted Bristol to look through his photo archive and he began to regret his decision all those years earlier to put away his camera. He brought his surviving negatives out of storage and resumed his photography career.

In later years, his work was the subject of several retrospective exhibitions.

Bristol continued to make his home in Ojai, California, until his death on 4 August 1997 at the age of 88. Bristol’s photographs will not be forgotten, since Bill Gates now owns the digital rights to most of Bristol’s 16,000 negatives.

Bristol’s work is included in many major collections, including those of the Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is the subject of the 2006 documentary, The Compassionate Eye: Horace Bristol, Photojournalist, written and directed by David Rabinovitch.

Artistic success clearly runs in the family. In 2006, son Henri Bristol opened East/West Gallery in Santa Barbara, California.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Oct 012015

The full name of the pioneering painter and sculptor “Shaw”, who lived in Jocotepec from 1967 to the mid-1970s, is Donald Edward Shaw. Shaw was born in Boston, Massachusetts, 24 August 1934, and passed away in New Mexico on 26 December 2015. He always preferred to be known in the art world by his surname alone.

Shaw attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (1954) and subsequently studied under sculptor John Bergschneider. He often worked in mixed media, and during the Jocotepec stage of his distinguished artistic career, specialized in presentations involving exquisitely-designed and handsomely-crafted boxes and box frames.

Shaw says that the primary influence of Mexico on his work was in showing him a different view of the formality of color, levels of brightness and color juxtaposition. “Colors become things, hence the serigraph for the Happening”:

Painting by Shaw for Chula VIsta Happening

Serigraph by Shaw for the Chula Vista Happening of June 1969

Shaw taught and lectured at several colleges and universities including the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston (1957), Harvard (1958; 1959), the University of Houston, Southern Arkansas University and Rice University. He was professor of painting at School of Art in San Francisco (1961) and gave workshops in Oakland, California (1963) and in Jocotepec (1967).

When he sought new inspiration in the mid-1960s, he flipped a coin to decide between Alaska and Mexico. and then, blindfolded, stuck a pin in a map of Mexico, thereby choosing the small coastal town of Barra de Navidad, where he came into contact with the indigenous Huichol people. Before long, as a result of a chance meeting with artist-photographer John Frost and his wife novelist Joan Frost, in a Guadalajara restaurant, Shaw had relocated inland, to the village of Jocotepec, where the Frosts resided, at the western end of Lake Chapala.

He first settled in Jocotepec in 1967 and lived there more-or-less full time until around 1972. For the following five or six years, he divided his time between Houston and Jocotepec.

During his years in Jocotepec, Shaw (described by a female admirer from that time as “drop-dead gorgeous”) was an active catalyst for local artists and became a tireless promoter of artistic events. Shaw’s friends and artistic colleagues in the Lake Chapala area included fellow serigrapher John Frost, Phyllis Rauch and her husband Georg Rauch, Tom Brudenell, Peter Paul Huf, Eunice (Hunt) Huf, sculptor Alice Bateman, poet Peter Everwine, poet-painter John Brandi, and many others.

Shaw was inspired by the power of indigenous music and culture, and greatly admired the pioneering work of Peter Everwine in revealing, through translation, the remarkable power of Nahuatl poems.

Shaw was a founder member of the local (Lake Chapala) art group known as Grupo 68 (founded in 1968), alongside Peter Huf, his wife Eunice Hunt, Jack Rutherford and John Kenneth Peterson. Grupo 68 exhibited regularly (most Sunday afternoons) from 1969-1971 at the Hotel Camino Real in Guadalajara, at the invitation of the hotel’s public relations manager Ray Alvorado (a singer) and also held many group shows in Ajijic, both at Laura Bateman’s Rincón del Arte gallery, as well as (later) in “La Galería”, the collective gallery they founded at Zaragoza #1, Ajijic. In addition, the group also showed in Guadalajara with José María de Servín, at El Tekare, and at Ken Edwards’ store in Tlaquepaque.

Allyn Hunt, reviewing a Grupo 68 exhibition held at the Tekare penthouse gallery in Guadalajara in July 1968, wrote that the show featured, “four highly independent artists (with four very different styles) who have the discipline, while regularly showing together, not to adopt a group means in approaching pictorial problems.” Hunt reserved particular praise for Shaw, saying that “Donald Shaw is probably this group’s most exploratory imagination, the one that when working at peak thrust, dominates technique and pictorial concepts most thoroughly.” (“Art Probe”, Guadalajara Reporter, 27 July 1968) 

In December 1968, when the four artists of Grupo 68 opened their own collective gallery in Ajijic, known simply as La Galería (at Zaragoza #1), the opening show, “Art is Life; Life is Art”, included works by a dozen artists, including Shaw. A review in Guadalajara Reporter said that,

“One of the best works in the show is hung here: Donald Shaw’s tour de force serigraph, “Spore Box”, presenting us with brilliantly-conceived chromatic ideas and imaginative forms which do not relay on optical illusionism, excessive optical vibration or three-dimensionality. This is undoubtedly the best serigraph Shaw – who has executed several series of rewarding prints – has produced.”

Another Grupo 68 collective show in April 1969 at La Galería, Ajijic, featured works by Shaw, John Kenneth Peterson, Charles Henry Blodgett (guest artist), John Brandi, Tom Brudenell, Peter Paul Huf, Eunice Hunt, Jack Rutherford, Cynthia Siddons and Robert Snodgrass.

In June 1969, Shaw joined with John Brandi and Tom Brudenell in arranging the somewhat presumptuous “happening” in Chula Vista, mid-way between Ajijic and Chapala. Shaw’s contributions to this event included bound-up figures, and prints of symbols.

In September 1969, Shaw, Peter Paul Huf and Eunice Hunt presented a show at Galeria 1728, Guadalajara, entitled 7-7-7, named because each artist presented 7 works, with promotional posters emulating the scoring system used in the Olympics:

7-7-7 show (Hunt, Huf, Shaw), 1969

7-7-7 show (Eunice Hunt, Peter Paul Huf, Shaw), 1969

In 1971, he may have been among the group of artists who exhibited on 15 May 1971 at a “Fiesta of Art”, held at the home of Mr and Mrs E. D. Windham (Calle 16 de Septiembre #33). Other artists on that occasion included Daphne Aluta; Mario Aluta; Beth Avary; Charles Blodgett; Antonio Cárdenas; Alan Davoll; Alice de Boton; Robert de Boton; Tom Faloon; John Frost; Dorothy Goldner; Burt Hawley; Peter HufEunice Hunt; Lona Isoard; Michael Heinichen; John Maybra Kilpatrick; Gail Michael; Bert Miller; Robert Neathery; John K. Peterson; Stuart Phillips; Hudson Rose; Mary Rose; Jesús Santana; Walt Shou; Showaltar (?); Sloane; Eleanor Smart; Robert Snodgrass; and Agustín Velarde.


D.E. Shaw: Untitled (1971). Mixed media. Photo credit: Rodney Susholtz

The image above shows a typical “decorated box” from this period. This piece, made of a Pepsi Cola box, wood, rock, bone, feathers and metal, measures 18″ (ht) by 14″ by 4″.

Two decorated panels, of a series of five known as “Jocotepec: Dream Series” (1968) were included in the exhibition “Wood in Art” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in 1979.

During his time in Mexico, Shaw also did some graphic art, and designed the official logo for the Mexican news agency, Agencia Mexicana de Noticias (1968). In 1972, back in the U.S., he illustrated a cover for Southwest Art Gallery Magazine.

Shaw has divided his years since Mexico between Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico. He lived and worked in Houston for many years (where he was on the faculty of the Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts), then had his studio in Pine Bluff, Arkansas for twenty years, before relocating to New Mexico, where his studio-home is in Guadalupita, in the mountains above Santa Fe.

While remaining primarily a sculptor, Shaw has enjoyed success in a variety of media. For example, in 1975, he arranged the first of several sky paintings, hiring pilots near Houston to leave trails of white smoke in specific patterns. In 1983, he designed and installed “Strata”, a 9-foot tall steel sculpture placed on the edge of the Balcones Escarpment just prior to the summer solstice. The semi-arid landscapes of Texas and New Mexico have inspired Shaw to develop new forms and works, including the small, two-sided, polychrome, sculpted steel “Betatakin” series.

Susie Kalil, in the brochure accompanying his solo show at the Arkansas Arts Center in 1988, writes that “Shaw switches gear from one medium to another without sacrificing craftsmanship or exact vision… [his] subjective interpretations are predicated by nature, rather than art fashion.” Later, she says that “Shaw is not your average artist. He is part philosopher, part poet, part outdoorsman. His interest in ritualistic activity is part of his constant investigation of how we experience time and place.””

Shaw’s major solo exhibits include Club 47, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1956); Nova Gallery, Boston (1957; 1958; 1959); Galeria de Artes Plasticas, Universidad de Guadalajara (1968); Mexico City (October 1968); La Galería, Ajijic (1969); The Small Store Gallery, Houston (1973, 1974); Videotaped Sky Drawings, Texas Gallery, Houston (1976); Robinson Gallery, Houston (1976); Kornblatt Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland (1977); Moody Gallery, Houston (1978, 1979, 1981); Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock (1979); Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi (1979);Transco Gallery, Victoria, Texas (1987); The Arkansas Arts Center (1988); Adair Margo Gallery, El Paso (1988); Taylor’s Contemporanea, Arkansas (1997); Baum Gallery, Conway, Arkansas (1998);

His group exhibits include the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (1956, 1957, 1959); Nova Gallery, Boston (1960); Allen Gallery, New York (1962);Pacific Gallery, Mendocino, California (1964); Gaspar Gallery, California (1967); Pacific Gallery, Mendocino, California (1967); La Galeria, Ajijic (1968); Rincón del Arte, Ajijic (1968); Galeria Palomar, Tlaquepaque (1968); Galería del Bosque, Guadalajara (1968); Arlene Lind Gallery, San Francisco (1968, 1969); Tekare Penthouse Gallery, Guadalajara (1969); Instituto Aragon, Guadalajara (1969); Vorpal Gallery, San Francisco (1971); Gallery of Modern Art, Taos, New Mexico (1971, 1972); David Gallery, Houston (1972);Biennial Invitational Exhibit of Texas Artists, Beaumont Art Museum (1974, 1978); Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi (1975); Louisiana Gallery, Houston (1976, 1978); Pelham-Stouffer Gallery, Houston (1977); Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin (1979); “Wood in Art”, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1979); Blaffer Gallery, Houston (1980); Art from Houston in Norway, Stavanger, Norway (1982); Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (2012).

Shaw’s work can be seen in public collections in Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington D.C.. For example, in Arkansas, sculptures or two dimensional pieces can be viewed at the Arkansas Arts Center and Bio-Medical Research Center in Little Rock, Hendrix College in Conway, Lyon College in Batesville, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope and Bank of America in Pine Bluff.

[A heartfelt thank-you to Shaw for his heartfelt support of this project, for having shared memories of his time in Mexico, and for allowing me access to many items from his personal library. I deeply regret that his creative genius was called to a higher plane before we had the opportunity to meet in person.]

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Sep 282015

Dudley Francis Kuzell, husband of Betty Kuzell, was a baritone in the well-known The Guardsmen quartet. The Kuzells lived at Lake Chapala for many years, from the early 1950s.

Kuzell (sometimes Kuzelle) was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 21 June 1896 and died in Guadalajara on 14 May 1969. He was a track athlete at Stanford University (class of 1919), but did not graduate, owing to registering for U.S. military duty near the end of World War 1. (The Stanford Daily, 28 April 1927). After military service, he settled in California making his living by acting and singing.

As an actor, he appeared in Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) and Faithful in My Fashion (1946).

As a singer, he was a member of the Ken Lane Singers and The Guardsmen quartet. The Ken Lane Singers accompanied Frank Sinatra on several occasions, including a 1945 recording of America the Beautiful; Silent Night, Holy Night; The Moon was Yellow; and I only Have Eyes for You, and for a 1947 recording that included It Came Upon the Midnight Clear; O little Town of Bethlehem; and the iconic White Christmas.

The Guardsmen quartet, 1949

The Guardsmen quartet, 1949

The all-male quartet The Guardsmen performed hundreds of concerts throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as many radio broadcasts. The quartet sang on the sound tracks of more than 800 motion pictures from the 1930s to the 1950s. These movies included Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), where the quartet were four of the dwarfs.

During their “retirement” at Lake Chapala, the Kuzells were famous for their musical evenings, and instrumental in the founding of the Lakeside Little Theater.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Sep 212015

Elizabeth L. Kuzell (1895-1986), better known as Betty Kuzell, lived in Chula Vista, Lake Chapala, for many years with her husband Dudley Kuzell (1896-1969). The Kuzells, both accomplished musicians, were active in the local community and instrumental in founding the Lakeside Little Theater, which has proved to be an enduring success.

Betty Kuzell was born Elizabeth Laird in California on 22 November 1895 and died in Chicago in 1986, on her 91st birthday. (Her mother was the cutely named Pocahontas Glazebrook). Betty married Dudley Francis Kuzell in Los Angeles, on 2 March 1918. The couple had one child, James Elgar Kuzell, born  in about 1923.

Versions of the founding of the Lakeside Little Theater differ, according to source. According to June Nay Summers, Betty Kuzell founded the theater in 1964, a date echoed in the short book Ajijic, 500 Years of Adventures (DAR, 2011). Summers claimed that the first production of the theater group was held in the building that was the former Chapala Railway Station on 14 August 1965, and was a musical written and directed by Betty entitled  “From Kokomo to Mexico”. Sadly, these details do not appear to be substantiated.

Based on the pages of the Colony (Guadalajara) Reporter (a weekly first published in December 1963), the story begins in early 1964, following an evening of musical entertainment (featuring Betty on the organ, Paul Carson on the piano, with Dudley Kuzell, William Stelling and Kenneth Rundquist as singers) at the Kuzells’ home. (This was quite a distinguished gathering since Rundquist was scheduled to sing at the World’s Fair in New York a few months later.) (CR, 2 April 1964)

if=men=played=cards-A week later, anyone interested in forming a Little Theater Group was invited to meet at the “Chapala Country Club on Friday 10 April at 4 p.m”. Clearly the meeting was a success since, on 20 June 1964, “the first little theater production to be presented by the Chapala Country Club” (based at the time in the former Chapala Railway Station) opened. A cast of four (Bob Owens, Floyd Wilson, Mike Bieselt and Dick Peppin), under Betty Kuzell’s direction, put on George S. Kaufman’s brilliant satire, If Men Played Cards as Women Do.

Early the following year, on 18 February 1965, a columnist reports that “Lakeside Little Theater became an independent and solid entity with its first business meeting held last week at Chapala Country Club.” The group adopted by-laws and Betty Kuzell became founding director. Regular membership was set at $25 pesos a year (two dollars at the then rate of exchange); sponsor members had four free tickets included in their $100 peso membership fee. (CR, 18 February 1965)

By June, the Lakeside Little Theater had 130 members, and announced it would close membership at 150. In mid-June, it presented “The Saddle Bag Saloon, Duke Reagan, Prop.” at the Chapala Country Club. The play, with a cast of over 40, was written and directed by Betty Kuzell, who also arranged the music. The set included a nude painted by Bob Snodgrass. At this time, the group was variously called either the Lake Chapala Little Theater or the Lakeside Little Theater in different articles and places.

In August 1965, the Colony Reporter (19 August) announced “another hilarious Lakeside Little Theatre workshop program next Monday… when Ken Kirk… will present “Courtship in 1830″ at the Chapala Country Club.

Relatively little is known about the Kuzells prior to their time in the Lake Chapala region, though a trawl through old newspapers reveals some snippets related to their musical prowess.

For example, the 18 September 1950 edition of The Van Nuys News from Van Nuys, California, describes a “sisterhood event” held at the Valley Jewish Community Center, at which Betty sang with the Sisterhood Choir.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Sep 142015

George Rae Marsh (née Williams) was an actress, playwright and novelist who lived for many years in Ajijic in the 1950s and 1960s with her first husband, the novelist Willard Marsh. The couple were married in 1948 and were together until Willard died in Ajijic in 1970. Two years after her husband’s death, George Rae married the science fiction writer Theodore R. Cogswell.

George Rae Marsh has several published plays and short stores, and also wrote at least one novel. Piecing together her bibliography is complicated by the fact that she wrote under several different names. Her plays were written as George Rae Williams, her novel as Georgia Cogswell, and most of her stories appear to have been written as George Cogswell. She was also sometimes referred to as George Rae Marsh Cogswell. To the best of my knowledge, despite several of these works having been written while she was living in Ajijic, they have no textual connections to the village.

However, George Rae Marsh was the basis for the character Sam Chester, wife of Willie Chester, in Eileen Bassing’s Ajijic-based novel Where’s Annie? (1963). George Rae’s most substantial work set in Mexico was the novel Golden Obsession (1979).


George Rae Williams was born in 1925. She graduated from the Wichita Falls High School in the early 1940s and became an actress at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Her brother John Williams (1922-1994) was a novelist, editor and professor of English whose 1972 novel “Augustus” won a National Book Award. He also wrote “Stoner” (1965), the tale of a professor of English at the University of Missouri. Williams’s work has seen something of a revival in recent years in Europe and he is the subject of a forthcoming biography by Charles J. Shields, who was kind enough to share with me the information that John Williams had started a novel about bohemians living in Mexico (presumably based on his visits to his sister and brother-in-law) but that it has since been lost.

Shortly after George Rae married Willard Marsh, they decided to move to Ajijic, so that they could concentrate on their writing. They lived on-and-off in the village from the early 1950s through to 1970, though with numerous intermissions elsewhere, including several spells in the U.S. where Willard taught English at Winthrop College in South Carolina (1959-1961), at the University of California, Los Angeles (1961-64) and at the North Texas State University, Denton (1968-70). They also spent some time in the literary and artistic circles of San Miguel de Allende.

Two years after Willard’s death, George Rae married Theodore Rose Cogswell (1918-1987) in San Miguel de Allende. Cogswell was an American professor of English and science fiction writer. After their marriage, the couple divided their time between Ajijic, San Miguel de Allende and the U.S.

The photo below, from the Megan Cogswell Collection, shows George and “Ted” Cogswell on their wedding day in 1972, in their matching leather safari suits.


At the time, George Rae owned a discotheque in Ajijic, presumably one of the earliest discotheques, if not the earliest, in the village.

Jerry Murray, a writer who lived in Ajijic at the time, was invited to the wedding, and later recalled (e*I*43–(Vol. 8 No. 2) April 2009) how the couple had ended up spending the first night of their honeymoon in separate cells in the city police station:

George owned a discotheque in Ajijic, and like everyone else in the wedding party at the Episcopalian church, including the priest, she was an atheist. The ceremony was followed by the wettest reception I’ve ever attended, and that was followed by Ted and George getting into her Jeep and heading for their honeymoon suite in Puerto Vallarta.

An hour later the reception was winding down when the Jeep came roaring back, stopping between the plaza and the police station for Ted to shove his screaming, cursing bride out on the cobblestones, where bride and groom were immediately arrested for being drunk and very disorderly. Placed in separate cells, Ted made a pillow out of his boots and went to sleep on the thin mattress of the cell’s wooden cot. George propped her mattress against her cell’s door, set it on fire, and screamed bloody murder until the cops turned them loose at dawn to continue on their honeymoon. When the honeymoon ended, George sedately began serving tea at the Sunday seminars Ted hosted for his graduate students at Ball State Teacher’s College in Muncie, Indiana.”

As George Rae Williams, she wrote five published plays: Mind Over Mumps: A One-act Farce (Eldridge Publishing Company, 1951); Augie Evans: Private Eye: A One-act Farce (Eldredge Publishing Company, 1951); Leave it to Laurie: A Comedy in One Act (Northwestern Press, 1952); Keeping it in the Family: A Comedy in One Act (Northwestern Press, 1953) and A will and a way – A Three Act Comedy (Eldridge Publishing Company, 1962).

As George Rae Cogswell, she wrote (with her husband) the short story “Contact Point” (1975) and they contributed a joint story to Six Science Fiction Plays, (Pocket Books, 1975).

In 1979, as Georgia Cogswell, she published Golden Obsession (Zebra Books, 1979).

George Rae Williams Marsh Cogswell died in 1997 and was interred next to Theodore Cogswell in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Aug 272015

American artist Walter (“Walt”) Peters lived from 15 June 1894 to 26 March 1985 and painted several paintings of Ajijic and Lake Chapala.

Peters served in the U.S. Navy from 4 August 1917 to 28 March 1919. He lived most of his life in Woodstock, New York state, where he was a member of the Woodstock Art Association.


Peters and his wife Margaret spent several winters, including that of 1973-74, at Lake Chapala, at Rancho Santa Isabel on the eastern edge of Ajijic. A Colony Reporter (Guadalajara) article described him as a “retired Art Director of New York City advertising agencies”, who had held one-man shows in Woodstock, New York (where he lived) and Key West, Florida.


Peters is best known for his meticulously executed plein air landscape and harbor scenes. He was a prolific watercolorist who completed numerous paintings of  Mexican village scenes, although the original locations of some of them are difficult to pin down.


Peters’ watercolors of the Lake Chapala include scenes of Ajijic as well as of the lake, and of the church in San Antonio Tlayacapan.

Other Woodstock artists and authors associated with Lake Chapala:

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

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Aug 172015

Dated 1981, these Georg Rauch designs for a children’s playground demonstrate the versatility of this amazing artist.

Georg Rauch: Playground designs, 1981

Georg Rauch: Playground designs, 1981. Click image to enlarge.

Georg’s widow, Phyllis Rauch, has kindly shared the following recollections related to Georg’s interest in playgrounds, and to these designs in particular:

“Georg designed a number of large playground pieces for a famous park in Vienna. When he arrived in the United States he was still fascinated by the topic and we visited playgrounds wherever we went – especially in New York.

When we moved to Mexico, Georg designed a very large and amazing playground for the town of El Molino, near Jocotepec. At the time there wasn’t even a church there, only a bell. The completed playground, utilizing all things that are freely available and could be replaced, was inaugurated by the then Governor of Jalisco’s first lady.

Sadly the only thing we didn’t take into consideration was upkeep, a fund for replacing tires, ropes etc., and over the years it basically disappeared. But I’m sure there are people in their late 40s and 50s who remember it well and enjoyed playing there.

Georg’s first and only stipulation was that a bathroom first be built and installed.

Sometimes when returning from Guadalajara, I think I can see it still there, among the many homes that have since been built.”

When Georg Rauch later learned that the Lakeside School for the Deaf (now the School for Special Children) in Jocotepec planned to build new play equipment, he gave the designs to Gwen Chan, the school’s director from 1985 to 1994. Some of Rauch’s designs were subsequently incorporated into the deaf school’s play equipment.

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