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.

Related posts:

Jul 302015
 

John Macarthur (“Jack”) Bateman was a painter, author and architect who was born on 9 October 1918 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and died on 15 March 1999. Bateman moved to Ajijic with his wife Laura Woodruff Bateman and three young children in 1952; the couple quickly became pillars of the local community, making exemplary contributions to the local social, cultural and artistic scene.

The Batemans were living in New York City prior to moving to Mexico. They responded to an advert in The New York Times which offered a home in Ajijic, together with five servants and a boat, for the princely sum of 150 dollars a month.

Jack Bateman studied architecture at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), prior to be called up for military service in January 1942. He served in the U.S. Navy from 21 January 1942 to 22 September 1945 at various Naval Air Stations, including a spell in North Africa flying submarine-hunting dirigibles. After the war, he completed his studies and then set up an industrial design studio in New York to produce, among other things, molded architectural elements made of plaster.

According to a blog post by Jack’s son-in-law Tom Vanderzyl, this led to Bateman having an unexpectedly significant impact on the work of the great German-born abstract expressionist artist Hans Hofmann who was living on the floor below:

…the painter/architect John MacArthur Bateman had a studio just above Hans Hoffmann (sic). In his studio, John poured large heavy 55-gallon drums of plaster into molds for architectural elements. It seems one day a plaster mold broke and sent 55 gallons of plaster pouring across his wooden plank floor that was also the ceiling of the studio under him, and the plaster dripped through the ceiling of the studio below. At the time, Hans had all of his paintings out looking them over for his upcoming show. Hans shouted upstairs in German for it to stop and that he needed help covering his work from the dripping plaster. Bateman along with his klutz brother-in-law, who had dropped the mold in the first place, came down to help. They used blankets and canvas in an attempt to cover the paintings, but it was too late. The plaster was setting up and the damage was done. Bateman put the best spin on it by telling Hans that his paintings needed that texture made by the pressed fabric and wet plaster and that the new tactile surface was in many ways more interesting. Now, he only needed to paint over the white plaster to get a far more interesting surface. Hans Hoffmann’s show was a success, and he would pop up to borrow plaster from time to time and talk with Bateman about materials.

bateman-book-coverFor the first few years in Mexico, Jack Bateman commuted back and forth to New York, spending about one week a month in the U.S. At home in Mexico, he spent time on his art and began to write. He authored five books including Loch Ness Conspiracy (New York: R. Speller & Sons, 1987), as well as a play, Caldo Michi, first performed in Ajijic in early 1999.

When the Lakeside Little Theater needed a new home in the mid-1980s, Bateman was a strong supporter of a plan to build a purpose-built facility on land donated by Ricardo O’Rourke, and acted as architect. The theater opened in 1987 and became the permanent home of Mexico’s most active English-language theater.

At various times sailor, artist, pilot, architect, writer and marketing consultant, whatever he turned his mind to, Jack Bateman made many unique contributions to the world.

For her part, Laura Bateman was a patron of the local arts scene in Ajijic, opening the village’s first purpose-built gallery, Rincón del Arte, at Hidalgo #41, Ajijic in about 1962. (For a couple of years prior to that, she had arranged shows in her own home). Rincón del Arte, which ran for many years, had monthly shows, featuring dozens and dozens of artists.For example, Whitford Carter exhibited at Rincón del Arte in both February 1967 and August 1968, while Peter Huf and his wife Eunice (Hunt) Huf held a joint exhibit there in December 1967 .

Jack and Laura Bateman’s eldest daughter, Alice M. Bateman, studied in Guadalajara, London (U.K.), New York and Italy before becoming a successful professional artist-sculptor based in Forth Worth, Texas.

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.

Jul 232015
 

Professional photographer Jack Weatherington, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 12 October 1933, moved to Ajijic in 1988 and resided there, continuing to take magnificent photographs, until his death in Guadalajara on 20 Feb 2008.

Soon after relocating to Ajijic, he became fascinated with Mexican masks, “especially the hauntingly beautiful, and sometimes simply haunting centuries-old masks native to the indigenous peoples of Mexico.” (Mexconnect.com).

Jack Weatherington: Burro carrying firewood, Ajijic. Photo reproduced by kind permission of Mexconnect.com

Jack Weatherington: Burro carrying firewood, Ajijic. Photo reproduced by kind permission of Mexconnect.com

Weatherington is quoted as saying, “I know the power of the mask. When I am preparing to photograph them, often it is as though the person who created it is there with me. Sometimes, for the briefest of moments, the veil of time lifts and I can see and feel the power of the centuries old moment of its creation. It is this power. This passion. Indeed, the majesty, I have tried to capture in my photographs.”

Jack Weatherington: Huichol mask. Photo reproduced by kind permission of Mexconnect.com

Jack Weatherington: Huichol mask. Photo reproduced by kind permission of Mexconnect.com

On leaving high school in the U.S., Weatherington joined the U.S. Navy, and served as a medical corpsman. After his military service, he worked as a professional photographer most of his career.

Postcard photograph, "Street Decorations" (Ajijic) by Jack Weatherington and José Hinojosa

Postcard photograph, “Street Decorations” (Ajijic) by Jack Weatherington and José Hinojosa

During his twenty years in Ajijic, he was an active member of the Ajijic Society of the Arts, and his photographs, especially those of floral and woodland scenes, regularly won awards in local shows. He also took exquisite portraits of some of the Lake Chapala region’s most famous residents, including the travel writer-entrepreneur Neil James. (James bequeathed her property, including its extensive gardens, to the Lake Chapala Society).

Weatherington also held a solo show of his photographs at the Mio Cardio Gallery in the Chapalita district of Guadalajara.

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 use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Jul 092015
 

Phyllis (Porter) Rauch, born 28 October 1938, is an American artist, writer and translator who has lived in Jocotepec for more than thirty years. Her husband was the internationally-acclaimed artist Georg Rauch (1924-2006). The couple lived in Guadalajara from 1967 to 1970, before moving to Laguna Beach, California for six years. They returned to Mexico in 1976 and established their permanent home in Jocotepec.

Phyllis Rauch. "Chayito". Photo reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Phyllis Rauch. “Chayito”. Photo reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Phyllis Rauch grew up in Ohio and received her bachelor’s degree in English at Bowling Green State University and her master’s degree in library science at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She studied German at the Goethe Institute in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and then worked at German libraries, including the Internationale Kinderbibliothek in Munich and the Amerika Gedenkbibliothek in Berlin. She met Georg Rauch in Vienna in 1965 and they were married in Ohio, September of the following year. Phyllis’ own highly-entertaining account of this love story was published on MexConnect in 2006 as “Not your usual wedding – a Valentine’s Day story.

rauch Phyllis-pablito

Phyllis Rauch: Pablito. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.

As a writer, Phyllis has written non-fiction and poetry, mainly for English-language magazines, newspapers and websites. She has also worked as a Spanish-English translator. During the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, Phyllis was a trilingual guide (English, Spanish, German) for the cultural events associated with the 1968 Olympics that were held in Guadalajara. She enjoyed very much squiring around the city the likes of the Berlin Opera and Duke Ellington’s band. Phyllis has never forgotten that after his last concert he kissed her on the cheek and said, “Shuugar.”

Phyllis Rauch. Rousseau-inspired jungle scene. Photo reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Phyllis Rauch. Rousseau-inspired jungle scene. Photo reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Her best-known translation is that of her husband’s wartime memoirs, which were first published, as The Jew with the Iron Cross: A Record of Survival in WWII Russia, only a few months before his death. The self-published book was reissued in February 2015 by mainstream publisher Farrar Straus Giroux, in hardback and audio versions, with the new title of Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army.

Somewhat late in life, and encouraged by her husband, Phyllis began to paint. Her charming, somewhat naif paintings of rural scenes and Mexican life have received deserved acclaim for their universal appeal.

Phyllis Rauch. Cat, kitten and maguey. Photo reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Phyllis Rauch. Cat, kitten and maguey. Photo reproduced courtesy of the artist.

The Rauchs opened their home and studios, on a one-acre property overlooking Lake Chapala on the outskirts of Jocotepec, as the Los Dos Bed & Breakfast Villas in the 1990s. Phyllis continues to welcome visitors there today, especially those with an interest in her husband’s art.

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.

Apr 022015
 

Georg Rauch was born in Salzburg, Austria, on 14 February 1924, and lived thirty years in Jocotepec, on the mountainside overlooking Lake Chapala, prior to his death on 3 November 2006.

Rauch had an adventurous early life. His memoirs (translated from their original German by his wife, Phyllis), described his wartime experiences. They were first published, as The Jew with the Iron Cross: A Record of Survival in WWII Russia, only a few months before his death. The self-published book was reissued in February 2015 by mainstream publisher Farrar Straus Giroux, with the new title of Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army. The memoirs are based on 80 letters sent home from the Russian trenches telling how Rauch, despite being officially classified as one-quarter Jewish, was drafted into Hitler’s army at age 19 in 1943 and sent to the Russian front. He was captured and spent 18 months in a Russian POW camp, where he contracted bone tuberculosis. After the war, Rauch spent two years recovering in Stolzalpe, an alpine sanatorium.

Rauch studied architecture for two years and life drawing with Professor Bőckl at the Akademie der bildenden Kűnste in Vienna, and was encouraged by his mother to pursue a career as an artist. He was awarded travel scholarships by the Austrian government. He exhibited and became a member of the prestigious artists’ association, Wiener Secession, and soon was showing his paintings in Vienna, Paris, London, Germany and Scandinavia.

rauch-georg-in-studio5

In 1966 Rauch married his soul mate Phyllis Porter in Ohio. The couple, who had met in Vienna, lived briefly in New York before returning to Vienna in the winter of 1966/67, because Georg had been commissioned to produce the main sculpture for the Austrian Pavilion at the upcoming Montreal World Expo (1967).

In summer 1967, the Rauchs, together with fellow artists Fritz Riedl and his girlfriend (later wife) Eva, spent two months driving through Mexico, as far south as Tehuantepec. On their return trip north, the group stopped off in Guadalajara to visit the Austrian consul. The consul, an architect, purchased several watercolors completed during the trip, as well as 4 or 5 oil paintings that Rauch had with him. In the fall of 1967, the Rauchs returned to Guadalajara when the consul commissioned a sculpture for a shopping center being built in the city. The Rauchs remained in Guadalajara until 1970.

rauch-georg-red trees-s

In 1968, Rauch was invited to do a series of posters for the Guadalajara Committee of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. (Mexico City had commissioned its own Olympics posters, but Rauch was responsible for all the posters produced in Guadalajara). One of these Olympics posters is mentioned in Al Young’s novel Who is Angelina?, during a description of a living room in Ajijic. Another Rauch poster (not of the Olympics) would later feature in the movie 10 (1979) starring Bo Derek and Dudley Moore, shot on location at the Las Hadas resort in Manzanillo. And yet another Rauch poster was once shown in an episode of the TV series Ironside.

It was during their stay in Guadalajara, that Rauch first met artist and photographer John Frost, who had a studio in Jocotepec and would later introduce Rauch to some of the finer points of silk-screening.

rauch-georg-Dream House-s

The Rauchs spent most of the next six years (1970-1976) in Laguna Beach, California, where Phyllis headed the San Clemente Public Library and Georg participated in the city’s famous Pageant of the Masters. Georg made several yearly visits to Puerto Vallarta, where his work was regularly shown in Galeria Lepe, the resort town’s only art gallery at the time. (This is where Rauch drew portraits of both Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as Liz’s son Christopher Wilding.)

In 1974, the Rauchs purchased property in Jocotepec and began to build their future home and studio. They moved into their (as-yet unfinished) home, designed by Georg, in October 1976. Rauch had finally found a place he could call home, and he would remain here for thirty years, painting a succession of expressionist oils, watercolors and silk screens, as well as building several extraordinary kinetic sculptures. Rauch was a prolific artist (completing more than 2000 oils in his lifetime), driven to paint, and to paint “only that which he needed and wanted to express.”

His clown-faced self-portraits bored deep into his soul. The influence of Lake Chapala was clear in many of his haunting and sensuous Mexican landscapes. On the other hand, his watercolors revealed his particularly keen sense of observation and his delicate touch. (Of course, I’m biased because I chose a Georg Rauch watercolor of Ajijic as the cover art for my Western Mexico, A Traveler’s Treasury, first published by Editorial Agata in 1993).

Georg Rauch was a consummate professional artist, one who was sufficiently successful throughout his career to live by his art alone. In conversation, he would sometimes interject a truly outrageous statement, but his wry sense of humor masked a considerable political perspicuity and an intense desire to interrogate the world around him.

In the 1980s, Georg and Phyllis Rauch expanded their home and opened the Los Dos Bed & Breakfast Villas, where Phyllis continues to welcome visitors, especially those with an interest in her husband’s art.

Georg Rauch’s work can be found in the collections of many major international museums. His numerous exhibitions include:

  • 1952 Konzerthaus in Vienna (first solo exhibition); and the Kűnstlerclub, Vienna.
  • 1953 to 1968 : London; París; Stuttgart; Vienna; Dusseldorf.
  • 1968 New York (Gallery York)
  • 1968, 1970 Galería Lepe, Puerto Vallarta
  • 1973 Toronto; Los Angeles
  • 1975 Guadalajara: Galería Pere Tanguy
  • 1977 Ajijic (Galeria del Lago)
  • 1979 Mexico D.F. (Alianza Francesa)
  • 1980, 1989 Puerto Vallarta (Galeria Uno)
  • 1982 Tucson, Arizona (Davis Gallery); Acapulco Convention Center
  • 1983 Guanajuato (University of Guanajuato)
  • 1984 Mexico City (Galeria Ultra)
  • 1986 Aarau, Switzerland
  • 1987 San Miguel de Allende
  • 1988 Guadalajara (major retrospective at Instituto Cultural Cabañas)
  • 1990 Munich (2)
  • 2000 Guadalajara (Ex-Convento del Carmen)
  • ???? Guadalajara (Galería Vertice) year-long traveling show, called Austrian Artists in Mexico, including works by Rauch, Fritz Riedl, Ginny Riedl and others.
  • 2007 Chapala (Centro Cultural Gonzalez Gallo)
  • 2014-2015 Guadalajara (Palacio del Gobierno del Estado); Chapala (Centro Cultural Gonzalez Gallo)

For more images of works by Georg Rauch, see Georg Rauch: Artist in Mexico gallery.

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.

Mar 302015
 

John Elbert Upton was born on 10 September 1917 and died aged 88, in Monterey, California, on 9 October 2005. He was a multi-talented individual who earned his living as a translator and teacher. Upton lived in Ajijic for over a decade, from 1949 to 1959, and then returned to live in the village several times (for varying lengths of time) in the 1960s through to the early 1990s.

Upton’s circle of friends in the Lake Chapala area included fellow translator Lysander Kemp, who lived in Jocotepec, and poet and literary figure Witter Bynner, who had a home in Chapala.

Upton majored in music and Spanish at college, becoming an extremely proficient classical guitarist. In 1966, he gained a Masters in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Madrid in Spain.

John Upton, 1957. Photo credit: Leonard McCombe, Life Magazine

John Upton, 1957. Photo credit: Leonard McCombe, Life Magazine

During his early days living in Ajijic, in the 1950s, Upton wrote several colorful pieces about the area for the San Francisco Chronicle, but made his living not by writing but as a teacher to the children of expatriate families. These students included a young Katharine Goodridge Ingram, who went on to run a very successful art gallery in the village. She has particularly fond memories of Upton: “He was my tutor when I was a young girl. Truly a Renaissance man: played guitar, bass fiddle, brought solar-heated water to his Ajijic house, accompanied his wife as she sang hot old cabaret oldies, built a telescope, etc.”

This photo by Leonard McCombe shows a youthful and sartorially-elegant John Upton setting up a telescope in his garden in Ajijic. It appeared in the 23 December 1957 Life Magazine article, “Yanks Who Don’t Go Home. Expatriates Settle Down to Live and Loaf in Mexico.”

Upton wrote a short piece, “Maya Today” (a linguistic study of the Mayan language Yucateco in Yucatán), published in the December 1962 issue of The Modern Language Journal, but was far better known as a Spanish-English translator. Upton’s fine translations introduced generations of English-speaking readers to the extraordinary diversity and creativity of Spanish-language literature.

Besides translations of poems by the likes of Pablo Neruda and Miguel de Unamuno, his published translations include:

  • Cumboto, by Ramón Díaz Sánchez (University of Texas Press, 1969);
  • Pueblo en vilo: Microhistoria de San José de Gracia (“San José de Gracía, Mexican Village in Transition”), by Luis González (University of Texas, Austin, 1974).
  • Jarano, by Ramón Beteta (University of Texas, Austin:, 1975);
  • In the Magic Land of Peyote, (Texas Pan American Series) by Fernando Benitez (University of Texas, Austin, 1975);
  • Polifemo, a narrative poem by Luis De Góngora (The Fireweed Press, 1977)
  • La feria (“The Fair”), by Juan José Arreola (University of Texas, Austin, 1977). This work is chock-full of local idioms, curses, etc., and, as Upton says in his translator’s note, “There are passages in “The Fair” that can confound even a well-informed Mexican”.

In the early 1990s, he worked as staff translator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and for Latin American Art magazine. Selections of Upton’s translations were included in the book Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries, with an Introduction by Octavio Paz (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990), and he translated some essays and catalog entries for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain (1992). In 2004 he was a finalist in the Barnstone Translators’ Competition.

John Upton may have been only one of the many extraordinarily gifted individuals who have shaped the long artistic and literary history of Lake Chapala, but he will long be remembered for the supreme quality of his translations, whether of poems, literature or non-fiction.

Related posts:

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.

Dec 222014
 

Joan Van Every was born 28 Feb 1929 in Los Angeles, California, and died at age 83 in Santa Barbara, California, on 6 June 2012. She was survived by her husband John Frost, son John Frost and 3 grandchildren. Her father, Dale Van Every, was a famous writer and screenwriter most active in the 1920s and 1930s.

Joan was educated at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of California at Berkeley. She served as a librarian after the second world war on US military bases in France and Germany, and was later the Head Librarian of the Santa Monica Public Library for several years.

Joan Van Every (then 35) married artist and photographer John Frost (41) on 26 September 1964 in San Bernadino, California. In 1966, the couple relocated to Mexico, living for a short time in Uruapan in Michoacán, before establishing their permanent home and John’s photographic studio in Jocotepec on Lake Chapala. John maintained his commercial photography studio (specializing in aerial photographs) in their home for more than 40 years.Prior to finding their home in the village, the couple spent 6 weeks at the historic La Quinta inn in Jocotepec. The La Quinta  had been an inn ever since 1824. Sadly, the building was wantonly destroyed in the 1990s.

frost-joan-ca-2008Joan was an indefatigable supporter of numerous charitable organizations at Lakeside, including the pioneering Centro de Salud in Jocotepec, the Lakeside School for the Deaf. For many years, she helped coordinate medical consultations and surgeries for Chapala-area children via the Shriners organization. Joan  was also the co-founder in 1993 of Amigos de Salud (which later became the Programa Pro Niños Incapacitados del Lago), and was a co-founder of the Lakeside region’s major annual fund-raising event: the Ajijic Chili Cook-off.

I have read that Joan wrote two art books for children, but have failed to find any proof of this. However, she certainly did write six novels, several set in Mexico, and all using her married name of “Joan Van Every Frost”.

frost-joan-van-every-coversHer first novel, This Fiery Promise (Leisure Books, 1978), dedicated to Tam, is a historical romance set at the start of the Mexican Revolution. It tells the fiery adventures of a horse-loving American girl who marries a rich, much older Mexican hacienda-owner. Their lives become entangled in the Revolution, and she eventually flees by joining a circus. The novel covers lots of territory from Santa Barbara (California) to Nayarit, Guadalajara, Colima and the port of Manzanillo.

Lisa (New York: Leisure Books, 1979) is dedicated “For John, with all my love”. This historical romance set in 1880s Britain unravels the complex relationships of a dysfunctional family, in the midst of scenes involving horses, fires, medical doctors, and class differences.

Her third novel includes scenes set in Guadalajara and at Lake Chapala. A Masque of Chameleons (Fawcett 1981) looks at the adventures and misadventures befalling a troupe of traveling actors in mid-nineteenth century Mexico. The theater troupe withstands lots of internal intrigue and external pressures as it tours Mexico, from Veracruz, Puebla, Mexico City and Cuernavaca to Morelia, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guadalajara and Lake Chapala. This novel displays a sound background knowledge of Mexican history and is engagingly written.

This is how Frost first describes the troupe’s arrival at Lake Chapala: “They finally came to a large body of water that stretched as far as they could see to the west, like an inland sea the color of a silver coin. Across the lake were green, brush-covered mountains, ancient dead volcanoes that had thrust themselves up when the world was still young to form this pocket cradling the endless lake.” ( p 228)

In Kings of the Sea (Fawcett, 1982), the publisher’s blurb claims that Gideon Hand is determined to endure all hardships as he struggles to forge a shipbuilding dynasty and to possess the woman he loves but cannot marry. Genius and passion hold sway in this sweeping saga of a shipbuilding dynasty.

Frost’s fifth novel, Portrait in Black (Fawcett 1985) has a Santa Barbara portrait painter Crystal Perry as its main protagonist. Perry not only paints portraits of Santa Barbara’s upper crust, but also paints horses, and she is quickly dragged into a web of extortion and murder.

Silvershine (Fawcett 1987) is set in Mexico, and looks at the drugs scene in the glittering Los Dorados hotel in Manzanillo, where swimwear designer Blaise Cory has opened a new boutique. A minor part of the action is set in Oaxaca (at Mitla). This is a tale of smuggling, money and corruption. The Los Dorados hotel is clearly based on Manzanillo’s famed Las Hadas hotel complex.

All of Joan Van Every Frost’s novels are well-crafted, and enjoyable light reading. They have long been out-of-print, but copies are readily available via used books sites such as http://abebooks.com.

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.

Dec 182014
 

Margaret Van Gurp, a well known artist from eastern Canada, was born in Delft, Netherlands, 6 December 1926. She moved to Canada in 1953.

She visited her daughter Susan Van Gurp in Jocotepec for 3 weeks in 1983. Susan Van Gurp was teaching at the Lakeside School for the Deaf, now the Centro de Atención Multiple Gallaudet (“Gallaudet Special Education Center”) from 1982-1984.

Margaret Van Gurp: Watercolor of Jocotepec (1983)

Margaret Van Gurp: Watercolor of Jocotepec (1983)

During Margaret Van Gurp’s visit, she produced a series of pen and ink drawings of the students at the school, as well as other people in the town. Van Gurp also painted several charming watercolors of life in the town.

Van Gurp’s early art education (1945-1947) was under Gillis van Oosten in Delft, Netherlands. She also took courses at the College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, studied portrait sculpture in clay under Allison McNeil, and (1980) studied portraiture under David Leffel and Robert Philipp at the Art Students League of New York in the U.S. Her art has been widely shown in Eastern Canada.

Margaret Van Gurp has also illustrated books, such as Acadian Awakenings, and sculpted and painted mannequin heads for Parks Canada exhibits at several locations, including Castle Hill, Newfoundland; Citadel Hill Museum, Halifax; and Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

To learn more about this artist:

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.

Oct 302014
 

Portrait artist Betty Warren, later known as Betty Warren Herzog, was born in New York City on 6 January 1920. Her brightly colored portraits were in such demand that she became one of the highest paid female portraitists of the 20th century. In 1940, at age 20, she became the youngest woman in US History to hold a solo exhibit at a major US Museum (Berkshire Museum).

From the early 1980s, she spent winters in Ajijic, Mexico, and had her art studio there.

Betty Warren in Ajijic

Betty Warren in Ajijic

Betty Warren was the daughter of illustrator Jack A. Warren, cartoonist of Pecos Bill. She studied at the Art Students League in New York, the National Academy of Design, the Cape School of Art (summers, 1937-42) with Henry Hensche, Farnsworth School of Art, Sarasota, Florida, and the Reineke School in New Orleans. Warren was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in 1991 by Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York.

Betty Warren taught at the Albany Institute of History and Art for seventeen years and co- founded The Palm Tree School of Art, in Sarasota, Florida, and The Malden Bridge School of Art, in Malden Bridge, New York.

She had more than 35 solo shows during her artistic career, and exhibited at Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, Allied Artists of America, American Water-Color Society, National Arts Club, Knickerbocker Artists, New York, and the Grand Central Art Galleries. Her last formal portrait was of Governor Hugh Carey for the State of New York in 1991. She died in Albany on 8 November 1993.

She one of the six wives of actor Stuart Lancaster (1920-2000). She had two sons: potter, sculptor and author Michael Dean Lancaster and landscape artist John Warren Lancaster. Following her divorce from Stuart Lancaster, Warren later married Jacob Herzog, a prominent attorney in upstate New York.

Betty Warren was a member of Grand Central Art Galleries, National Arts Club, American Artists Professional League,National League of American Pen Women, Pen & Brush.

Warren’s portraits can be found in the collections of the The University of Wisconsin; General Electric; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Albany Institute of History and Art, New York; the Malden Bridge School of Art; Hartwick College, New York; the New York State Supreme Court in Albany; and the Grand Lodge of New York.

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 292014
 

Artist Robert Bateman Neathery and his wife Ellie moved from California to Jocotepec in February 1965, and lived there the remainder of their lives. Bob Neathery continued to paint until about 1983 when his health began to deteriorate. He painted mainly genre scenes of Mexican village life, as well as portraits, and is especially remembered for his “voluptuous golden nudes” (see image), which often rely on a palette of brown-beige colors.

Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on 8 September 1918, Bob Neathery died in Guadalajara on 15 March 1998. Eleanor “Ellie” Florence Schwindt, who would be his wife and best friend for almost 60 years, was born 23 December 1919 in Larimer County, Colorado, and died in Guadalajara on 8 August 2001.

Robert Neathery: Young Bather (1968)

Robert Neathery: Young Bather (1968)

Bob’s early life was spent partly in El Paso, Texas, (where the family resided when he was 12 years of age in 1930), partly in Muskogee (where they were living in 1935) and by age 19, Bob was living in Denver, Colorado, where he attended art school at the University of Denver..

Bob supported his art by working at a series of jobs including telegraph operator for the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, a sign painter of giant ice cream cones, automobiles and ladies drinking milk, a technical illustrator for North American Aviation, a sculptor of lamps at Gumps in San Francisco, and as manager of a co-op art gallery in Redondo Beach.

Bob and Ellie married on 28 November 1939 in Denver, Colorado, but by 1946 had moved to San Diego in California.

In November of that year, an exhibit at La Jolla art center in San Diego featured two “arresting sculptures”, one the work of Bob Neathery and the other sculpted by his elder sister Paula Nethery Rohrer (aka Paula Neathery Hocks) . The pieces are mentioned in a review of the exhibition in the San Diego Union.

Robert Neathery. Self portrait (1961

Robert Neathery. Self portrait (1961). From Palos Verdes Peninsula News.

From the mid 1950s, Bob and Ellie Neathery lived in Redondo Beach, where Bob Neathery worked for North American Aviation Corp and gave private art classes.

In November 1958, Neathery exhibited at the second Palos Verdes Outdoor Art Show, sponsored by the South Bay Community Art Association, and at a Book and Art Fair, sponsored by the Pacific Unitarian Church of Torrance.

After retiring from North American Aviation Corp. in 1959, Neathery became a full-time artist. He was a founding member of the Artists Cooperative Gallery at 121 S. Pacific Ave., Redondo Beach, which opened in July 1959. Along with  Gladys Bruchez and Marco Antonio Gomez, Neathery participated in a three person show at the gallery in January 1960.

The following year, in May 1961, several members of the Artists Cooperative Gallery, including Neathery (who was by then the Gallery Manager), showed their works at the  the opening of the Peninsula Center in Palos Verdes. The Cooperative Gallery moved their gallery to the Peninsula Center later that year, to “the contemporary, handsome TKM building, designed by Carver L. Baker & Assoc., at 27715 Silver Spur Road, Rolling Hills Estates.” Interviewed by a local journalist at about that time, Neathery declared that, “In a time of tension and strife and hate, my belief must be in the good and beautiful. I paint and create beauty as an antidote for the bad forces at work in the world.”

Neathery held a two man exhibit, with Byron Rodarmel at the Artists’ Co-op Gallery in August 1962; later that month both men showed works in a group exhibit at the Western Bank office in Torrance.

In November 1963, Neathery held a solo show of his paintings at the Angus Paint store in the Peninsula Center. By then, Neathery was president of the South Bay Art association and was represented in Los Angeles by Village Galleries in the Crenshaw district, in Carmel by Zantman Galleries, and in Monterey by Hidden Village. He was continuing to give painting classes in oils and watercolors. The following month, Neathery exhibited in a group show, the Holiday Art Festival, held at a private home in Palos Verdes, an event held for 475 guests, and at which Donald Totten (another artist with a connection to Lake Chapala) was a fellow exhibiter.

Bob and Ellie Neathery continued to live in California (in Redondo Beach) until their decision to relocate to Jocotepec in about 1965.

Two years later, in 1967 a thief entered their lakeside home, while they were out, and stole one of Bob’s paintings: a 24 x 30″ oil painting, from the couple’s bedroom, of a mountain landscape with a woman washing in a stream; the thief ignored appliances, clothes and everything else.

Bob Neathery held a solo show of 31 drawings and paintings in Guadalajara, at La Galeria (Galeria 8 de Julio) in April 1968. Author and art critic Allyn Hunt‘s review of the show in the Guadalajara Reporter praised Neathery as, “a sensuously exploratory painter”, adding that, “When he’s good he’s immensely exciting”. Hunt felt that Neathery’s most successful works included “Blue Plant” and “Kaleidoscope”, “in which six nude figures seem to move languorously in front of and behind one another in a sensual haze of muted blues, yellows and oranges.” According to Hunt, Neathery “feels highly influenced by the country’s “pow” lighting, as he calls it, and by the different cultural aura he finds here.”

In August 1968, Neathery had his works on show at the Holiday Inn in Chula Vista, mid-way between Chapala and Ajijic.

Later that year, in November, “La Galería” in Guadalajara held another show of Neathery’s works, immediately before a showing in the same gallery of works by Neathery’s Jocotepec neighbor John Frost. Allyn Hunt is again on hand to review the latest works by an artist who “possesses an excellent drawing hand and an ingenious drafting eye”, and is “at his best when pushing these talents into new territory.” Among Hunt’s favorite works were “The Vault” and “Model Resting”. In The Vault, “we see segments of walls, stairs, vaults, dim forms that are organized in such ways as to be haunting without being menacing, shadowy without being darkly somber.”

In 1970, Neathery exhibited a selection of watercolors in a one man show at Casa Blanca in Ajijic, and in May 1971, he was among a large group of artists that exhibited at the “Fiesta of Art” held at the residence of Mr and Mrs E. D. Windham (Calle 16 de Septiembre #33, Ajijic). Other artists at this show 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 Huf; Eunice (Hunt) Huf; Lona Isoard; Michael Heinichen; John Maybra Kilpatrick; Gail Michael; Bert Miller; John K. Peterson; Stuart Phillips; Hudson Rose; Mary Rose; Jesús Santana; Walt Shou; Showaltar (?); Sloane; Eleanor Smart; Robert Snodgrass; and Agustín Velarde.

In 1973, Neathery was appointed “gallery director” for the Galeria del Lago de Chapala, A.C., whose president was Arthur Ganung. In September of that year, Neathery exhibited “recent oils and watercolors” at El Tejaban (Zaragoza #1, Ajijic). That display comprised 32 works including nudes, landscapes, character studies and scenes from Mexican village life.

A group exhibit, the “Nude Show”, opened in February 1976 at the Galeria del Lago in Ajijic, which included a painting by Robert Neathery, as well as works by a long list of local and Guadalajara artists, among them Jonathan Aparicio, Arevalo, Dionicio, John Frost, Guillermo Guzmán, Gail Michel, John Peterson, Georg Rauch and Synnove Schaffer (Pettersen).

Bob Neathery’s work has been exhibited in Los Angeles County Museum, Downey Museum and Long Beach Museum. He won seven first and second place awards and purchase prizes in the annual North American Aviation Corp. art shows prior to retirement.

[Note: Bob Neathery’s elder sister Paula Neathery Hocks (1916-2003), a noted book artist, poet and photographer, visited him several times in Mexico, presumably staying in Jocotepec. As her obituary states, “Her artist books and photographs have been featured in shows internationally and are included in numerous collections such as the Tate Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, U.K.; the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; contemporary book art collections at the Getty Museum in Santa Monica California, and the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive in Miami, Florida.; as well as special collections at the University of Iowa and the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.”]

Sources:

  • Guadalajara Reporter: 4 March 1967; 4 May 1968; 31 Aug 1968; 30 Nov 1968; 21 Nov 1970; 3 Feb 1973; 22 Sep 1973; 31 January 1976
  • Hollywood Riviera Tribune, Number 5, 13 November 1958
  • Informador: 26 Nov 1968
  • Palos Verdes Peninsula News, 30 October 1958; 16 July 1959; 31 December 1959; 5 December 1963; 12 December 1963.
  • Rolling Hills Herald, Number 71, 16 February 1961

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 6:17 am  Tagged with:
Jul 282014
 

Francisco Ochoa was born in Jamay, Jalisco, mid-way between Ocotlán and La Barca, on 4 Sep 1943 (some sources say 1946). The family moved to Mexico City when he was 5 years old. He subsequently became an accountant.

He was about 36 years old when he enrolled in the  Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado “La Esmeralda”. While studying there, he became the accountant for the Galería Estela Shapiro. Recognizing his talent, Shapiro offered him space in her gallery for a one-man show, which was well received by the art-loving public. Ochoa abandoned accountancy to focus full-time on his painting. Numerous individual exhibitions followed, in locations such as the Instituto Francés de América Latina, the Casa de la Cultura Jesús Reyes Heroles, the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, the Museo Universitario del Chopo, the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, and in the Galería OMR. His works have also been exhibited in Guadalajara (including the Cabañas Cultural Institute), and in California and San Antonio, Texas.

After the death of his mother, Ochoa returned to Guadalajara, from where he continued to supply Galeria OMR with his work. Unfortunately, shortly after moving to Guadalajara, he was diagnosed with oral cancer, which led to his passing on 29 March 2006.

ochoa-francisco-el-canto-de-las-sirenas-1982Ochoa was primarily an oil painter, but also left many sketches and drawings. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Regional Museum of Guadalajara and the José Luis Cuevas museum in Mexico City.

His paintings shows great ingenuity, and are somewhat naif in style, using color and a sense of fun to offer a fresh view, replete with social criticism, often poking fun at the idiosyncrasies of Mexico and the absurdities of everyday life. This has led to him being described as a “satirical costumbrista“.

It is unclear whether Ochoa ever painted Lake Chapala, though his 1982 work “El Canto de las Sirenas” (“Song of the Sirens”) (see image) could easily be interpreted as having been influenced by his familiarity with the lake.

In his will, he left numerous drawing and two oil paintings to the Casa de la Cultura in Jamay, which has now been renamed after him. Since 2012, one room in the building shows works by Ochoa and a second room is used for temporary exhibitions.

For more images of Francisco Ochoa’s art, see Museoblaisten.com

 Posted by at 6:06 am  Tagged with:
Jun 082014
 

Ramón Martínez Ocaranza was born in Jiquilpan, Michoacán, 15 April, 1915, and died in Morelia 21 September 1982.

He was a poet, essayist, social fighter and teacher, who used to joke that only a wall had stopped him from becoming President of Mexico–this was because Lázaro Cárdenas (President of Mexico 1934-1940) had been born in the house next door!

ocaranza-ramonMartínez christened his native city of Jiquilpan as the “city of jacarandas”, a name that is still widely used today on account of the city’s many blue-flowering jacaranda trees.

He published numerous volumes of poetry, including:

Al pan, pan y al vino, vino, 1943; Ávido Amor, 1944; Preludio de la muerte enemiga, 1946; Muros de soledad, first part 1952, second part 1992; De la vida encantada, 1952; Río de llanto, 1955; Alegoría de México, 1959; Otoño encarcelado, 1968; Elegía de los triángulos, 1974; Elegías en la Muerte de Pablo Neruda, 1977; Patología del Ser, 1981.  Works published after his death include the poetry volumes La Edad del tiempo, 1985; and Vocación de Job, 1992, which formed part of El libro de los días (1997).

He also wrote an autobiography, finally published twenty years after his death in 2002. He studied (and later taught) at Colegio de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (Morelia) and studied at UNAM. His poems contain many pre-Columbian element and he researched and wrote about Tarascan literature.

Sadly, a campaign in 2010-2011 to turn his former house (Río Mayo #367, colonia Ventura Puente, Morelia)  into a small museum and exhibition space has apparently failed, owing to lack of funds.

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 6:56 am  Tagged with:
Mar 222012
 

Artist and environmentalist Ra(w) Rysiek (formerly known as Rick, then Richard) Ledwon lived in Jocotepec several times for short periods from the early 1980s on.

Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, to a musical couple from Poland, Ledwon studied Fine Arts at University of Alberta, but apparently became disillusioned by professors who told him he’d never make it in his chosen field. He traveled to Europe. On his return to Canada, he studied graphic design at Grant MacEwan Art College (Edmonton, Alberta) and at Fredericton College.

Rick Ledwon. Lago de Chapala. ca 1988. Reproduced by kind permission of Dale and Wayne Palfrey

Rick Ledwon. Lago de Chapala. Lithograph, ca 1988. Reproduced by kind permission of Dale and Wayne Palfrey.

Ledwon then worked for Air Canada (Latin America and Caribbean) and as a freelance graphic artist. He visited Jocotepec to meet artist-photographer John Frost (on the recommendation of a mutual friend), and then worked with both John Frost, and also with Georg Rauch, another Jocotepec-based artist, for almost two years. During this time, he developed silk screen and other techniques. After returning to Canada, he worked as a picture framer at an art gallery, but soon moved back to Jocotepec, where he did silkscreens and paintings, primarily of flowers and architecture.

One of Ledwon’s paintings was included in an exhibition in Mexico City in 1988 entitled “Help Save Lake Chapala”, alongside works by Daphne Aluta, Nancy Bollembach, Luisa Julian, Conrado Contreras, Georg Rauch, Eleanor Smart, Enrique Velázquez and Laura Goeglin.

envirobusWhen he returned permanently to Canada, and living in Ottawa, Ledwon decorated the ‘Envirobus’ (see image), which was used to promote local environmental groups and environmentally oriented businesses, such as organic farmers and recycling companies. The bus itself was a moving mural, painted to represent Ledwon’s impression of forests from all over the Americas.

In more recent years, Ledwon has resided in the Slocan Valley in B.C., Canada, built unique strawbale houses, tended organic gardens, and taught about the raw food diet, while practicing Qigong.

Source:

  • Anon. 1987. Portrait of the Artist, in El Ojo del Lago, January 1987, vol III, No 4.

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 2:59 pm  Tagged with:
Mar 222012
 

Artist and photographer John Frost was born 21 May 1923 in Pasadena, California. John and his wife Joan Frost, an author, lived for more than forty years in Jocotepec, before returning to California in 2012.

John is the son of John and Priscilla (Morgrage) Frost and grandson of the famous American illustrator A. B. Frost. [1]

John became interested in photography and the magic of the darkroom at age 14. He attended Midland School, a small boarding school near Los Olivos, California, and later earned a degree in Graphic Art following military service in the Pacific during the second world war and then settled into artistic and commercial photography in the mid-1950s.

John’s first solo exhibition, of mixed media pieces, in which drawings were photographed, enlarged and chemically treated to transform colors, was in Bobinart Gallary in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. This exhibition moved to Purdue University in 1966, shortly after Frost had relocated to Jocotepec with his wife. At Purdue, the opening of the exhibit was accompanied by a lecture about the “beat generation”. At the time, Purdue was embroiled in a bitter city versus university battle, on account of the Police Chief having ordered the university library to withdraw from circulation all books by Henry Miller, the American author then living in France.

John Frost (then 41 years old) married Joan Van Every (35) on 26 September 1964 in San Bernadino, California. In 1966, the couple relocated to Mexico, living for a short time in Uruapan in Michoacán before establishing their permanent home and photographic studio in Jocotepec.

In 1968, an exhibition of his silkscreens at La Galería in Guadalajara prior to the 1968 Olympics attracted the attention of TV broadcasters. Frost declined to give them permission to film his silkscreens since they asked him for $200 towards the production costs!

In May 1971, Frost was among the large group of artists exhibiting at “Fiesta de Arte” at a private home in Ajijic. Other artists showing there included Daphne Aluta; Mario Aluta; Beth Avary; Charles Blodgett; Antonio Cárdenas; Alan Davoll; Alice de Boton; Robert de Boton; Tom Faloon; Dorothy Goldner; Burt Hawley; Peter Huf; Eunice (Hunt) Huf; 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.

John Frost: Nude with flower

John Frost: Nude with flower

For several years, John Frost focused on his paintings and silkscreens. He worked closely, and shared his silkscreen techniques, with several other Jocotepec-based artists, including (Don) Shaw, Georg Rauch and Ra Rysiek Ledwon. Georg Rauch went on to experiment with his own silkscreen techniques using non-toxic materials, producing his own masterful silkscreens for many years. John also had a profound influence on the young painter Synnove Pettersen (1944-), who attributes her decision to return to doing silkscreen (serigraph) pieces at that stage in her career to his enthusiasm and encouragement.

Starting in 1979, John Frost became the premier aerial photographer in western Mexico, amassing an impressive collection of images (now housed in the University of Colima), especially of the Lake Chapala region, the volcanoes of Colima and the rapidly developing mid-Pacific coast of Colima and Jalisco, including the area around Manzanillo.

His aerial photographs have featured in several exhibitions, including four solo exhibitions in the state of Colima, three in the state capital and one on the university campus in Manzanillo. John Frost’s photos can be found in the collections of several Colima and Jalisco state agencies. A selection of his photographs graced the Guadalajara airport at the time of the 1986 World Cup, and his photos were exhibited in one of the lateral galleries of the Cabañas Cultural Institute in Guadalajara. This may have been the first time any Lakeside artist had ever been invited to exhibit in the Institute, arguably Jalisco’s single most important exhibition space. (Several years later, the Institute would invite fellow Jocotepec artist Georg Rauch to hold a retrospective of his work there, occupying the main galleries).

Once, when chatting with me, John Frost remarked that “I never quite met my family’s expectations”. If that is really true, then I can only conclude that his family’s expectations were utterly impossible to meet, since John’s superb photographs and silkscreens, as well as his quiet encouragement of many other artists and photographers, speak for themselves.

– – –

[1] Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928) (ABF), was an early American illustrator, graphic artist, and comics writer. He was also well known as a painter. ABF’s work is well known for its dynamic representation of motion and sequence. ABF is considered one of the great illustrators in the “Golden Age of American Illustration”. ABF illustrated over 90 books, and produced hundreds of paintings; in addition to his work in illustrations, he is renowned for realistic hunting and shooting prints.

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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