Sep 222016
 

Lothar Wuerslin and his wife, Ann, lived in Ajijic in the late 1950s, from 1956 to about 1959. They stayed until their savings ran out and then returned to New York.

Their time at Lake Chapala changed their lives in more ways than one. First, their eldest son, Christopher (who late in his life became a chef, writer and photographer) was born in Mexico on 21 March 1956. Then, Lothar, who had been busy preparing enough paintings for a solo show on his return to New York, discovered sculpting. Thus began an entirely new chapter in his artistic career. Ann was also an artist, as well as a poet.

Lothar Hellmut Wuerslin was born in Auggen, Germany, on 3 March 1927 to a French father and his German wife. Before Lothar’s third birthday, the family emigrated to the U.S. (1929). He served in the U.S. Army from July 1945 to November 1946. In 1951 he entered the University of New Hampshire to study art, and met Ann. Lothar also studied at the Boston Museum school of art. The young couple moved to New York where a succession of part-time jobs (including painting fire escapes) enabled them to save a few dollars and try their luck in Mexico.

Lothar Wuerslin. Frescoes on wall of Ajijic home, 1957. Photo by Leonard McCombe, Life

Lothar Wuerslin. Frescoes on wall of Ajijic home, 1957. Photo by Leonard McCombe, Life

In 1956, they took up residence in Ajijic, paying the princely sum of $5 (dollars) a month for a 4-room adobe house that lacked a tub. Within months, Lothar had executed an interesting series of frescoes on the foyer walls (above) as well as begun to paint in earnest.

Lothar and Ann Wuerslin playing chess, 1957. Photo by Leonard McCombe, Life

Lothar and Ann Wuerslin playing chess, 1957. Photo by Leonard McCombe, Life

The Wuerslins were photographed by Leonart McCombe for his 1957 Life article about Americans at Lake Chapala. McCombe not only photographed their home (and murals), but also took pictures of the young couple playing chess and (their home lacking a tub) taking a bath, surrounded by flowering water hyacinths, in Lake Chapala.

Lothar and Ann Wuerslin taking a bath in Lake Chapala wster hyacinths, 1957. Photo by Leonard McCombe, Life

Lothar and Ann Wuerslin taking a bath in Lake Chapala water hyacinths, 1957. Photo by Leonard McCombe, Life

Years later, this is how a local Vermont newspaper described how Mexico and Ajijic had changed the direction of Lothar’s art for ever:

“A chilly night in Ajijic, Mexico, changed artist-painter Lothar Wuerslin’s life. … Once a painter, Wuerslin switched arts when he was given some firewood on a chilly evening in Mexico where he and his wife had gone in 1956. He had by this time painted murals on most of the adobe walls of their small rented house. He picked up a piece of the redwood and began carving it.” – (Bennington Banner, 24 July 1965)

In about 1959, the Wuerslins moved back to New York. By April 1960, they were sufficiently well established there for Lothar to have already held an exhibition of his paintings on Madison Avenue and to be renting a loft studio on the Lower East Side to continue his new-found love: sculpting. About a year later, their second son, Hasso, was born. In 1963, the Wuerslins moved to a farmhouse in Sandgate, Vermont, where Lothar could have a larger studio and more room to develop his sculptures. Their third son, Tristan, was born in Vermont in May 1965. The Wuerslins also had a daughter, Joan, the eldest of their four children, who had been given up for adoption.

Lothar Wuerslin. 1957. Painting of wife and child. Digitally derived from photo by Leonard McCombe, Life.

Lothar Wuerslin. 1957. Painting of wife and child. Digitally derived from photo by Leonard McCombe, Life.

Lothar exhibited in local shows in Manchester and Bennington and examples of his work (in wood and cast cement) were included in a 1967 collective exhibition of Vermont Artists. In February 2005, both Lothar (by then deceased) and Ann were represented in an exhibition of Sandgate artists at The Canfield Gallery.

Several younger Vermont artists, including Anna Dribble and Chris Miller, took community college classes with Lothar and have paid public tribute to his influence on their art.

Lothar Wuerslin died at Sandgate, Vermont, at the age of 55, on 25 November 1982.

Ann “Bunny” Wuerslin (1930-2009)

Lothar’s wife, Ann “Bunny” Wuerslin was born in New Hampshire on 14 October 1930 and died in Sandgate in 2009. She had been the town clerk of Sandgate for 13 years prior to her retirement in 2008.

In addition to her art, Ann Wuerslin wrote poetry and was, after 1967, designed and made jewelry, sold not only locally, but also in “Primitive Artisans” on 5th Avenue in New York City.

Late in life, Ann became a published author with a book called In the Child’s Voice (Shire Press, 2008). The book is a poignant and expressive memoir, comprised of vignettes about living in a succession of foster homes in New Hampshire during her childhood.

To listen to Ann Wuerslin reciting one of her own poems (later used in her obituary notice), see this YouTube video clip. The poem starts at minute 2:00 of the video.

Sources:

  • Bennington Banner, Bennington, Vermont, 24 July 1965, p 5
  • Madeleine B. Karter. 1960. Undaunted and Un-beat (with photographs by Ted Russell). Pageant, April 1960, p 148 on.
  • Leonard McCombe (photographer). 1957. “Yanks Who Don’t Go Home. Expatriates Settle Down to Live and Loaf in Mexico.” Life, 23 December 1957

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 292016
 

The multi-talented African American poet, novelist and artist Clarence Major spent some time at Lake Chapala in 1968.

Major was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1936 and grew up in Chicago. In the early 1950s, Major studied drawing and painting under painter Gus Nall (1919–1995) and attended the Art Institute of Chicago, where his teachers included Addis Osborne (1914–2011). Coincidentally, the enigmatic African American artist Ernest Alexander, who lived for several years in Ajijic in the early 1950s, had also studied in Chicago and exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago shortly before Major took classes there.

In 1966, after two marriages which both ended in divorce, Major moved to New York to begin a distinguished teaching career. Over the next 30 years, he taught creative writing and/or literature classes at Brooklyn College, Queens College, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Washington, Howard University, University of Maryland, University of Colorado, Temple University, and the State University of New York (Binghamton). In 1989, Major moved to California, where he taught until his retirement in 2007 at the University of California at Davis.

In 1968, Major left New York and visited Mexico for several months in the company of his then girlfriend Sheila Silverstone. During the trip, Major was revising his first novel, All Night Visitors, published in 1969. Major’s first collection of poems, Swallow the Lake, was published the following year and won a National Council on the Arts Award.

Clarence Major. Self-portrait. Image reproduced from wikimedia (Creative Commons license)

Clarence Major. Self-portrait. Image reproduced from wikimedia (Creative Commons license)

In Mexico, the couple spent some time in Puerto Vallarta but also visited Lake Chapala, which became the basis for at least two poems published in Symptoms & madness: poems (1971).

The first poem is entitled “IN CHAPALA, JAL” and describes them sitting, reading, in “a red mud / colored 30 pesos per day hotel room”.

The second poem, entitled “EIGHTEEN-DOLLAR TAXI TRIP TO TIZAPAN AND BACK TO CHAPALA” was later included in the collection Configurations: New & Selected Poems, 1958-1998, published in 1999 and a finalist for a 1999 National Book Award. This poem tells how their taxi driver (“with a good life / who has four children, / a pregnant wife, / and who lives in Guadalajara”) drives them, “radio going / cha-cha-cha” through a storm around the south side of the lake.

Major’s poetry and short stories have been published in dozens of literary magazines and anthologies. Major has won dozens of major awards and served as a judge for many important literary contests including the the PEN/Faulkner Award (1997-1998), the National Endowment for the Arts Awards (1987) and the National Book Awards (1991). Major helped edit several literary periodicals, including Caw! and The Journal of Black Poetry. He was a regular columnist for American Poetry Review and the first editor of American Book Review.

In 2015, Major was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts,” by The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Major’s novels include All-Night Visitors (1969); No (1973); Reflex and Bone Structure (1975; Emergency Exit (1979); My Amputations (1986); Such Was The Season (1987); Painted Turtle: Woman With Guitar (1988); Dirty Bird Blues (1996); and One Flesh (2003).

His poetry works include Swallow The Lake (1970); Symptoms & Madness (1971); Private Line (1971); The Cotton Club (1972); The Syncopated Cakewalk (1974); Inside Diameter: The France Poems (1985); Surfaces and Masks (1988); Some Observations of a Stranger at Zuni in The Latter Part of The Century (1989); Parking Lots (1992); Configurations: New and Selected Poems 1958–1998 (1999); Waiting for Sweet Betty (2002); Myself Painting (2008); Down and Up (2013); and From Now On: New and Selected Poems 1970–2015 (2015).

His nonfiction books include Dictionary of Afro-American Slang (1970); The Dark and Feeling: Black American Writers and Their Work (1974); Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang (1994); Necessary Distance: Essays and Criticism (2000); Come by Here: My Mother’s Life (2002); Configurations (2010) and Myself Painting (2011).

In his parallel career as a visual artist, Major’s first solo exhibition of paintings was at Sarah Lawrence College in 1974. Other galleries that have hosted one-person shows of Major’s art include First National Bank Gallery, Boulder, Colorad (1986); Kresge Art Museum, East Lansing, Michigan (2001); Schacknow Museum of Fine Art, Plantation, Florida (2003); Exploding Head Gallery, Sacramento CA (2003, 2004, 2006); Blue Hills Gallery, Winters, CA (2005); Phoenix Gallery, Sacramento CA (2006); Hamilton Club Gallery, Paterson, New Jersey (2007); Pierre Menard Gallery, Harvard Square, Cambridge (2010); and University Art Gallery, Indiana State University, Terre Haute (2011). His work has also featured in numerous group shows in New York, Los Angeles, and Davis, California.

His paintings now hang in many private and public collections, including those at Indiana State University, Terre Haute; Passaic County Community College Permanent Collection of Contemporary Art; the Schacknow Museum of Fine Art, Plantation, Florida; and The Linda Matthews MARBL Collection at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

The covers of several of Major’s books, including Myself Painting, Waiting for Sweet Betty, and Down and Up feature his own paintings.

Works about Clarence Major

His life, art and literature are described by Bernard Bell in Clarence Major and His Art: Portraits of an African-American Postmodernist (1998), by Nancy Bunge in Conversations with Clarence Major (2002) and by Keith Eldon Byerman in The Art and Life of Clarence Major (2016).

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 252016
 

Eleanor Smart (1909-1993) was an American artist who lived with her husband Douglas in Chula Vista, Lake Chapala, from the late 1960s until shortly before her death. The couple had visited the Lake Chapala area several times before purchasing the “Radke house” (Calle del Redondo #122, in Chula Vista) in 1968. She worked in a variety of media (oil, acrylic, watercolor and collage and was a regular exhibitor during her time in Mexico.

Eleanor Smart. Women with Green Hair. ca 1971.

Eleanor Smart. Women with Green Hair. ca 1971. (Cover of Ajijic Cookbook)

An example of Smart’s work, “Women with Green Hair” was used as the cover illustration for the locally-produced A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería (Guadalajara, Mexico: Boutique d’Artes Gráficas, 1972).

Smart’s maiden name was Eleanor Frances Storm. She was born on 6 June 1909 in Michigan, either in Washtenaw County (listed as her place of birth in the 1910 U.S. Census) or Grosse Pointe (quoted in later articles), where she lived most of her life. She died on 9 February 1993 in St. Clair Shores, Macomb, Michigan.

Smart graduated from Northern High School in Detroit, Michigan, in 1927 and entered Sullin’s College, an all-girls Methodist junior college in Bristol, Virginia.

In 1929, the 20-year-old Eleanor Storm married Douglas Levering Smart, a 26-year-old electrical engineer with the Ford Motor Company. The couple married on 25 June 1929 at North Woodward Congregational church in Wayne County, Michigan, and subsequently had two sons: Addison (born 1931) and Richard “Dick” Levering (1932-1994).

Though the precise timing is inclear, Smart trained at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (under Sarkis Sarkisian, Walter Midener and Guy Palazzola) and at the University of Michigan, studying under Robert Brackman and Dong Kingman. She also studied, at one time or another, with Emil Weddige, Gerome Kamrowski, Hughie Lee-Smith and Kraig Kiedrowski, as well as with José Gutiérrez of Mexico City in 1951. Smart’s travels included trips to Japan, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, France, Turkey and Greece.

Smart was a member of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors and the Grosse Pointe Artists Association. Her works can be found in many private and corporate collections including that of Monsanto Chemical Company and Detroit Bank and Trust. Smart was a regular exhibitor in the Michigan Artists Annual, the Michigan State Fair, and numerous other regional exhibitions.

These exhibitions included the annual meeting of the Grosse Pointe Artists’ Association in 1949 and again in 1957. Smart’s work was featured in numerous group shows, including the Galleries Raymond Duncan, in Paris, France (1959), the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors in Grosse Pointe (1962), Les Galleries de Kenee, Grosse Pointe (1963), the  Grosse Pointe Garden Center and Library (1966) and the Grosse Pointe Artists’ Association (1967).

By 1967, Smart had held eight one-woman shows in all, including one at the Ligoa Duncan Galleries in New York in 1959.

Smart continued painting after moving to Mexico and was one of the numerous artists invited to exhibit at the “Fiesta of Art” held in May 1971 at the home of Mr and Mrs E. D. Windham, alongside 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; Robert Neathery; John K. Peterson; Stuart Phillips; Hudson Rose; Mary Rose; Jesús Santana; Walt Shou; Showaltar (?); Sloane; Robert Snodgrass; and Agustín Velarde.

Smart’s work was shown in a group show at the ex-Convento del Carmen in Guadalajara in January 1980, which also featured works by Paul Fontaine; Daphne Aluta; Georg Rauch; Betty Warren; Richard Lapa; Stefan Lokos; Evelyne Boren; Digur Weber; Gustel Foust; Taffy Branham.

In 1988, one of Smart’s paintings was chosen for the “Help Save Lake Chapala” exhibit which was shown in Mexico City. Other artists in that show included Daphne Aluta, Nancy Bollembach, Luisa Julian, Conrado Contreras, Rick Ledwon, Georg Rauch, Enrique Velázquez and Laura Goeglin.

Sources:

  • Anon. 1986. Portrait of the Artist: Eleanor Smart, in El Ojo del Lago, Oct 1986, Vol III, No 1.
  • Detroit Free Press, 9 April 1949, p 11;  5 May 1957, p 38
  • Guadalajara Reporter, 14 December 1968
  • Informador, 26 January 1980

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 6:48 am  Tagged with:
Aug 182016
 

Bernard Oulie, born in Bordeaux, France, in 1943, painted at Lake Chapala in about the year 2000, before wanderlust carried them away in search of new painting locales. Since 2008, Oulie and his wife Rita have lived on a secluded island off the coast of Belize, where they are co-owners of the Huracan Diving Lodge whose guest rooms are adorned by his work.

Oulie’s paintings of Lake Chapala include works entitled Chapala-Mexico, On the road of Chapala and Chapala Al Terminar El Dia (Chapala at the end of the day), as well as “Chapala Lakes” (image).

Bernard Oulie. Lake Chapala. Gallery publicity photo.

Bernard Oulie. “Chapala Lakes”. ca 2000. Gallery publicity photo.

Oulie briefly attended the School of Fine Arts in Algiers before completing his education at the University of Bordeaux. For many years he was a professional wine-maker before deciding to focus on his art. He considers that his artistic influences were the post-Impressionists such as Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.

This 3-minute YouTube video shows some of Oulie’s artwork:

Bernard Oulie moved to Canada in 1982 to seek locations where he could dedicate himself to his art. This drive for inspiring destinations with clarity of light and vibrant colors subsequently led him to southern Florida in 1994, and to Mexico. He has also been “artist in residence” on various cruise ships.

Oulie’s subject matter, includes natural landscapes, seascapes, historic architecture and local customs and “reflects a lifelong affinity for nature”. His paintings are characterized by brilliant colors and bold shapes. Throughout his art career, Oulie has experimented with “subtle variations of tone and form, layering constructive brushstrokes to create dimension on the canvas.”

Oulie’s artwork has been widely exhibited. His exhibitions include Burdigala Gallery, Bordeaux, France (1976); Paris, France Gallerie d’Anjou, Paris (1978); Guy Favreau Center (1983); Bancusi Center (1987),Troisieme Vague Galley (1989), Randez Gallery (1990) and  Canada Revolution Gallery (1991), all in Montreal, Canada; Caesarean Gallery, Boca-Raton (1994); Kennedy Gallery, Miami (1995); Agora Gallery, New York (1996); Artcetera Gallery, Delray Beach (1996); La Jolla Gallery, San Diego (1997); West End Gallery, Hollywood (2000); Galeria Vertice, Guadalajara, Mexico (2000); Museo Cerro de Torreón, Aguascalientes (2000); Museo de la Ciudad, Irapuato (2000); Museo Diego Riviera, Guanajuato (2000); Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida (2003); Biennale Internazionale, Florence, Italy (2003); ArtRageous Gallery, Coral Gables, Florida (2012).

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 6:55 am  Tagged with:
Aug 112016
 

Florentino Padilla, who lived from about 1943 to 2010, regularly featured in the pages of the Guadalajara Reporter in the mid-1960s because he was “largely responsible for the bright, charming paintings” that were being produced by youngsters in weekly art classes at the Lake Chapala Society’s “Biblioteca”.

Florentino Padilla. Untitled. Reproduced by kind permission of Hector Hinojosa

Florentino Padilla. Untitled. Reproduced by kind permission of Hector Hinojosa

Padilla, described as a personable young man, was then in his early 20s and an accomplished painter in his own right. He had begun painting at the age of 15 and his talent had been recognized by Neill James, the American writer who had resided in Ajijic from the mid-1940s. With her help, Padilla received a scholarship to San Miguel Allende where he studied art from 1960 to 1962.

Ajijic resident Hector Hinojosa recalls that Padilla lived in Ajijic until the late 1970s, but then lived in California, where he painted a mural in San Francisco.

According to an account of an exhibition of his paintings (Guadalajara Reporter, 19 August 1965) one particularly keen art lover bought three of his works within minutes.

Padilla’s niece, Lucia Padilla Gutierrez, is also a gifted artist who benefited from art classes given at the Lake Chapala Society; her son is now following in her footsteps.

We would love to learn more about this artist’s life and work. If you can add to this all-too-brief biography, then please get in touch!

Sources:

  • Guadalajara Reporter, 1 October 1964
  • Guadalajara Reporter, 19 August 1965

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 042016
 

Artist John Maybra Kilpatrick, who painted a WPA mural in Chicago in 1947, retired to Ajijic with his wife Lucy in 1964 and resided there until his death on 27 August 1972.

While living in Ajijic, Kilpatrick exhibited in the “Fiesta de Arte” group show held in May 1971 at the home of Mr and Mrs E. D. Windham (Calle 16 de Septiembre #33). 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; Michael Heinichen; 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 Maybra Kilpatrick was born in Illinois (in either Vandalia Fayette County or Centralia Marione County) on 2 October 1902. He apparently studied at the School of the Chicago Art Institute under portraitist Hubert Ropp, the school’s then dean. Ropp is recorded as visiting friends and former students, the Kilpatricks and Al and Janet Zimmerman in Ajijic in 1971.

In 1947, Kilpatrick took part in the WPA murals project. Together with Hungarian artist Miklos Gaspar, Kilpatrick painted a mural entitled “The Children’s Hour” in Oak Terrace School, 240 Prairie Avenue, Highwood, Chicago. The mural is listed as still extant in 2001 when Mary Lackritz Gray’s book A Guide to Chicago’s Murals was published.

Kilpatrick worked as a commercial artist for the H. D. Catty Corporation of Huntly, Illinois. In 1952, the corporation applied for copyright for colored Christmas wrapping paper designed by Kilpatrick, entitled “Merry Christmas (Snow scene with 3 figures in front of houses)”.

John Maybra Kilpatrick became engaged to be married with Lucy Margaret Legge in December 1926. The couple had two children, a daughter born in 1931 and a son born two years later. After Kilpatrick’s passing in Ajijic in 1972, Lucy Kilpatrick is regularly mentioned in local newspapers as helping with ceramics classes in the village.

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.

Jul 282016
 

We know disappointingly little about the life and work of artist Emanuel(e) Mario Aluta. Aluta moved to Ajijic with his second wife Daphne Greer Aluta (born 1919) in the late 1960s. It is unclear whether or not Mario remained in Ajijic after 1974 when Daphne married Colin MacDougall in a small ceremony at the home of Sherm and Adele Harris, the then managers of the Posada Ajijic.

Mario Aluta. Untitled. Date Unknown. Reproduced by kind permission of Ricardo Santana.

Mario Aluta. Untitled. ca 1970. Reproduced by kind permission of Ricardo Santana.

Mario Aluta’s artwork, described in a review by Hannah Tompkins as a “series of male figures … vigorously painted with strong emphasis on planal design”, was included in a 1970 exhibition at the Casa de la Cultura Jalisciense in Guadalajara. The show opened on 6 June 1970 and featured a long list of Lakeside and Guadalajara artists. Among the other Lakeside artists in the show were Daphne Aluta, Peter Huf and his wife Eunice Hunt, John Frost, Bruce Sherratt and Lesley Maddox.

Both Mario and Daphne Aluta also showed work 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 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; Robert Neathery; John K. Peterson; Stuart Phillips; Hudson Rose; Mary Rose; Jesús Santana; Walt Shou; Showaltar (?); Sloane; Eleanor Smart; Robert Snodgrass; and Agustín Velarde.

Emanuel(e) Mario Aluta was born in Constantinople, Turkey, on 3 January 1904, but (also?) had Italian citizenship. He died in California on 22 September 1985.

I know nothing about Aluta’s early life, education or art training, but believe his first wife was Charlotte Maria Richter, who was born in Vienna, Austria, in about 1911. The couple seem to have first entered the U.S. in about 1936. In November 1937, they are recorded as crossing the border from Mexico back into the U.S.. The following year (1938) they applied to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Their application was finally approved in August 1943.

At the time of the 1940 U.S. Census, the couple was living in Los Angeles. According to the census entry, they had been living in Nice, France, five years earlier in 1935.

Mario Aluta was 56 years of age when he married 41-year-old Daphne Greer in Clark County, Nevada on 25 May 1960.

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 5:49 am  Tagged with:
Jul 212016
 

This early impressionist painting of Lake Chapala by Donald Cecil Totten was offered for sale on eBay in 2015, though it remains frustratingly unclear when the American artist actually visited Chapala.

Donald Cecil Totten. Lake Chapala, Date unknown.

Donald Cecil Totten. Lake Chapala, Date unknown. 13.5″ x 9.5″.

Totten was born in Vermillion, South Dakota, on 13 August 1903, but lived most of his adult life in Los Angeles, California. He died in Long Beach, California, on 29 October 1967.

Totten graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, and then studied journalism for a year at the University of Southern California. He then studied art for about three years at the Otis Art Institute, where his teachers included Edouard Vysekal and E. Roscoe Schrader. In the late 1920s, early 1930s, he took classes at the Art Student League of Los Angeles, where he was especially inspired by American artist Stanton MacDonald-Wright (1890-1973).

In the mid-1920s, prior to studying at the Art Student League, Totten did some international traveling. He is known to have visited Fiji, Australia and Hawaii and is recorded on a ship’s passenger list as returning to Honolulu, Hawaii, from Sydney, Australia, on 11 March 1927, aboard the SS Ventura. His trip to Mexico may well have been at about this time. While Totten’s son recalls that his father enjoyed speaking Spanish, he has no recollection of him ever talking about Mexico.

At the time of the 1930 US Census, Totten (then aged 26) was living with his parents at their home on Colorado Avenue, Long Beach, and working as a clerk in a grocery store (probably the store owned by his father).

During the late 1930s, Totten worked on murals for the Federal Art Project in Pasadena’s Grant School and the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, assisted James Redmond on the “Early California” mural (1936) in the Compton Post Office, and co-designed (with Helen Lundeberg) the mural “History of Transportation” (1940) in Centennial Park, Los Angeles. Later in life, Totten would reflect that working on large murals in his early life had led to his enthusiasm in later years for producing large abstract paintings, which he called “portable murals.”

Partial view of mural in Compton Post Office. Photo courtesy of Julia Armstrong-Totten

Partial view of mural in Compton Post Office. Photo courtesy of Julia Armstrong-Totten

Between 1938 and 1940 Totten directed the Art Students League in Los Angeles. A later exhibition about the League, entitled “A Seed of Modernism: The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-1953”, was held in Pasadena in 2008 and co-curated by art historian Julia Armstrong-Totten, the artist’s daughter-in-law.

After spending a year in Washington in 1942, Donald Totten married and began a career which combined painting and exhibiting his own work with art education. He taught for a decade at Barnsdall Arts & Crafts Center in Los Angeles, before joining the faculty at Marymount College in Palos Verdes in 1961 to give studio and art history classes. Totten also taught at the University of California at Los Angeles Extension, and at Inglewood Adult High School.

Totten’s work was exhibited at Younger Painters of Los Angeles (1929-30); Barnsdall Center (1944); Pasadena Museum (1960); Paul Plummer Gallery, Hollywood, Los Angeles (1960-62); the Long Beach Museum of Art (1961, 1962); Marymount College Girard Library (1962); the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles (1962).

Group shows towards the end of his career included one at the Palos Verdes Art Gallery, with Mel Anderson and Marilyn Prior, in 1963. In December 1963, Totten at a Holiday Art Festival group show at a private home, sponsored by the Mother Butler Mission guild of Marymount College, Totten exhibited alongside Redondo Beach artist Robert Neathery who subsequently lived at Lake Chapala for more than thirty years.

Totten’s final solo exhibition was at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1964). A retrospective of Totten’s art, organized by Leslie Baird, was held at the Esquire Theatre Gallery in Pasadena in November 1964, shortly after the artist had suffered a severe stroke. A second retrospective,“Don Totten Los Angeles Modernist”, was held at the Palos Verdes Art Center in 1997.

Totten’s mural work can be seen in the Holliston Methodist Church, Pasadena; his paintings are in many private collections.

Sources:

  • Betty Hoag. 1964. An interview of Donald Totten conducted 1964 May 28, by Betty Hoag for the Archives of American Art, at the artist’s home in Los Angeles.
  • Edan Hughes. 1989. Artists in California, 1786-1940. Hughes Pub. Co.
  • El Sereno Star, Number 44, 29 October 1964.
  • Palos Verdes Peninsula News, 24 August 1961; 12 October 1961; 4 January 1962; 15 February 1962; 13 September 1962; 5 December 1963; 12 December 1963.
  • Rolling Hills Herald, Number 18, 28 February 1963.

Acknowledgment

My thanks to Julia Armstrong-Totten, the daughter-in-law of Don Totten, for helping to sort out the likely period when this painting was completed, via an exchange of emails and messages in January 2016.

Related posts:

Other Lake Chapala artists with links to the Works Progress/Projects Administration (WPA; 1935-1943) include:

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 5:57 am  Tagged with:
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.

Acknowledgment

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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 Posted by at 8:23 am  Tagged with:
Jun 302016
 

Texan artist Tully Judson Petty Jr. lived in Ajijic for almost a year from mid-1967 into 1968. While living in Ajijic, he was working feverishly on completing 50 oils, watercolors, drawings and woodcuts for a one-man show at the exclusive DuBose Gallery in Houston scheduled for April 1968.

Petty was born on 13 Aug 1928 in Wise County, Texas, lived almost all his life in Texas, and died on 24 Dec 1992. Petty was educated at Texas Christian University, attended San Miguel de Allende School of Fine Arts in 1948, and graduated from New York’s Cooper Union.

During his freshman year studying art at Texas Christian University, Petty decorated yellow shirts, shorts, ties and scarves with lively outdoor scenes such as sharpshooting cowboys and men shooting pheasants. His designs apparently enjoyed some commercial success: “A local department store has placed orders for some of his scarves, replete with top hat, lamp post and champagne glass designs. (The Lafayette, Easton, Pa, 20 Dec 1946)

In 1948, Petty studied at the School of Fine Arts in San Miguel de Allende, and in 1950 married his childhood sweetheart Matilda Nail Peeler (1928-2009). The couple lived for a short time in New York, where Petty attended the Cooper Union and his wife worked as a model.

For most of the 1950s, Petty and his wife lived in Fort Worth, Texas. Petty ran his own advertising and public relations company, while Matilda was manager of the Galleria Department of the Neiman Marcus store (and later head buyer in couture fashions at Meacham’s). The couple had three children, but later divorced.

Petty retired from advertising at about the time he married Lynne Kendall in Parker, Texas, in May 1966. Shortly afterwards, the newly-weds moved to Mexico, where they lived for two months in Puerto Vallarta and six months in Guadalajara, before settling in Ajijic in June 1967.

Petty’s artwork was included in a group show of Texas Contemporary Artists which opened 11 October 1952 at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas. His solo shows included the Latch String Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas, in September 1967, and the DuBose Gallery in Houston in April 1968.

At Lakeside, examples of Petty’s woodcuts were shown in Guadalajara in June 1968 at La Galería (Ocho de Julio #878) for their First Annual Graphic Arts Show of prints, drawings and wood cuts. Other prominent Lakeside artists whose work was included in that show were Allyn Hunt, Tom Brudenell, John Frost, Paul Hachten, Peter HufEunice (Hunt) Huf and John Kenneth Peterson.

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.

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Jun 012016
 

Born in Brazil, painter and violinist Félix Bernadelli was an influential teacher of art in Guadalajara in the second half of the nineteenth century. Félix had two older brothers: Chilean-born painter Henrique Bernardelli  (1858-1936) and Mexican-born sculptor Rodolfo Bernardelli (1852 – 1931).

bernadelli-felix-chapala-ca-1899

Félix Bernardelli. Lake Chapala. ca 1899

Félix’s later art works tended towards impressionism. Many of his landscapes were based on visits to the areas around Guadalajara, including Lake Chapala. A joint show, held in 1945, long after his death, at the Casa del Arte in Mexico City was comprised of 66 paintings by Félix and his brother Henrique. In addition to figure studies and portraits, the show included paintings of Guanajuato, Zapopan, Rome, Capri, and of Lake Chapala.

In 1996, the Museum of San Carlos in Mexico City held a showing of works (watercolors, drawings, oils) by Félix Bernardelli and his students. The exhibition highlighted the contribution Bernardelli made to modernizing Mexican art, moving it away from the old, European-style representational approach into less charted waters.

Atiliano Félix Bernardelli was born in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, on 8 October 1862 and died in Guadalajara in 1908. He studied art and violin at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro and first came to Mexico in 1886 for a short visit with his sister who had lived for many years in Guadalajara.

A few months later, Bernardelli left to study art in Rome and Paris (under William Adolphe Bouguereau and Gabriel Ferrier), before returning to Guadalajara in 1892, where he proceeded to open an art academy and introduce students to the latest European art movements such as impressionism.

Bernardelli also undertook commissions, including decorative murals. For example he painted art nouveau female figures either side of the entrance to the El Libro de Caja store which belonged to postcard publisher Juan Kaiser. He also painted a mural inside the dome of Guadalajara’s Iglesia de la Soledad.

Bernardelli exhibited in New York, probably in early 1896, showing a selection of paintings done in Rome, Paris and Mexico. According to reports, he was thinking of selling six canvasses, including two impressionist views of Lake Chapala, to American admirers. At about the same time, he visited Washington DC to play the violin in concerts with Jaliscan pianist Enrique Morelos. (El Heraldo, Guadalajara, 19 March 1896). In 1898, Bernardelli’s work received national acclaim when it was included in the annual exhibition held by the San Carlos Academy in Mexico City.

Félix Bernardelli (center), ca 1898, with (clockwise), José María Lupercio, Rafael Ponce de León, unknown student, Jorge Enciso and Gerardo Murillo

Félix Bernardelli (center), ca 1898, with (clockwise), José María Lupercio, Rafael Ponce de León, unknown student, Jorge Enciso and Gerardo Murillo

With Bernardelli leading the way, for a couple of decades, Guadalajara was Mexico’s artistic frontier, significantly ahead of Mexico City in terms of experimentation and creativity, leading contemporary Mexican writer and diplomat Eduardo Gibbon to christen the city the “Florence of Mexico”.

In Guadalajara, Bernardelli taught many artists who went on to become nationally famous, including Gerardo Murillo (better known as Dr. Atl) and Roberto Montenegro, as well as Luis de la Torre, Jorge Enciso, Rafael Ponce de León and José María Lupercio, who became one of Mexico’s best-known photographers. Bernardelli encouraged many of his students to study in Europe and to become involved in mural painting.

American journalist Owen Wallace Gillpatrick, who visited Guadalajara in about 1899, later wrote that, “A delightful feature of social life in Guadalajara were the afternoons at the home and studios of the Mexican painter, Felix Bernardelli, where women and men of artistic, literary and musical pursuits met for music, poetry and gossip.” (The Man Who Likes Mexico, 1911)

Bernardelli’s works can be admired in the Regional Museum in Guadalajara, the National Museum of Fine Arts in Brazil, and in many major collections.

Sources:

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 Posted by at 5:25 am  Tagged with:
May 262016
 

Catalan artist and writer Avel-lí Artís-Gener, who often signed his art simply “Tisner”, left Spain for exile in Mexico following the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). He lived in Mexico for 25 years, and visited and painted Lake Chapala in the early 1940s.

Tisner was born in Barcelona, Spain, on 28 May 1912 and died in that city on 7 May 2000.

Tisner. 1953.

Tisner. Untitled. 1953.

Artís-Gener exhibited numerous times in Mexico City. His work was included in a group show for the 4th National Floriculture Exhibition in May 1945, and a painting entitled “Chapala” featured in his third solo exhibit in Mexico City in the first half of September 1946, in the vestibule of the Cine Mageriti.

Artís-Gener has another interesting link to Chapala. One of his students for watercolor classes was Conrado Contreras, who has since produced, among other works of art, numerous fine watercolors of the Lake Chapala area. Contreras and his wife (poet, writer and educator Zaida Cristina Reynoso) moved to Chapala with their two young children in 1975, and have lived here ever since.

As a young man in Spain, Tisner had articles and cartoons published in a variety of media, including El Be Negre, Mercantil, l’Opinió, La Rambla, Esport i ciutadania and La Publicitat.

At the start of the Spanish Civil War, Tisner received death threats and fled to Paris. Soon after, he joined the Republican Army and returned to fight. During the war, Tisner edited Meridià, Amic and Vèncer, magazines written for the combatants.

During his time in Mexico (from 1940), Tisner worked as a journalist, cartoonist and scenery designer for Mexico City’s Channel 4, as well as working in publicity and as an editor. He retained close links with other exiles from the Catalan community. His cartoons appeared in Full Català, Quaderns de l’Exili, Revista de Refugiats d’Amèrica, Lletres, Pont Blau, Tele-revista, La Nostra Revista (founded by his father), and its successor La Nova Revista, founded by the artist himself.

Tisner took particular interest in Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past, which was the motivation behind his best known book, Paraules d’Opòton el Vell (1968). Other works written by Tisner (he almost always wrote in Catalan), include 556 Brigada Mixta (1945); Prohibida l’evasió (1969); L’Enquesta del Canal 4 (1973); Les nostres coses (1978); Els gossos d’Acteó (1983); and Ciris trencats (La Campana.

tisner-portraitIn 1965, Tisner returned to Catalonia, where he worked initially as a journalist for the daily El Correo Catalán, and later became deputy director of the Catalan weekly Tele/Estel. In 1970 he translated Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad into Catalan. During his later years, he worked for a large number of different newspapers and magazines, including Avui, El Periódico, Catalunya Informació, L’Avenç, Serra d’Or, Canigó, Cultura, El Triangle, El Món, Presència, and Espais mediterranis.

Tisner was politically active in the 1980s, and in 1988 received the Creu de Sant Jordi, one of the highest civil distinctions awarded in Catalonia. He also won a City of Barcelona prize for Catalan prose. He was a founding member of the Association of Catalan Language Writers, and the group’s president from 1990 to 1994.

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May 192016
 

Emil Armin (1883-1971) was born in Rădăuţi (Radautz), Romania, in 1883 and died in Chicago in 1971. He is assumed to have visited Lake Chapala at some point in the mid-1950s since one of his paintings, entitled “Morning Lake Chapala”, was hung in a no-jury exhibition of Chicago Artists in Chicago in February 1957. That exhibition was sponsored by The Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Art Organizations in cooperation with the Honorable Richard J. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago.

Emil Armin. Self-portrait (1928), woodcut

Emil Armin. Self-portrait (1928), woodcut

Armin was raised in a Jewish family but lost both his parents at the age of 10 and was brought up by older siblings. As a teenager, he worked in restaurants to support himself, and took evening art classes, as well as learning English and French.

In 1905, when Armin was 21, he emigrated to the U.S. to join his brother in Chicago. Two years later he enrolled in night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, but his precarious financial situation led to him having to take a break from classes in 1911.

In 1913 Armin made several visits to the famed Armory Show which brought avant-garde artists such as Matisse and Cezanne to the attention of the American public. Both Armin and Emil Holzhauer (another painter of European origin who would later paint Lake Chapala) were inspired by the sharp contrast between these works and their own prior art training. In Armin’s case, an exhibition of works by Russian artist Boris Anisfeld at the Art Institute suggested an artistic avenue worth exploring.

Armin started taking formal classes at the Chicago Art Institute again in 1918, and after studying with Randall Davey and American realist painter George Bellows, finally graduated from the Institute in 1920.

He quickly became an active member of Chicago’s modernist art community, part of the 57th Street Art Colony in Hyde Park, and began to exhibit with the Chicago Society of Artists.

Emil Armin. Sunburnt Dunes (1942)

Emil Armin. Sunburnt Dunes (1942)

From 1922 to 1949, Armin was a regular exhibitor at the Annual Shows of the Chicago Art Institute, but also joined the No-Jury Society of Artists, established in 1922. The Society had been formed, according to the catalog of its first show, because “standards of the past… are chains by which the free development of art is hampered.” The Society considered that technique was less important than “honest, spiritual content”.

Armin, who exhibited in all of their shows, served for a time as the Society’s president. Armin also taught for a time (1925-26) at Chicago’s Hull House, a settlement house set up to receive recently-arrived European immigrants.

In 1926, Armin was a founder member of Around the Palette (renamed, in 1940, the American Jewish Art Club, and later the American Jewish Artists Club), and exhibited with them regularly throughout his life. His work was also part of the group exhibitions of the Renaissance Society in Chicago in 1931, 1941, 1946 and 1962.

Emil Armin. Pelicans and Fisherman (1966)

Emil Armin. Pelicans and Fisherman (1966)

In the 1930s, Armin was an active participant in both the Public Works of Art Project and in its successor the Works Progress Administration.

Armin’s artwork included cartoons, woodblocks, paintings and sculptures. Though Armin also spent some time in New Mexico (1928), Maine, Mexico and elsewhere, Chicago was his home throughout his adult life. Armin’s subject matter varied, but he is particularly well-known for depictions of urban life in Chicago, as well as biblical themes and Jewish rituals.

Armin married Hilda Rose Diamond in 1945. Following his death in 1971, she worked with the Illinois State Museum to chronicle Armin’s career as an artist, resulting in a retrospective exhibition featuring more than seventy of his works.

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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 212016
 

American artists Paul Charles Hachten (born 1934) and his then wife Cynthia “Casey” Siddons Jones lived in Ajijic from 1968 to 1969, following their marriage on Valentine’s Day 1968.

Peter Huf, who was living in Ajijic at the time, recalls that the Hachtens did not exhibit very much at all, though we do know that Paul Hachten was part of the group show for the re-opening of La Galeria in Ajijic, a show entitled “Art is Life; Life is Art”, which ran from 13 December 1968 to January 1969. The other artists in that show were Tom Brudenell, Alejandro Colunga, John Frost , Jack Rutherford, Peter Huf, Eunice (Hunt) Huf, John Kenneth Peterson, José Ma. De Servin, Shaw, Cynthia Siddons, Joe Wedgwood.

Prior to that, Hachten was one of several Lakeside artists whose work was included in the First Annual Graphic Arts Show, which opened 5 June 1968, at La Galeria (Ocho de Julio #878, Guadalajara). Allyn Hunt described his works as “subtle excellent prints, the best being “Mr. Fields.” (Guadalajara Reporter, 15 June 1968)

At the time, Huf was uncertain about the quality of Hachten’s art, but has since become convinced that it was way ahead of its time:

“I remember one time some of us went to his studio and he was putting the paint on some large canvas with a very wet sponge. We laughed about it, but when I think about it now, somehow he was far ahead of us all. I still have an etching of his which is very sensitive.”

One of Hachten’s painting from this time, Parsubin (1970) was acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art, and is now in its permanent collection. Parsubin is a color serigraph on aluminum with overall dimensions of 27 x 24 1/4 inches  (68.58 x 61.59 cm). It was included in a companion exhibition to a Jackson Pollock mural (Hornets Nest) at the Des Moines Art Center in 2012 as one representative of works influenced by the Abstract Expressionist (Ab-Ex) movement.

Paul Hachten: Parasubin (1970). Dallas Museum of Art.

Paul Hachten: Parasubin (1970). Dallas Museum of Art.

Amy N. Worthen, the Des Moines Art Center’s Curator of Prints and Drawings, explained in a presentation that the cool and more impersonal 1960s Pop Art eventually came along and quenched some of the fire and heat of the Ab-Ex movement. She thought this was perhaps best illustrated by Paul Hachten’s print, Parasubin (1970), which seems to cage up the energy of Ab-Ex art with its orderly grids. Describing Parasubin‘s colors as “opalescent and unnatural”, Worthen pointed to this piece as an example of the “last gasp” of Ab-Ex style and an example of the inevitable overlap between art movements. In her view, by 1970, “Abstract Expressionism, now subdued and tamed, has lost its sting.”

Hachten’s parents lived in Buffalo, New York, and Hachten studied art at New York University and (from 1958) at the University of California at Berkeley. At the time of his marriage to Cynthia Siddons Jones in Mendocino, California, in 1968, he had a studio in the town, and the couple apparently planned to live there, but chose to move to Mexico instead. They spent the next year living and painting in Ajijic.

We have yet to learn more about Paul Hachten, beyond a report in the New Mexican, a Santa Fe newspaper, in July 1972 that “Paul Hatchen” (sic) was holding an exhibition of “graphics at the opening of his new gallery”. Hachten has rarely exhibited and currently lives in Seal Beach, in San Francisco.

[It appears to be complete coincidence that the surname Hatchen was used by the novelist Ross Macdonald for a married couple, Dr Keith and Mrs Pauline Hatchen, in The Zebra-Striped Hearse (1962), a book partially set in Ajijic.]

If you can add to this skeleton biography, do please get in touch.

Source:

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 Posted by at 6:03 am  Tagged with:
Apr 072016
 

Melvin (“Mel”) Schuler (1924-2012) was a sculptor, educator and a co-founder of the Humboldt State University Arts Department. Shortly after commencing his distinguished teaching career in 1947 at Humboldt State University, he was one of six artists exhibiting at the Villa Montecarlo in Chapala in August 1949. The exhibit, entitled “Cuarta exposicion anual de pintura” (“4th Annual Painting Exhibition”) also featured works by Nicolas Muzenic; Tobias Schneebaum; Alfredo Navarro España; Shirley Wurtzel and Ann Woolfolk.

Sadly, so far, we have learned nothing more about his time in Chapala.

Mel Schuler: Cirice (2008); copper over redwood

Mel Schuler: Cirice (2008); copper over redwood

Schuler was born in San Francisco in 1924 and died at his long-time home in Arcata, Humboldt County, California on 20 May 2012.

After attending Yuba College (1942-1947), Schuler studied at California College of Arts and Crafts (B.A., M.F.A.), and the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen (1955-1956).

The Humboldt State University website describes how, “While working as an art professor at Humboldt State University he developed a form of sculpture characterized by tall, irregular, solemnly monumental columns in elegantly carved and finished black walnut; they were sometimes clustered and partly enclosed in “racks,” and suggested archaic runes and totems. In the 1970s he turned to carving rhythmically organic columns in redwood, which were then covered with overlapping plates of copper that formed scaly, armor-like carapaces, and given a rich green patina that suggested great antiquity.”

In the 1970s, the internationally renowned sculptor began to produce large abstract sculptures using old growth redwood carved into abstract forms clad in copper and fastened with bronze nails.

Museums that acquired his work include the Smithsonian, Hirshhorn (Washington D.C.), Palm Springs, Phoenix, Oakland, La Jolla, Portland, Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento) and Storm King Art Center (Mountainville, New York).

In 2013, a permanent gallery for his works was opened in Eureka, California. The Melvin Schuler Court Gallery, created by Dan and Jayne Ollivier, opened on the second floor in the Gross building, at corner of 5th and F streets.  Ollivier has been quoted as saying, “Mel’s sculpture has enormous presence. Mel would say to me, ‘If it sings to you, it is a great work of art.”

Schuler continued to paint, as well as sculpt, throughout his life; the walls of his Arcata home were adorned by his own paintings, displayed alongside art collected from his travels in Africa and India.

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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.

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Mar 242016
 

Winifred (“Winnie”) Godfrey is best known for her floral paintings, but has also produced a number of fine, figurative works, including a series based on the Maya people of Mexico and Guatemala.

She first visited Mexico, where her aunt was then living, in 1965, and spent about a year in Guadalajara. In 1966 she taught at the city’s Jesuit university, ITESO, and also attended the University of Arizona summer program in Guadalajara.

She was painting full time and participated in several group exhibits in Guadalajara with fellow artists such as Felipe Ehrenberg, José Luis Cuevas and Alfredo Sánchez Laurrauri.

Her connection to Lake Chapala is tangential since she never lived in either Ajijic or Chapala, but did visit frequently from Guadalajara. At Lake Chapala, she became friends with Allyn and Beverly Hunt, long-time residents of Jocotepec, who modeled for some of her large figurative paintings. Author and artist Allyn Hunt was the editor of the Guadalajara Reporter for many years.

Winnie Godfrey. Portrait of Allyn & Beverly Hunt, (oil, ca 1967)

Winnie Godfrey. Portrait of Allyn & Beverly Hunt, (oil, ca 1967)

Godfrey, born in Philadelphia in 1944, was raised on Chicago’s south side and gained a Bachelor of Science in Art (1966) and a Master of Fine Arts (1970) from the University of Wisconsin. She also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (1962) and the University of California, Los Angeles (1964).

Winnie Godfrey: Almolonga Women (Mayan Series)

Winnie Godfrey: Almolonga Women (Mayan Series). Reproduced by kind permission of the artist.

She traveled to Europe as part of her studies at the University of Wisconsin, and in 1966 attended the program offered by the University of Arizona in Guadalajara, Mexico. In 1971-2, she studied printmaking at the Chicago Printmakers Workshop.

Godfrey has been a full-time painter since 1974. She has given art classes and workshops in a number of institutions, including the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin (1968-70); Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota (1970); the University of Illinois, Chicago (1975-76); the North Shore Art League, Winnetka, IL (1977-87); and the Blackhawk Workshop, Blackhawk, Colorado (1987-91).

Her artwork is included in many private, corporate and museum collections and has been exhibited throughout North America.

She has taken part in more than a hundred major exhibits, mostly in Wisconsin and Illinois. Her solo exhibits include the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia; the Organization of American States, Washington, DC; the Rahr-West Art Museum, Manitowoc, Wisconsin; and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Godfrey’s work was presented alongside that of Georgia O’Keefe and Marc Chagall at an exhibit of 20th century flower paintings at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, her work the Flora Exhibition Award of Excellence. She also won first prize among the 4500 floral entries in the Artist’s Magazine Floral Competition.

Winnie Godfrey: Zunil Cemetery

Winnie Godfrey: Zunil Cemetery (Mayan Series). Reproduced by kind permission of the artist.

To learn more about this artist, please visit her website.

Other floral painters 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.

 Posted by at 6:02 am  Tagged with:
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.

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