Culture

Meet Frederico Vigil, The Creator Of The Largest Concave Fresco in North America – Mundos De Mestizaje

Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

When visiting the National Hispanic Cultural Center campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it’s easy to write-off the upside-down, bucket shape form rising from the ground. It stands alone with no distinguishing marks. There are no large crowds to hint at the remarkable secret hidden inside. Visitors will know they are in the right place when the gray asphalt and concrete beneath their feet morph into red—matching the building’s exterior.

Two, towering wood doors mark the entry into the nondescript building.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

When the doors swing open, it’s impossible to avoid looking up because the vibrant colors of the ceiling act as a magnet, drawing eyes upwards. Step into the 45-foot dome-shaped structure to get a better look, and there, in the small Southwest town of less than 1 million, the largest fresco painting in North America wraps around the ceiling.

El Torreón is the name of the structure which houses Mundos de Mestizaje.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

The larger-than-the-Sistine-Chapel fresco made by Frederico Vigil. It took the Santa Fe native almost three years to have it approved and 10 years to complete it. The aerial artwork depicts thousands of years of Hispanic and pre-Hispanic history. Depending on your cultural background, some iconography is easy to spot and place in history. If you’re Mexican, La Virgen de Guadalupe, a portrait of the beloved civil rights leader Benito Juárez and the eagle, serpent, and nopal from Mexico’s coat of arms will stand out. But walk around the room, or sit in one of the lounging chairs that allow visitors to tip back and view the work at 180 degrees, and soon you’ll realize there are hidden figures among the more popular markers of Mexican and Indigenous identity.

“I’m a mixed man with many different bloodlines,” Vigil says on a phone call. “I’m mestizo. I wanted to show the history of what that means.”

For the project, Vigil consulted with seven scholars on Mesoamerican and Spanish historical culture in order to create an accurate depiction of the past.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

He says that just by looking at the Iberian Peninsula, there’s a mix of Romans, Celts, Muslims, and Phoenicians which is all tied into Spanish identity. Then, with the Americas, there’s Maya, Aztec and Toltec. The history of these lines iS not linear. They overlap, intertwine and blend together in a dizzying ride that Vigil worked to bring to life in Mundos de Mestizaje. 

The purpose is to show the viewer how interconnected and far-reaching culture is. Islamic philosopher Ibn Rushd is depicted sitting next to Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a Medieval Torah scholar, and physician. Chacmool, the pre-Columbian sculpture found throughout Mesoamerica shares space with George Washington and an African slave. 

“There are no purebloods, we are all mixed—or perhaps the only people who can say they are of pure blood are the Amazons or indigenous tribes that have lived in isolation,” Vigil says. “When people begin to study the past, they realize we, as a society, are not genetically one thing.”

Vigil learned the art of fresco painting from Lucienne Bloch and Stephen Pope Dimitroff. The couple might not be household names outside of the art community, but their bosses were. Bloch and Dimitroff were assistants to the world-renowned Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. 

Vigil connected with the couple thanks to the Santa Fe Council for The Arts.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

The organization reached out to Vigil to gauge his interest in a scholarship learning from the pair. Now in their 70s, the two aging artists were making strides to ensure their knowledge was passed down to a new generation of creators. Art lessons were accompanied by tales of the past that included Kahlo, Rivera, and friends such as Leon Trotsky. There, he learned the complicated and time-consuming process of fresco painting.

A surface is rough plastered with a mix of lime, sand, and cement. On average, a layer takes 10-12 hours to dry. A painter can go to work an hour into the drying process and usually has between seven to nine hours of time to complete their design. The art then needs 7-10 days between coats. If the painter messes up, they have to scrape off the layers and begin again.

“I’m a procrastinator but when the wall is wet, you have to paint,” says Vigil. “Each painting is a new experience. It doesn’t get old.”

Vigil is currently working on a new 2,500-plus square foot monumental fresco at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

His new work tells the tale of New Mexico’s history as the oldest state in the U.S. to produce wine. He says the piece could take four to six years to complete. He’s currently in his second year.

The hours for the Torreón (where the fresco is housed) are Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 p.m., plus it is open by appointment, which can be scheduled with Juanita Ramírez at Juanita.ramirez@state.nm.us or 505-383-4774. The NHCC presents concerts in the Torreón in partnership with the Pimentel & Sons Guitar Makers. The Torreón is available for rentals under certain circumstances and with some restrictions. 

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An Artist In Indiana Is Drawing Iconic Singers And Actors As Aztec Characters And It Is Amazing

Entertainment

An Artist In Indiana Is Drawing Iconic Singers And Actors As Aztec Characters And It Is Amazing

qetzaart / Instagram

For the last few years, Jorge Garza has been making a name for himself in the world of art with his Aztec-inspired drawings infused with pop culture figures. Garza’s Instagram page is a showcase of his unique work that includes illustrations of Latin figures like the Chapulín and luchador fighters. He goes by the artist name Quetza as a nod to his Aztec work that he’s heavily influenced by. 

Whether its the graphics, colors, and finishes in his work, Garza’s work is a testament to his knowledge and passion for Aztec art. His work showcases many sharp details and takes a classic process, from pencil sketches to digitization. While his style is varied in some ways from original Aztec style work he still includes details like the use of skulls, snakes, and details of Mexican culture. Garza also has his own online store where he showcases and sells many of his own original designs. Currently, he is working on an art book that will be focusing on his passion of Aztec/Pop Culture. 

While the Northwest Indiana artist has been around for quite some time, he might have gotten his biggest moment yet as his drawing of the “Queen of Tejano” got quite the attention online. Within hours of posting his “Aztec Selena” illustration on Facebook, the image was met with overwhelming attention from fans and strangers alike.  

Anytime you can pay tribute to the queen Selena you’re going to get love on social media.

Credit: qetzaart / Instagram

His Selena artwork was quickly shared and spread across social media with many in return getting to look at Garza’s overall portfolio of work. Upon first posting the sketch on Facebook Wednesday, Garza had no clue that it would receive more than 5,000 shares and well over 3,000 likes.

“I love Aztec artwork and its been a big influence in my work,” Garza told My San Antonio. “I respect Selena and the influence she has had on Mexican-American culture so I uploaded it … and I did not expect the feedback I had. It’s overwhelming.”

He says his viral drawing is a testament to the love and adoration that Selena fans still have even after all these years after her passing. Garza had planned to draw this specific piece for years and felt like now was the perfect time to put together this tribute to the “Como la Flor” singer. 

His collection of Aztec-inspired illustrations come from a special place in Garza’s heart. He grew up with a love for Mexican pre-Hispanic art that he learned about at a young age.

Credit: qetzaart / Instagram

As a young boy living in Indiana, Garza learned about Aztec culture and the complexity of the civilizations during that time period. But it was the artwork during that time that truly inspired him to become an artist. Since then, Garza has devoted himself to learning more about Aztec graphics and culture. 

While he gets inspiration from Aztec history, Garza has also thrown in a bit of his personal for pop culture into his artwork. Whether that’s including characters from X-Men, Batman, Marvel or Transformers, it’s his way of staying true to himself all while paying tribute to the past. 

Besides just illustrations, Garza has shown his versatility as an artist when he previously released a horror comic called Wrath of the Giver. He’s also put out a compilation book of Aztec art and pop culture with some of his best work so far. 

Fans of his work took to social media to share their appreciation for Garza’s latest illustration. 

Credit: @nate_sdsu / Twitter

Garza has proven to be an artistic inspiration to some on social media who are praising him for his work and his tribute to Latin art. There is a growing market for pop culture-inspired work like Garza’s all over the internet and with his latest piece blowing up we’re sure this isn’t the last time we see one of his pieces circulating on social media. 

For fans of Garza’s work, he’ll be at the Big Texas Comicon at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center from Sept. 20-22. 

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A New Exhibition Will Unveil The Rocky Relationship Between Frida Kahlo And Diego Rivera

Entertainment

A New Exhibition Will Unveil The Rocky Relationship Between Frida Kahlo And Diego Rivera

An exhibition on the esteemed Mexican artists, lovers, and icons Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is coming to North Carolina. On October 26, the North Carolina Museum of Art will open the Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. The anticipated exhibition will include paintings, drawings, photography and film that aims to capture the 20th century artists’ bodies of work as well as their friendships and conflicts with political figures and their own impassioned and tumultuous personal relationships.

“Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection will emphasize a remarkable chapter in art history that is at once Mexican and global,” museum director Valerie Hillings told the ArtfixDaily, a publication covering curated art news.

Today, their tempestuous relationship is as famous as some of the artists’ most popular works. 

fridakahlo / Instagram

Kahlo and Rivera met in June 1928 at a party thrown by photographer Tina Modotti. At the time, a young, bold Kahlo asked Rivera to look at her paintings to see if he thought that she had enough talent to succeed. Rivera, impressed by her work, later spoke about that encounter, saying, “It was obvious to me that this girl was an authentic artist.” The pair soon started a relationship, though Rivera was 20 years older than Kahlo and already had two common-law wives. It was the start to a messy, atypical romance.

Marrying at a civil ceremony at the town hall of Coyoacán in 1929, despite the disapproval of Kahlo’s mother, their marriage included immense heartbreak. 

fridakahlo / Instagram

Over the years, the couple experienced and fought over everything from failed abortions and miscarriages to ailing physical health, to extra-marital affairs, including same-gender relationships from the gender-bending Kahlo. In 1939, the couple even divorced, only to remarry a year later with little change in their passionate yet rocky affair. Aside from the infidelity, rage, and distress that brewed in their personal relationship, the pair was often also at odds with political leaders as well. As communists, the revolutionary nature of Rivera’s murals, as well as Kahlo’s self-portraits and party affiliations, often put them at odds with political and religious leaders.

“Diego Rivera’s personality, politics, and monumental, social realist murals made him a celebrity during his lifetime. While he once overshadowed his equally talented wife, Frida Kahlo’s fame has far outstripped her husband’s in the years since her death,” Hillings added.

The pieces presented at the exhibition come from the long-time collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman. According to ArtfixDaily, the Gelmans became Mexican citizens in 1942 and at the time started amassing Mexican art. Their collection includes Mexican modernists, like Kahlo and Rivera, who became friends with the Gelmans, as well as their compatriots Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros and more. 

The exhibition was organized by the Vergel Foundation and MondoMostre in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBAL). It is a joint project between the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions. It includes research from the Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.

The North Carolina Museum of Art is presenting the exhibition alongside the Luces y Sombras: Images of Mexico | Photographs from the Bank of America Collection. 

Together, the fall exhibitions “celebrate these artists’ culture of origin as well as the diverse sources of influence they drew upon in creating their distinctive oeuvres,” Hillings said.

While the museum is commemorating the famed Mexican couple, not everyone is excited about the pair’s legacy. The fall exhibition comes weeks after the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau criticized Kahlo for her support of Marxism, stirring controversy on social media. The ambassador, who was appointed by President Donald Trump and sworn in last month, took to Twitter last week after visiting the late Kahlo’s home, La Casa Azul, in Mexico City.

“I admire her free and bohemian spirit, and she rightly became an icon of Mexico around the whole world. What I do not understand is her obvious passion for Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism. Didn’t she know about the horrors committed in the name of that ideology?” he wrote in Spanish. 

His comments immediately drew backlash from thousands of people.

fridakahlo / Instagram

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection runs at the North Carolina Museum of Art through January 19, 2020. To recognize the native language and cultural heritage of the artists in the exhibition, gallery information will be provided in both English and Spanish.

Tickets are already available for members but will be sold to nonmembers starting on September 17. 

Read: US Ambassador Insults Mexican Icon Frida Kahlo And Mexicans Clapped Back