Growing up on the high desert plains of Northern New Mexico as well as traveling to isolated villages of the Sierra Madres in Jalisco and Nayarit Mexico, I find that most of my inspiration for my work comes from my past and present experiences in these places. I often use memory as a vehicle to explore the images and events that have left an impression upon me. My intentions are to take the memory of these places such as Mascota, Jalisco, my mother’s hometown in Mexico, and create paintings that have a semblance of sacredness. The paintings I create vary in size from small paintings on wood that are similar to traditional retabalos to larger sized paintings that are more traditional in size. I paint on different types of woods which provides not only a different painting experience from one surface to another but a different visual experience in the color of the ground and texture of the wood.
I use gouache and tempera directly on the surface of the wood adding and removing pigment with brushes. I am intrigued by the varying colors and surfaces of different types of woods that I use. Sometimes, I leave a portion of the surface of the wood untouched incorporating the natural color and wood grain in to my work. Often, because of the different wood grain and porous surfaces, I find myself with new challenges adding to my interest and pleasure of painting directly on wood. On a conceptual level, my choice to specifically paint on wood relates both to the tradition of retablo paintings in New Mexico as well as to the sacred and intimate interaction that one can have with the retablo format.
Though some of my work has similarities to the format of retablos, I am not interested in transgressing the sacred tradition of retablo making by santeros. In my small paintings, I am more concerned with using the intimate format of the retablo to convey a sacred sense of space. For me this comes about in the selection of the images derived from memory as well as from photos that I have taken from my travels in Mexico and New Mexico. In my larger paintings there is a celebratory sense of place that comes through the more expansive imagery. As my work grows in both of these formats, I will continue to draw inspiration from the high desert landscapes of New Mexico and the rugged terrain of the Sierra Madres in Jalisco and Nayarit, Mexico, acknowledging the rich cultural heritage of both places by referencing the rich colonial architecture and vivacious spirit of the people of these enchanting places.
This painting is guoache on wood and was created in 1998 while I was in graduate school. The image is based on a photo of a plaza in Guanajuato and from my experiences of salsa dancing in Iowa City. I used a photo taken during the day for the architecture of the painting. Then recalling my salsa night dance experiences in Iowa City, I created this fictional plaza dance party. In the photograph there was a water fountain in the center of the street space, but I removed it to include more dancers in the image. Finally, the image is on several planks of pine that have been joined to make a large format painting. The size is 24" high by 33" wide.