Sunday, February 26, 2017

Echoing Within

The sensory experiences of the Pacific Ocean have come with me 3000 miles (4800 km) from Puerto Lopez, Ecuador to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Though I live in a mountain city far from the sea, I can hear and feel the ocean echoing within. On the coast, the sights and sounds were just outside my door. It was hot, so barely anything buffered my skin from the outside influences. I frequently jumped into the surging waves. Eight days of beach life passed in steady cadence with surging waves pounding upon the shore.

Pacific Coast, Ecuador.

The six weeks in Mexico and Ecuador were all I could have hoped for. Yesterday, at my gallery a woman asked if I had been afraid in Mexico. "No," I replied, "I was afraid before I left!" I was told it would be dangerous, that violence was rampant. The warnings caused apprehension that sought to take hold and create an insurmountable barrier.

Cobbled street, San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

After arriving in Guanajuato City, Mexico, my fears were quickly dispelled. The alarming reports were slanted and not conveying everything true. Yes, I was a "Norte Americano" and a gringo who did not speak Spanish. Yet, I felt accepted and even honored. I made paintings and did street photography, took Spanish lessons and respected the different culture. I wandered about for many hours, walking great distances.

All the while I was in Mexico and Ecuador, so many things could have been bad but were not. The worst experience I had was my own fault.

There is much talk these days of building walls between peoples of neighboring countries. It may be a short term solution, but as the world advances to maturity, the walls will come down and bridges will be built instead.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Where The Heart Is

“Home is where the heart is.” 

Sometimes when I am traveling across the world, I find myself in an exotic place that so captivates me I begin thinking that it has my heart, and why not move to this enchanting place? It has happened several times in Venice, Italy. And in Paris, France, in Luxor, Egypt, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Srinagar in Kashmir, India. Now on my most recent sojourn, I fell for San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, and several locales in Ecuador. 

For the past week I have been staying along the coast of Ecuador. Life is peaceful, the ocean perfect, cost of living low. At The Hosteria Oceanic, in Puerto Lopez, for some reason, I have been the only guest! The staff like me because after all, it is a hotel and people should be here. The manager came yesterday to invite me to go with his family to Los Frailes, about twenty minutes drive. It is reputed to be the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. I had just had a big dose of sun the day before and was recovering so declined to be on a beach for hours, but was touched at his kind offer.

At Oceanic practically everything is to myself; swimming pool, dining area, wide expanse of pristine Pacific coast. I have daily room service, fresh linens, delicious breakfast . . . and at night I find I like eating dinner here too. The cabana is roomy and I have made it my impromptu studio. Just yesterday I was resting on the bed with the french doors open to a breeze. I had finished a painting and was gazing outside past a dangling hammock. I realized I had made a studio and could live like this for about half the cost back home.

For years I have not had an appetite for ownership. All I want is inner peace and freedom to be anywhere I want, but not permanently. When I was in San Miguel De Allende and found myself seriously thinking of moving there while continuing my art path, I stopped myself. 

“Home is where the heart is.” 
 My heart goes with me wherever I am.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Without A Map

“When the baby looks around him

It's such a sight to see

He shares a simple secret

With the wise man

He's a stranger in a strange land” -Leon Russell

Sometimes the best experiences happen for me when I am lost. 

The other day I set out walking in a new direction from my apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador. Usually I head toward the city center with its bustling streets, shops, cafes, grand cathedrals, and corner parks. This time I went in another direction. I went exploring—like Columbus when he set out to navigate the Atlantic Ocean without a map. He charted a course as he sailed.

Cemetery, San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

 The streets were mostly residential and rather unremarkable. Traffic whizzed by in each direction. I came to a corner and spotted a high wall that seemed to go an entire block. In the middle stood a tall gate. On either side were stalls selling flowers. I guessed it was cemetery. I like visiting graveyards in foreign lands. A few weeks ago I ambled about for more than hour in Nuestra Señora del Cementerio de Guadalupe in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico. It was divided between a large part for Mexican interments and a smaller closed area for mostly American ex-patriots. Now I had found a vast, much larger burial ground with three times as many graves. It is called, Cementerio Patrimonial De Cuenca. 
Tombs, Cuenca, Ecuador

  As in Mexico, most of the crypts are stacked in cells of concrete, in blocks perhaps fifteen feet high and hundreds of feet long. Sometimes there are two levels and stairs to reach the top. Each burial site is marked and decorated in front, often with a glass pane protecting the contents. It is by far neater and more orderly than the Mexican graveyard.

I am fascinated by what remains after a person dies, and how they are remembered with fondness. I lost my daughter when she was nineteen and had to find a spot to bury her. She lays at rest in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. A simple grave marker of marble is decorated with roses and bears her name, dates of birth and death, and the inscription Blessed By The Glory Of God. 
As I walked slowly and thoughtfully, sometimes I would stop to take a picture. Turning a corner, to my surprise often a vista of tombs would spread before me. And almost nobody was there but me and some attendants working the grounds. The air was perfect on my skin and blue sky with occasionally fluffy clouds overhead. I could almost hear myself think.

To my surprise, at one point I found a block of grave cells slightly smaller and noticed they were for the pequeños niños, little children. Stuffed toys were seen in many with endearing notes. Some didn't have date of birth, only death.

An old horse drawn hearse. Cuenca Cemetery.
In the afternoon, I set off in the familiar direction of downtown but angled onto a street I had not been. A long wall two stories high without windows had a small single entrance. A couple were coming out the door. They looked like tourists. I stopped and peeked past the threshold. It seemed the museum was full of religious objects. I was not sure I wanted to pay for entry. It was cloudy and about to rain. Perhaps because I was exploring and not in a rush, I entered. 

Staging of a nun, at work with textiles.

  Immediately I began relishing the place—formerly called Convent of the Immaculate Conception, begun in the year 1599. There are two stories surrounding an inner courtyard open to the sky above. The second floor has an open hall with railing that goes completely around the courtyard and you can look down upon it, with the trees, shrubs and flowers and tidy order of it all. The wood floors and stairs are smooth and polished from wear, as well as the stone floors on the ground level. I imagined all the feet that tread there, and the footsteps of the nuns and sisters. So much devotion had occurred in the spot that I felt blessed being there, as if absorbing spiritual vibrations where the closely knit devotees of Christ for hundreds of years dwelled their hours, years and sometimes, lives. I imagined their tight bound community and the rituals they obeyed in sisterhood. 

San Rafael and Tobias sculptures

The collections are made up of 64 paintings of religious themes and about 250 religious and costumed sculptures, as well as toys, furniture and handicrafts. What particularly struck me were incredible sculptures depicting saints. Made by mostly anonymous artisans, they all had great feeling and conveyed a master touch to bring out devotion in the viewer. A few were playful. Some figures were wood, others fired clay and painted to be lifelike. They might even have human hair and glass eyes.

By the time I left, I had gone slowly throughout the former convent, and taken many pictures. Fully satisfied, I made it home before the rain.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

In The Current

I am an artist and particularly notice patterns and textures of life. I can feel blessed and happy even in poor, chaotic environments that would make someone else frustrated and angry. My eyes delight in discolored and cracking walls with paint splatters and drips, graffiti, derelict doorways, shadows and stark light, crowded busses and trains—all hold fascination for me. 

The streets are alive with the activities of man and I jump in the current, taking my photos, making paintings and drawings and constantly being inspired.  

When I arrived in Quito, Ecuador from Mexico, I had to adjust to cloudy weather and very high elevation. Ecuador is home to some of the highest volcanoes and mountain peaks in the world. Quito, the capital, has an altitude of around 9,000 feet, (3,000m). My first experiences were gritty and I was a bit dismayed. But probably tired from travel and needing to adjust. As I dug deeper, more gems appeared from the rough. The historical center is captivating with centuries old architecture, massive basilicas and cobbled streets crammed with shops. I melded in and took street photos. 

A man at Catholic mass, listening to singing.
A great museum experience was Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man), devoted to the work one artist: Oswaldo Guayasamin,  (July 6, 1919 – March 10, 1999). master painter and sculptor of Quechua and Mestizo heritage and Native of Quito. 

I did not paint while in Quito for I was in a hotel room and stayed five days. Now I am in Cuenca and will be in the south of Ecuador for about two weeks so will resume painting. Need to find an art supply store first!

See Steven Boone art