Sunday, December 31, 2023

Brushstrokes and Shutter Clicks

A journey of experimentation in painting and photography becomes a dance between colors and shadows, brushstrokes and shutter clicks. 

In the realm of my photography, each new technique is a portal to uncharted territories promising a visual adventure that transcends the familiar.  A click of the camera becomes a brushstroke on the canvas of my visual narrative, weaving together my unique story.

Mastering new lighting situations, experimenting with unconventional angles, intentionally blurring images with hand movement, creating double images in the camera or delving into the world of photoshop, the process of discovery is my constant companion.

Joy lies in the unpredictability of the outcome, the serendipitous moments when a blend of techniques gives rise to a photograph that echoes the essence of my artistic soul. It's about pushing boundaries, embracing the unknown, and allowing creativity to flourish. 

As a painter and photographer, the synergy between the two crafts fuels a perpetual cycle of inspiration. For years I have experimented as painter and photographer, using my talents to bring artistry to images I make on canvas and with a camera. Decades of dedication to both disciplines only serve to enhance the thrill of creative adventure. The well of creativity seems deep, and does not diminish. 

And now I am jumping into the world of artificial intelligence, or AI. I have only just begun, but immediately find the results astonishing. I understand computer work is all only numbers and code and will not replace what I accomplish by hand. Yet, as I say this, I am cognizant that I have only been using digital cameras now for about twenty years. When a picture is taken and recorded on a chip, it is all numbers.  Then it can be read by computers which translate information into actual images that can be printed. 

AI creation with touch-up editing in photoshop

Ultimately, my thrill of discovery in photography is a celebration of my artistic spirit's boundless curiosity. It's the joy of finding beauty in unexpected places, capturing fleeting moments that resonate with emotion, and continuously evolving my artistic journey. The same is true of my ever evolving artwork in paints. Since moving to Mexico my subject matter has changed dramatically⏤from exuberant landscapes, I have gone to gritty spectral images of skeletons. Though now I have gone back to still life and portraits. But it can change at any time. I am not so much painting for the public anymore It is for my soul. 

"Victory of War" oil on linen

AI creation with touch-up editing in photoshop

Excitement of discovery is my lifelong companion.

Sunday, December 17, 2023


Just being alive is exciting, and my perception is that THE DREAM is a single entity. In other words, every moment is part of the one preceding it, and the one to come. I do not divide them but live in the universal. The present time gives me all that I need.   From My FairyTale Life, February 07, 2010 

Dal Lake, Reflections from a houseboat. Kashmir India

During all of the year 2008 I travelled solo around the globe, completely circling the earth, mostly going eastward. I had so many fabulous adventures. They became part of this blog, which I call My Fairy-Tale Life. From the start of the sojourn, my consciousness shifted from deliberate planning to more of observer in a state of flux. The constant flow of surprising sights and sounds in unknown environments left me feeling as if I lived in a dream. This is what I adopted as normal⏤THE DREAM.

Me with Ash. I rented a houseboat from him on Dal Lake, in Kashmir, India. 10/2008

When traveling ended and routine life resumed, I noticed also my perceptions and consciousness slipped back to occupation with matters of health, income, community and family. Thoughts became compartmentalized again. Occasionally I remembered that I am dreaming in real life, but the sensation would go away as exigencies required attention.

Lately I have been reading passages from my days of being totally in THE DREAM. True now as it was then, living in Mexico I can see that THE DREAM has wonderful gifts. The lesson is to be grateful under all circumstances, not discriminate, and see that each experience is woven into all other experiences creating the fabric of existence called life.

Returning to the sea of life

Quotes from My Fairy-Tale Life, spanning years:

Life cannot be held, only experienced. To try and hold it is when we realize it is but a dream. - December 06, 2015

I shook off notions of nationality, race, wealth—all the usual prejudices that are obstacles to oneness. The more I let go, the more I realized the world is phenomenal, fluid—and ever shifting sands. -April 08, 2018

My mind shifted from analysis and planning to complete acceptance of the moment. I began having total trust in what was being presented to me, seeing the gift of life everywhere and in everything. Opportunities arose and I had no fear because I did not live with feelings of opposition or separateness. My surroundings and I were one, and as events unfolded and I met people, the experiences were more profound because I was open to them—even expecting them. Events and consciousness seemed continuous and woven together, full of wonder and surprise—as if in a dream. I was the dreamer bearing witness. 

Thoughts and emotions are not permanent. I have been looking to a higher reality to gain perspective—to find immutable truth. Everything depends on it or else falls apart. My life has come undone so I have been ardently going to the place of truth, longing only to stay in that sacred temple. The more I am there, the more I see that THE DREAM is not only the fleeting occurrences all around me, but the terrain of my mind as well. Truth is independent of mind, beyond time and space. I am not talking about relative truth but rather the absolute: God, the uncreated Creator Who dwells in all, and is first recognized by our souls. - April 05, 2015

THE DREAM, to me, is a function of consciousness and interpretation of perceptions. I prefer not to interpret and judge my experiences but rather live them entirely as to “know” them. THE DREAM goes before me and I trust it because it is myself, in dialogue with God. -November 21, 2009

Dar Timitar, El Kelaa M'gouna, Morocco
Dar Timitar, El Kelaa M'gouna, Morocco

“We must give up the life we had planned in order to accept the one that is waiting for us.” -Joseph Campbell

For more: THE DREAM writing

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Testament to Magic

On Sundays we offer free art sessions including materials and refreshments to our neighbor children in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Mexico. The projects have been ongoing for three years now and at times we have struggled to come up with new ideas. The kids delight in creating something and taking their artwork home. At times we have given them crafts to paint and embellish. Our latest effort is finishing an alebrije. Mexican Alebrije´s are hand carved wooden sculpture of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures that are brightly colored with designs.

Two alebrijes  from our collection by the Jimenez family 

Last Friday Amy and I went with a new found American friend who lives in our village and drove an hour to Ocatlán, a bigger town nearby Oaxaca. Ocatlán's Friday market is a tapestry of culture, offering everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handcrafted textiles, arts & crafts, and livestock for sale or barter. Our quest on this particular Friday was to delve into the world of alebrijes, the whimsical, fantastical creatures carved from wood that have become emblematic of Mexican folk art. We sought hand carved, unpainted alebrijes that local craftspeople make and sell. We wanted unfinished ones for our children to paint. Unpainted and awaiting transformation, the wooden canvases held the potential for magic. Bees, turtles, dogs, and rabbits awaited their metamorphosis into alebrijes. Our friend had told us we must arrive early because items sell out fast. By 7:30 AM we had a collection of carvings from several artisans.

Jo, buying a rabbit (conejo)

Family of carvers

The market is a thrill so we browsed, then went to an early lunch at a nearby livestock bazaar where locals sat under tents eating traditional fare.

With our newly acquired treasures in tow, we eagerly returned home to share the enchantment on Sunday with our neighbor children. Our plan was simple yet filled with creativity and joy – we would guide the children in painting these wooden creatures, infusing them with magical colors that would bring them to life to be transformed into true alebrijes.

Unpainted carvings

Sunday the children dipped their brushes into a palette of vivid colors, unleashing their imagination onto the wooden canvases. Laughter echoed through the air as wooden bees, turtles, dogs, and rabbits were transformed into vibrant, fantastical beings. Each stroke of the brush was a step closer to the creation of their unique masterpiece, a testament to the rich cultural heritage and artistic spirit of Oaxaca.

The experience was not merely about creating art but about fostering a connection between generations and communities. Through the shared act of painting, we bridged gaps and transcended language barriers, creating bonds that extended beyond the vibrant hues of the alebrijes.

Our collection of painted alebrijes stands as a testament to the magic that can unfold in the heart of a Mexican village. The true beauty of a journey lies not only in the destination but in the vibrant tapestry of experiences woven along the way.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Wellspring of Inspiration


In our casa in the village of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, near Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, Amy and I have found solace, inspiration and a canvas for our artistic souls. We love our classic adobe home, surrounded by plants, fields and mountains, set in a typical Mexican community. 

We serve our neighbors by giving art lessons to children. We offer projects and teach skills, provide all the materials while including refreshments. Children go away happy and proud, taking with them their artwork to share with their family. 

Our quiet life allows us to immerse ourselves in the rhythms of this world while still offering the enchanting proximity to the vibrant heart of internationally acclaimed Oaxaca.

Two or three times a week, we embark on a short journey to the city. There we buy foods we cannot find in the village, visit a marvelous ex-pat lending library, buy art supplies, and purchase the best artisan breads and pastries at a popular bakery. Sometimes I stop to swim at Hotel Victoria where we bought a membership that gives us access to the pool. Amy relaxes under an umbrella and we share lunch.

I always carry my camera to find opportunities for street photography. 

Usually we come upon a celebration happening⏤with music and lively street performances. 

Oaxaca serves as a melting pot of creativity, where artists from different backgrounds converge to express themselves. Engaging with this artistic kaleidoscope fuels our imagination and provides fresh perspectives to infuse into our creations. Galleries showcase a diverse range of works, from traditional folk art to contemporary masterpieces. Furthermore, now we both are represented at one of the Oaxaca’s finest art venues: Cuatrosiete Galeria. They gave us an exclusive two person show during peak tourist time: this years Dia de Muertos celebration.

When we return to our rural village, I exclaim how exciting Oaxaca is. It is wellspring of inspiration for two artists like us. We carry home echoes of Oaxaca's vibrant cultural symphony. Our quiet life is a canvas onto which we paint the stories, colors, and melodies we've absorbed during our time on earth.

We now have a new website showcasing our Mexican inspired art: Dos Venados

Sunday, November 19, 2023


Inspiration for painting art is as broad as the universe. Subjects are endless. Some artists choose to have no subject at all, but let colors and line speak and be interpreted entirely subjectively.

For several years I have made paintings that evoke the most difficult symbol: death. It is the subject behind life that nobody wants to look at. The shadow that lingers in the corners of our consciousness, and for most, the unwelcome guest at the banquet of life.

My most recent painting took great effort emotionally, psychically and on canvas. It came in response to the deluge of horrific information that comes on the newscasts every day, especially with various wars raging in the world. In the painting, death is the ultimate victor, while all the combatants and other actors are decimated.

I usually don’t try and describe symbolism in my paintings . . . but in this instance I will:
Two spectral central figures are toasting with goblets of red wine, oblivious to the chaos and destruction raging around them. They are dressed in black, symbolizing the void, absence of light, mystery, mourning and perhaps comfort. Enigmatically they hold goblets of wine. Red wine represents celebration, opulence, strength, passion, love: it is the blood of life. The glass goblets represent the fragility of the vessel which holds life. 
In art, a skeleton is often used as a symbol of death and mortality. The Latin phrase "Memento Mori" translates to "Remember that you will die," and it's a reminder of the inevitability of death.  One skeleton wears a crown of roses representing the fleeting nature of beauty and life. Here, death is happily taking life that disappears forever. 
In the background are burning cities. Mankind is at war and masses of people are caught in the conflagrations of violence and destruction. They flail helplessly against fate. On the left, a terrorist holding an automatic weapon stands beside death. Bewildered people crowd together, not knowing if they live or die. Fists with swords sweep through the air, while other arms and hands reach toward the sky in anguish. A stunned man gazes next to a death figure on the right. There is no place of safety.
In the midst of death, between the two skeletal figures is a child, looking up in bewilderment. Even children are being swept into the void of death.

The painting came as a response to current events. Our current world is in travail with countless threats to the fabric of existence. 

As an artist, I pictured it. For now, and forever as testimony.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Gates of Awe


Every so often in life we have a profound experience that awakens our sleeping soul and opens the gates of awe. On November 4th, at the end of the annual Dia de Muerto, or Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, while Amy, her visiting sister Cari, and I were on our way home from Oaxaca we decided to stop at the cemetery in our village San Pedro Ixtlahuaca. The big gate was strewn with huge garlands of flowers as we walked into a sight that took my breath away. The entire graveyard had been cleaned and bouquets of flowers were everywhere⏤covering every grave. In all my life in the United States, I never saw anything like it. 

As I walked I was almost brought to tears noticing that all the graves had been commemorated with flowers. In death, all had been forgiven and redeemed and nobody forgotten; including those from the distant past. I intuitively knew that it goes beyond remembering only the illustrious or the well-known; here, every soul is embraced by the warmth of recollection. Even the graves of those who led troubled lives or are unknown to many, are not forgotten. 

By far, the most common flower is the marigold, known as “cempasúchil." In Mexico, they are not merely flowers; they are vibrant messengers bridging the gap between the living and departed. With golden hues seeming to echo the warmth of cherished memories, cempasúchil invite us to reflect on the interconnectedness of life and death. The air fills with their sweet aroma, supposedly to summon the spirits back to the world of the living. 

For someone from a culture where death is often treated with solemnity and separation, Dia de Muertos in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, serves as a gentle reminder that death, too, can be a celebration of life. A moment to acknowledge and honor those who came before us, recognizing the impact they had on our existence. 

In a world often quick to overlook the marginalized, I felt touched walking over the extensive grounds with graves spanning the centuries, witnessing universal remembrance.

A touching and humbling experience.

In the presence of the marigold-strewn graves, I realize that the Day of the Dead is not just about remembering the departed; it's about embracing the cycle of life with gratitude. San Pedro Ixtlahuaca has taught me that in remembrance, there is a timeless beauty that transcends borders—a beauty that invites us to celebrate the vast intricacies of the human experience, both in life and in death.

For an American like me, it's a privilege to witness the beauty of this tradition and be a part of it—a communal embrace of the past, a recognition of shared humanity, and a poignant reminder that, in the tapestry of life and death, every thread contributes to the richness of the whole.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Tapestry of Humanity


A week like no other . . . and to think⏤Amy’s sister arrived from Minnesota and experienced it with us. Cari arrived along with Dia de Muertos, an extraordinary week of color, tradition, and creativity. 

In the heart of Mexico amidst the vibrant streets of Oaxaca, Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time-honored tradition in Mexican culture, celebrating the lives of departed loved ones with colorful festivities and heartfelt remembrance.

The two sisters stayed in a nice hotel in the city for two nights as events ramped up. There is so much to entice the eye during the course of the holiday.  I always drive to town from our village every day to photograph.

We feel honored and bonded in our adopted community. Especially with the family of Mayolo Galindo, our neighbor who makes our tin frames. His wife Marta gave a cooking lesson in our home on making molé and traditional tamales. That evening we had a wonderful traditional tamale dinner to mark Cari´s birthday.

Every day and night are parades and celebrations. I threw myself in as much as possible to get photographs. A book of Dia de Muertos portraits will be forthcoming with one more year of picture taking.

This year we were honored that a premiere gallery rushed to take our work and highlight it as part of their offering for Dia De Muertos. They installed a grand ofrenda in the midst of our paintings. It was a surreal experience to see our art displayed alongside other talented artists, each piece telling a unique story of life, death, and the mystical in-between. We had hoped for such an outcome but had not expected. Then it suddenly occurred.
Memento Mori, by Steven Boone,  oil on linen, with tin frame by M. Galindo

The art gallery reception was warmly received. Many people stop to photograph our pieces and pose next to them.

Entre Culebras y Colibríes, by Amy Córdova Boone,  acrylic on canvas, with tin frame by M. Galindo

In the aftermath of Dia de Muertos, on November 4th as we drove home from the city, we stopped to walk in our village cemetery. I was moved that every grave in the large plot had flowers on it.

Because of a glitch in Cari´s flight home, she stayed an extra two days. We visited the largest tree on earth (in circumference) and drove 40 minutes to Tule to see the Tule tree. Another breathtaking experience in our panorama of experiences since she arrived. 

Cari discovered the true essence of Dia de Muertos – a celebration that transcends boundaries and connects us all in a beautiful tapestry of humanity. Today she arrived at the airport without delay and boarded for home, full of stories to tell.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Lo and Behold, Dia de Muertos

Dia de Muertos is so deeply embedded in the fabric of Oaxacan life, that the typical three days of commemoration from October 31 - November 2 is apparent everywhere throughout the year⏤mostly evident on walls that are painted with emblems. Living in our village of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, just outside of town, I have been deeply influenced in my own way, and expressed my feelings in a body of art that surprised me, and even more so, the people who have collected and watched my work over the years. I created a series of skeleton paintings. 

Viaje Final, oil on linen, 90x140 cm

While making these paintings, I had to admit it was not in any way a commercial venture. Even so, I harbored feelings of hope that these works were not for myself only, but would be received publicly somehow, someday. Lo and behold, our wonderful neighbor Mayolo who makes fabulous tin frames for Amy and I, went in to town smartphone in hand equipped with a screen to show off the website DosVenados I recently created for our Mexican art. Immediately he secured one of the best galleries in the city to show our work, called CuatroSiete Galeria. It happened so suddenly and amazingly, our paintings are already up on the walls and even figure prominently near the gallery grand “ofrenda”  the traditional altar, built to honor lost loved ones. People can walk in from the street to see it.
LA HERENCIA SAGRADA DE MADRE MAÍZ, Acrylic on canvas, 70x90 cm

Besides all the activity preparing our work for show, Amy’s sister arrived from Minneapolis to stay with us for nine days. 
Oaxacan days of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) are marked by a joyous and colorful revelry that engulfs the streets in a lively atmosphere. As the sun sets and darkness descends, the city comes alive with celebration that honors and remembers departed loved ones. Streets adorned with marigold flowers and flickering candles create a surreal, otherworldly ambiance.
For me, as a photographer it is thrilling to see such color and artistry. 

The three of us drive into the city every day and spend hours, witnessing parades, visiting ofrendas, walking the streets while mingling with crowds of people who most often have decorated themselves. The air is filled with the aroma of traditional Oaxacan cuisine, including the enticing scent of tamales and molé. Music echoes through the streets, featuring mariachi bands, folk musicians, and dancers, all contributing to the festive spirit.  

Tonight we will visit a cemetery where families gather to clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors, offering their favorite foods, drinks, flowers and mementos, and lighting candles.

In our home we have made our ofrenda and decorated it while offering prayers.

Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca is not just a celebration but a profound cultural and spiritual experience, where the boundaries between the living and the deceased blur, allowing for a heartfelt connection with those who have passed away. The streets of Oaxaca during these days are filled with love, laughter, and a profound sense of community, making it a truly unforgettable and magical celebration.

Amy and I are especially blessed this year to have our artwork accepted and honored in Oaxaca⏤in the spirit of Mexico and Dia de Muertos.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Remembering Deceased Loved Ones

Each year, Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead arrives to great fanfare in Oaxaca, Mexico. The holiday has indigenous roots and combines elements of pre-Hispanic beliefs with Catholicism, and is dedicated to honoring and remembering deceased loved ones.

Dia de Muertos occurs at the end of October and first 2 days of November. It is a a vibrant and deeply meaningful celebration⏤a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated throughout the country, particularly in the region of Oaxaca. 

At this time, families create elaborate altars, known as "ofrendas," in their homes, adorned with marigold flowers, candles, photographs of the departed, and their favorite foods and drinks. These ofrendas are believed to help guide the spirits of the deceased back to the world of the living for a brief reunion with their families.
People also visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Families gather to share stories and memories, and there is often music, dancing, and other festivities. The atmosphere is one of both reverence and joy, as it is believed that during Dia de Muertos, the boundary between the living and the dead is temporarily lifted, allowing for a special connection with those who have passed away.

In essence, Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico, is a celebration of life and death, a time for families to come together, honor their ancestors, and celebrate the continuity of life beyond death. It's a unique blend of indigenous traditions and Catholicism, creating a rich tapestry of cultural significance and remembrance.

Our ofrenda, 2022

Today during our Sunday free art session for our neighbor children, we made decorated masks from gourd shells. Everyone worked happily on the project and went away with a creation to share with family and friends.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

La Sagrada Herencia de Madre Maiz

Amy and I share a studio at our home in Oaxaca, Mexico. Our approaches to painting are very different and we both admire each other for the unique abilities we bring to creation. Being with Amy when she makes her masterpieces is enthralling and perplexing both.

Amy usually begins work without a clear idea of what will arrive in the end. The entire process is a journey of discovery which she refers to as a ¨conversation¨. It is as though she opens herself to the power of energetic vibration and then uses that to bring forth visions and stories. 

I am amazed at the potent stories that are told in her paintings. My frustration is when I see her come and go from her work, which she does frequently. She gets something done and walks away, sometimes for a day or so, only to come back and change it. She insists she does this at the painting´s request. She is self taught and has to see her work in stages⏤fine tuning all along. 

My paintings take much less time to accomplish than Amy’s. I have a degree in fine art with much academic training. Over the years I mastered my techniques and work with strong impulse, not second-guessing as I go along. 

Amy has done very well in her art career and has more recognized achievements and awards than I during her forty years of art making. It is because she is pure in her creation.

Here in Mexico, we both have been inspired by the culture and our art reflects some new paradigms.
Amy has just completed a fine example: called, 
La Sagrada Herencia de Madre Maiz.  ¨The Sacred Inheritance of Corn Mother¨
She says: ¨Since childhood, I have felt a connection to the jeweled colors of corn, and throughout my life, it has become a totem symbol that represents me. I felt a deep sense of reverence while bringing this prayer to life."

"In my painting, the vital force, coming from the potent world of Spirit is also in the memory and breath of our Ancestors. The Human Being; in this case, a child wrapped in Guadalupe´s rebozo is open to receive the gifts / blessings that surround her. 
And, Corn, the staple of life, is the heartbeat of it all.”

For more : Amy Córdova Art