Monday, September 18, 2023

¡Viva! Art On The Streets


Amy and I are artists who spend time together creating art in our wonderful home in a village outside of Oaxaca, Mexico. We go to the city at least three days a week and feel excitement. I always make a new discovery and am surprised by something I have not seen before. Much of it is art on the streets. 

The street art is awesome and mysterious because we assume it is done for free by artists who create masterpieces.

My daughter Sarah during a visit

One group, called Subterreneos, is a collective of artists. They have their own atelier and make woodblock prints, sometimes on a massive scale. Much of the work is of somewhat political nature, making social justice statements. The prints are for sale, but often also are printed on special papers that are then glued with a wheat paste substance on walls around the city. I have seen fantastic works. They deteriorate naturally, but are replaced with something new, often  in a different location. 

Mural being created by the group Subterreneos for a local food market

Artist working on mural

Native culture, heritage, tradition and “raíces,” or roots, all run deep in Oaxaca. Travel and Leisure Magazine has awarded Oaxaca first place in its annual best cities in the world issue⏤more than once. Amy and I chose to live here after an initial visit. We felt a definite allure. When we found our dream house at a price we could not resist, we made the move. It was like holding hands and jumping into the unknown, but trusting something bigger.

We live outside of the big city in a growing community called San Pedro Ixtlahuaca. Not much around but cornfields and rolling hills, but it has a town center with businesses and is not far from a hugely important Mexican archeological site called Monte Alban.

Oaxaca and its charms are all close by.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

In The Heart

In the heart of the tapestry that is Oaxaca, Mexico, a treasure trove of villages unfurl, each with its own distinct artistry woven into the fabric of tradition. For instance one village is famous for woodworking, another for textiles and yet another for clay work. Like living time capsules, they specialize in crafts that span generations, weaving threads of culture and craftsmanship into art. 

Last Friday morning, a journey of cultural exploration awaited, intertwining the lives of Amy and me with the essence of our adopted homeland.

The sun cast its golden glow upon the rugged landscape and abundant corn fields as we set out from our home in the village of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, guided by our gracious Mexican neighbors, Mayolo and Marta. Our destination was San Bartolo de Coyotepec, a place renowned far and wide for its special black pottery.

Mayolo, in front of a mural at San Bartolo de Coyotepec

The road stretched before us, each mile bringing us closer to a world rich in tradition and heritage. Our car meandered through busy, cluttered city streets with myriad “tope”, concrete speed bumps, and onward toward our destination, with Mayolo guiding us through the maze of Oaxaca he knows so well. Passing a familiar neighborhood, he said it was where he grew up. He told the story of meeting Marta who lived in the next neighborhood. They met as youngsters in school uniforms. Marta exclaimed she had met her boy and he was hers for life. And so it came to be.

For Amy and I, the day was not just about acquiring artifacts; it was about connecting with the soul of Oaxaca, and perhaps forging bonds with artisans who breathe life into their creations.
Upon arrival after a one hour drive, we found ourselves on an avenue through the heart of the village, surrounded by artisans at work in shops that lined both sides of the street. On display are black vessels that hold stories and shimmer with the sheen of quartz polished surfaces.

Unusually quiet, it seemed we were the only ones looking at the wares. We meandered through marketplaces, admiring the intricate pottery on display. Our eyes danced as we discovered creations that resonated with our hearts. We couldn't resist taking home several pieces of San Bartolo's legacy, each a testament to the creative vision and dedication of its creator.

Finished buying pottery, we walked to a nearby restaurant suggested by a local artist, where we were treated to a feast of flavors unique to this region. The simple cuisine was a composition of tastes and textures, especially the almond molé—a reflection of the diverse culinary tapestry of Oaxaca. Over the shared meal and animated conversations, (Amy helps me as translator when needed,) we dined with Mayolo and Marta, finding ourselves more entwined with the vibrant spirit of Oaxaca. 

I mentioned to Mayolo I want to venture further, to visit Huichol Indigenous communities and document the lives of rural Mexicans. He volunteered to go with me and suggested we could do a peyote ceremony together. It is a sacred tradition among Huichol people. I just might do it.

Early afternoon we bid farewell to San Bartolo de Coyotepec, hearts full with experiences of new friendships and deeper appreciation for beauty that thrives in simple black clay pottery. The journey home was a contemplative one. The last half hour we listened to the Gypsy Kings play their special flamenco songs in Spanish.

Vase that captured Amy's heart.

We brought back to San Pedro Ixtlahuaca not only the tangible treasures of black pottery but also the intangible riches of cultural exchange and profound connections. In the vicinity of Oaxaca, where each village tells a story through its craft, we continue to find our own narrative—of shared experiences, cherished traditions, art, culture and enduring ties that bind us to our adopted home.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

La Ofrenda Sagrada


I liked it as soon as I saw it. Amy was already smitten. We were in a gallery called Peyote People that represents art special to Huichol Indian people of southern Mexico. It is across the street from Boulenc, a bakery and restaurant we visit frequently to buy the best baked bread in Oaxaca. We had bought bread and decided to drop in to the gallery on our return to our car. Beaded art, yarn paintings, textiles, ceramics and wood carvings adorned the area from top to bottom. Amy had stopped in her tracks in front of a yarn painting hanging high on a wall. I came to her side and we admired it together. Huichol yarn paintings are made with colorful yarn meticulously glued to board and depict symbols important to the culture. Amy was especially touched by the motif of corn, feathers, a deer, the sun, and peyote plants, skillfully laid out in yarn of fantastic colors. We bought the piece. 

It is called “La Ofrenda Sagrada” meaning The Sacred Offering, by Jesus Jimenez. We hung it in our kitchen/breakfast nook area, over a bench where my Frida Kahlo painting hung previously. La Ofrenda Sagrada is bright and magical, perfect for its place in our Mexican home.

The Kahlo has moved upstairs, over our bed.

Amy said how much she likes having the Frida Kahlo over our bed now. Nothing was there before. I made the painting, copying Frida’s earliest self portrait and putting a skeleton next to her. In the upper left corner is her quote: “I want to be inside your darkest everything.”

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Life and Death Converged


In the heart of a quaint, secluded village, amidst cornfields and rolling hills nestled by mountains, lived an enigmatic artist named Esteban. The old man’s works were a dichotomy that both captivated and perplexed those who gazed upon them. Esteban had a unique perspective on life and death, and he used his art to explore the vast spectrum of existence that encompassed both the marvels of nature and the symbolism of mortality.
For many years, Esteban’s paintings of marvelous nature were a celebration of life's beauty and vitality. His strokes on canvas rendered scenes of vibrant landscapes, with sunsets casting warm hues over cool deserts, wildflowers dancing in a gentle breeze, majestic trees reaching towards the heavens, flowing rivers and high desert plains. He captured the essence of nature before him, infusing his work with a sense of awe and reverence for the natural world. His paintings exuded life and energy, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the splendor of the universe.
Yet, alongside these odes to life, late in life, Esteban delved into the darker realms of existence. His other collection featured symbols of death, prominently featuring skeletons as a recurring motif. These paintings were hauntingly beautiful, revealing the fragility and impermanence of life. The skeletons had a life of their own in the world. Esteban’s skillful use of colors and textures conveyed a sense of melancholy, inviting viewers to confront their own mortality and reflect on the transient nature of existence.
Esteban's dual artistic explorations were not about juxtaposition but about integration. He believed that to truly appreciate the magnificence of life, one must also come to terms with the inevitability of death. In his view, the universe was a tapestry woven from both light and shadow, and one couldn't fully understand the beauty of the former without acknowledging the presence of the latter.
Villagers often visited Esteban's studio, drawn by the dichotomy of his work. They marveled at the way his paintings of life and death resonated with their own experiences and emotions. Some found solace in the reminder that life was precious and fleeting, prompting them to cherish every moment. Others were inspired by the unapologetic confrontation of mortality, leading them to reflect on their legacies and contributions to the world.

Esteban's art became a conversation between himself, his creations, and his audience. He encouraged open dialogue about the interconnectedness of life and death, challenging societal norms that often shied away from discussing the latter. His paintings sparked philosophical discussions, emotional introspection, and a renewed appreciation for the wonders of existence.
As the years went by, Esteban's reputation as a thought-provoking artist grew beyond his village. His exhibitions garnered attention from art enthusiasts, philosophers, and even scholars who saw in his work a profound exploration of the human condition. Esteban's legacy extended beyond his physical art; his philosophy embraced life's entirety, from the resplendent beauty of nature to the contemplation of death, leaving an indelible mark on those who engaged with his creations.
In Esteban's art, life and death converged, coalescing into a testament to the complexity and profundity of existence. Through his paintings, he painted not just scenes on canvas, but a reflection of the universe's vastness, both its light and its darkness. He invited us to look beyond the surface and acknowledge the intricate dance of life and death that shapes our journey through this wondrous world.

All artwork ©2023 by Steven Boone, all rights reserved

Sunday, August 06, 2023

At The Crossroads

My mind dances between earth and sky, memory, and ever pressing facts of the present. I easily think, “What if?”  All my life I have been restless. From childhood I learned by feeling and touching, then putting facts together. Given only facts and no experience I am lost. If I had been educated with an arts based curriculum from the beginning, many years would not have been wasted in schooling. 

My mother, Chloris, as a young artist

I have always been on a creative journey. It is my temperament. From an early age, I felt as though the world was my canvas to create art. Thankfully, my parents, especially my mother, encouraged the artist within. She signed me up for special Saturday art classes at a downtown Washington DC museum. She bought me a silver flute and paid for lessons. My father encouraged cultural and social participation in society, and sent me off to work on the Navajo Reservation when I was a junior in High School. I won awards for my painting and writing. World literature was one of my favorite courses. Like my parents, I have been an avid reader all my life. By the time I was eighteen, I had read all the important books by Russian authors Tolstoi, Pasternak and Dostoevsky.

When I decided to go to art college, my parents paid for my studies until I graduated in three years. It has been a blessing that I have been able to make a living as an artist for four decades. Meanwhile I have written books and poetry, become a known photographer and travelled around the world twice, living in thirty countries.

My restless personality, prone to chaos, has been a wellspring and curse. I am in my fourth, and I expect last marriage. This time, thankfully, Amy is also an artist and understands what fuels my creative temperament.

I have two daughters; although my oldest, Naomi, died at age nineteen. I always say I have two children. Naomi my teacher, and Sarah, my joy.

Now, at a mature stage in life, I face a challenging phase of my journey with moments of indecision. It seems my sense of urgency is gone, and being on edge⏤that sense that fuels creative breakthroughs⏤is diminished. Lately, when standing at the crossroads of creativity I have felt at task, whereas earlier in life excitement prevailed. The charging stallion is more apt to walk these days.

Each talent calls out, yet my storehouse of energy has faded with age. I do not have self-doubt or anxiety yet I am cognizant of how my physical powers have faded with time. That said, some of my most important paintings have been made since we moved to Mexico several years ago. That change of life, in itself was no small feat. More new and different paintings are to come for sure, as will the photographs and the writing. Instead of choosing one passion over another, through the years I have explored synergy between creative pursuits. I have blended talents. 

I hope my work reflects a multifaceted soul, resonating with people from all walks of life. Maybe I am a true renaissance man.

In the end, instead of limiting ourselves to a single path, we can weave together our diverse talents into a tapestry of infinite possibilities. Each one of us holds the power to carve a unique path, blending our passions in special ways. 

It is at the crossroads that we discover our truest selves.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Living Between Two Worlds

As we moved between two countries, we carried with us a beautiful blend of cultures, traditions, and experiences. We know that home is not confined to a single place; rather, it is a tapestry woven from the threads of the people we love and the memories we hold dear. Our hearts now span across borders, and we find ourselves at ease in both Mexico's vibrant embrace and Santa Fe's familiar allure.

In this journey between places, we've come to realize that we are incredibly fortunate to have the best of both worlds. Mexico, with its soulful and sincere friendships, teaches us the value of human connections and endless possibilities for adventure. On the other hand, Santa Fe and Taos, with their cosmopolitan charm, upscale culture, the beloved landscape with its great vistas and soaring mountains, and many dear relationships, reminds us of our deep roots there and growth that came with years of living.

Home is more than just a physical place; it's a feeling of belonging, love, and nostalgia. For Amy and me, “Old” Mexico and “New” Mexico are home. For four decades we made a beautiful life in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a famous city in the USA on the forefront of creativity and cultural diversity. For some of that time, Amy lived in Taos, the place of her ancestors and rich intersection between Spanish, Native American and Anglo cultures. 

Recently for one month, we embarked on a sojourn from Mexico where we presently live, back to our former home, and the experience was nothing short of marvelous.  Amy also visited her family in Minneapolis-St. Paul. She stayed with her sister and oldest son and spent time with her two sons and four grandchildren. We are fortunate to experience the best of both worlds. 

My daughter Sarah and I

We bought our home near Oaxaca about 3 1/2 years ago. It is the reason we arrived in Mexico. The house is soulful, and called us to purchase it. We soon realized the challenges that come with moving into a foreign culture; especially since we live in a pueblo that is poor by American standards. I could write a book about the experience thus far. 

Living in a country with a language distinct from our mother tongue has presented tests, but also teaches the value of communication beyond words. The warmth of a smile, the laughter shared over a meal, and the genuine care and concern for one another transcend linguistic barriers. In Mexico, we find a place where simplicity and genuine connections hold more significance than material wealth.

Stream in the Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico

Returning to Santa Fe felt like revisiting the past and reconnecting with old friends. The familiarity of the English language was a comfort, and being surrounded by familiar faces was a heartwarming experience. Our sojourn allowed us to reminisce about the years gone by and cherish our lasting friendships that transcend time and distance. We met with so much kindness and generosity. Further, we brought back to Mexico donated gifts of art materials to share with our neighbor children in our pueblo. 

Amy with neighbor kids

Our story is one of love, appreciation, and the beauty of living between two worlds. While Mexico, our humble and beloved home, provides us with soulful and sincere connections, Santa Fe, our former abode in the wealthy USA, offers us the warmth of familiar faces and a history filled with fond memories. As we continue our journey through life, we carry with us the best of both worlds, forever grateful for the unique and cherished places that have shaped us into who we are today.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Nothing Short of Magical

As we bid farewell to Santa Fe, and prepare to return to our beloved Oaxaca, Mexico, our hearts are filled with gladness. We carry with us not only cherished memories and experiences but also the kindness and love of the friends who have embraced us throughout our journey. They have touched our lives in profound ways, leaving an indelible mark on our hearts, reminding us of the power of human connection and the beauty of genuine relationships.

Not once in our month sojourn did we have to stay in a hotel or rent accommodations. Friends provided everything we needed and ensured our comfort.

Amy's mural

I have many life experiences associated with Santa Fe, having lived in “The City Different’ for over four decades. Amy too, but especially the nearby city of Taos where her family ancestry goes back four centuries. This return felt invigorating, especially stepping back into a very clean world with all the amenities and opportunities that do not exist where we live now. 

We went to Taos overnight. It is where Amy spent many years and is the land of her ancestors. While there we visited her enormous mural on the side of a wall at the University of New Mexico. Amy then went north—to Minneapolis-St.Paul for two weeks to visit with family and do some work. After she left, I had the opportunity to see my beloved daughter Sarah who lives an hour away, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We went to the zoo there. The day was so hot that most of the animals were hiding or resting lethargically in the shade, but we enjoyed ourselves and rejoiced in our togetherness. 

I had an opportunity to experience the annual Santa Fe Folk Art Festival that draws artists and craftspeople from all over the globe for one weekend. It is a celebration of cultural diversity. 

Santa Fe has a vibrant summer music scene and many nights are alive with free concerts for the community. We discovered the joy of dancing to music alongside fellow residents, joining in the celebrations at free venues located in the charming rail yard and lively plaza. These moments of shared revelry were a testament to the unity and camaraderie that define this city. Traveling bands come from all around to play. While Amy was gone, I went alone to hear the music and often ran into people from my past that I had forgotten.

Sarah at Albuquerque Zoo

I had time for walks in the National forest in the mountains above Santa Fe, and to drive into the Rio Grande Gorge and follow the river for awhile. The days have been exceedingly hot, so it was cool respite to find a stream where I could sit in a pool by boulders under cascading water.

Generous souls have donated art supplies for us to take back to the children we serve in our pueblo. We have two suitcases full of materials and projects.

During our time in Santa Fe, we embarked on various endeavors that required our attention. Among them was the task of selling items we had been storing, which provided an opportunity to declutter and move forward with renewed purpose. 

The time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has been nothing short of magical. The kindness and love of friends, breathtaking landscapes, the vibrant community, and the invaluable moments of reconnection have shaped this chapter of my life into an unforgettable tale.  In parting, we acknowledge the true spirit of reciprocity and gratitude, for our dear friends have bestowed upon us gifts to share with our neighbors in our humble pueblo in Oaxaca. As we journey back to our Mexican abode, we carry these offerings as a symbol of the interconnectedness we have fostered during our time in Santa Fe. It is through the act of giving and sharing that we can create a ripple effect of kindness, extending the love we have received to those around us.

With my friend Paul White on left

As I bid adieu to this remarkable city, I am reminded that it is the people and the relationships we cultivate that truly make a place feel like home. Santa Fe will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I carry with me the lessons learned and the love shared as I embark on the next chapter of my fairytale life.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Memories We Create

Amy and I left behind our beautiful home in Oaxaca, Mexico, and returned to the embrace of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we had spent four decades of our lives. As we embarked on this transition, we found ourselves immersed in a whirlwind of gratitude, hospitality, and the remarkable kindness of friends old and new. Neighbors Marta, Mayolo and our comrade and house sitter Azul all sent us off two weeks ago with loving warmth . . . and Santa Fe friends picked us up at the airport to take us to the grand home of a couple who collect our art and offered their place and car for us while they are in their other home in Milwaukee.

With daughter Sarah who came
 from Albuquerque to visit.

Remarkably, in our travels thus far has been the absence of traditional arrangements like renting a car or booking lodging. Instead, we have been blessed with the good fortune of finding exceptional places to stay through the open arms and graciousness of dear friends.
As we prepared for this journey, our hearts were warmed by the knowledge that our Oaxaca house and beloved pet dog would be cared for in our absence. The generosity to take on such responsibility is a testament to the profound sense of hospitality that permeates the human spirit.

Everywhere we have been met with love and caring. We took a trip to Taos and stayed with friends . . . and in the past week we have stayed in the house I built with my ex-wife Jean, about thirty years ago. We are house sitting for nine days and caring for her two cats while she attends a creative dance gathering in Tucson. 

There is an enchantment that comes with staying in a space that carries the imprints of love, friendship, and shared experiences. Especially living once again in the house I built and raised my daughters in has caused many emotions to well up—an amalgamation of memories, laughter, and deep connection shared. I take note and understand it is all part of the context of my life.

Further, we have received donations of art supplies to take back to Oaxaca and give to our poor neighbor pueblo children who come to our home once a week for art classes.

These homes have become havens of respite, offering not only a place to rest our weary bodies but also a canvas upon which new memories are painted. Within their walls, we have found solace, comfort, and the sense of belonging that only true friendships can provide.

When we traverse the landscapes of Mexico, we are continually humbled by the acts of kindness and warmth shown to us by strangers-turned-friends. Whether it's an offer to help us with something important we do not understand, a heartfelt conversation over a home-cooked meal, or the simple act of a warm embrace, hospitality has touched our hearts and reaffirmed our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.

Same in the USA. We have felt great love and hospitality.

Amy and her mural in Taos

Amy leaves for Minneapolis tomorrow to see her sons and relatives for two weeks.
Jean returns and I will move on . . . to another home. A friend has offered me a bedroom. Then Amy will return here and we will go home to Oaxaca together.

Our hearts are filled with profound appreciation for the hospitality we have received, and we recognize the transformative power of genuine connections. As we continue to embrace the unknown and navigate the winding roads that lie ahead, we carry the spirit of hospitality in our hearts, knowing that wherever we find ourselves, there will always be a place to call home.

In the end, it is the people we meet, the friendships we forge, and the memories we create that truly define our journey.

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Connection to Nature

Working with the earth has always been a love of mine. It is my connection to nature that is strong. When I graduated art college and could not immediately find prosperity as an artist, I began a landscaping company which thrived. Eventually, after 11 years, I was able to sell the business and find my way as a full time painter. Landscape painting has been my greatest success.

Life has a beautiful way of evolving, presenting us with new avenues for creativity and fulfillment as we venture through its various stages.
I reached my seventies, and my wife Amy and I acquired a home near Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a grand adobe hacienda on a big hillside property with varieties of trees, shrubs, cactus, and plenty of potential for improvement. My attention is drawn towards the raw beauty of nature and the intrinsic allure of architecture. Here, at our house in the pueblo of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, near Oaxaca, Mexico the stage is set for working with the earth, plants, and structures.
I typically begin the day working outdoors. Plants always need care. We made a patio, remade a cistern, repaired a porch roof that had earthquake damage with tiles needing replacing. Now I am constructing stone stairs in front of our home.

While the physical labor required to shape stone stairs may be demanding, I find solace and gratification in the process. Far from viewing it as toil, I perceive it as a dance with the earth; a collaborative effort between my hands and the materials at disposal. Sweat and aching muscles serve as tangible reminders of dedication and passion. I am surprised how much, after work each day, I ache from mixing concrete, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with stones, laboring under a hot Mexican sun . . . Anyway, it is something I did many years ago and have not forgotten my landscaping skills.

In the golden years of life, our passions can take on new dimensions, weaving together diverse threads from our past and present. My love for painting, writing, and photography has found a companion in devotion to working with the earth, plants, and architecture. Amidst the picturesque landscapes of Oaxaca, I have immersed myself in the creation of stone stairs, where each step signifies not only toil but also his unyielding passion and love for our surroundings.

Last night a great storm came. First thunder and lightning, then rain, tremendous wind and hail the size of golfballs. It lasted almost an hour. A big potted plant came crashing down on the roof patio. Water came in the house in several areas⏤mostly from the storm hitting windows and seeping inside. The wind bent over trees and shrubs, ripping off limbs. The hail tore through leaves. It was violent nature.


Today I went out and swept the stairs I have been creating. Stone is forever.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Fill The Cup

At our home in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Mexico, good energy perceptibly rises during our Sunday art sessions. Our neighbors come at 3 PM, and when the group disperses to go home after a couple hours, it feel as if happiness has risen to fill the cup to overflowing. 

We have been offering free art workshops at our home in Mexico for 2 years now. The group is usually 7 children and one adult. The number goes up and down around that core.

Amy and I must prepare ahead so that when class begins everything is ready. That includes the project with materials, with refreshments to serve. It is our service to our immediate communityneighbors. 

Yesterday three girls showed up unexpectedly and asked if they could bake cookies with Amy. She agreed and they made peanut butter cookies. A real treat . . . considering the kids do not have an oven at home. 

The pictures here are from recent sessions.