Showing posts with label Amy Cordova. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amy Cordova. Show all posts

Sunday, April 10, 2022

To Paint A Dream


Since moving to our little village outside Oaxaca, Mexico, Amy and I have have been strongly influenced by our new culture. From our second floor studio in our home, we have been slowly but steadily producing “las pinturas con una diferencia.”  At some point we hope to mount a public show together.  Our styles and subjects are different enough to make it quite interesting.

Amy has completed a new work from our studio, called, Into the Mystic, acrylic on board, 24"x39".  She says:

"Xoloitzcuintle or xolo dogs are revered in Mexico since ancient times for their profound, otherworldly abilities. They are uniquely hairless and are considered to possess healing abilities, as well as guides for their Master on his/her journey to the spirit world. I decided to paint a dream I had of the end of the fifth sun, when the old paradigm departs and the sixth sun commences. In my painting, the xolos challenge Quetzalcoatl. The humans are in partnership with the xolos⏤conjuring the New Day. The female xolo with her newborn pups represent the coming of the sixth sun. We see the phases of the moon…the passage of time.
My true hope is to have a xolo. But for now, I can only visualize them as part of my world."

Sunday, June 06, 2021


Book making is a wondrous and beautiful process. The best efforts are preserved for eternity, but most fall into oblivion. The book Amy and I are working on, called DreamCarver, has already proven to be an enduring work of art. It was first published in 1993 and became a traveling opera, visiting cities across America.

Diana Cohn and Amy collaborated on it. Publishers Weekly wrote: “Inspired by the life of renowned Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jiménez, newcomer Cohn and Córdova (My Land Sings) tell of Mateo, a young woodcarver who bravely breaks with a generations-old artistic tradition. The subsistence farmers of the boy's village are known for their juguetes, tiny carvings of wooden animals "so small they could fit in the palm of a hand," carved by men and boys, and painted in fiesta-bright colors by women and girls. But Mateo dreams of carving life-size animals, with surfaces that tingle with vibrant, improbable colors and surreal patterns. "I see animals so big and bright that I will need to carve them with a machete!" he tells his disapproving father. When Mateo ultimately produces a glorious wooden menagerie—including a quetzal with majestic feathers—he wins over not only Papa, but the entire village, and a new way of carving is born. Cohn captures the boy's pursuit with straightforward eloquence, whether describing a child's heady experience of a fiesta or articulating the imaginative forces that set apart and drive a true artist. Córdova chronicles Mateo's artistic development in radiant, double-spread tableaux, setting off the text with festive decorative borders. She borrows the highly stylized characterizations and flattened perspectives typical of Mexican folk art, but she animates the compositions with big, bold shapes and electric, saturated colors. A fitting tribute to the energy and power of an artist's distinctive vision.” 

From our perfect vantage point in our home in Oaxaca, just a village away from Arrazola where the woodcarvers make the “alebrijes” magic animals carved of wood and decorated with complex designs in a riot of colors, we are remaking the book with new illustrations and bilingual text.

Amy said, “Back in 1992, my dear friend, Diana Cohn and I visited Oaxaca with the intent of creating a children's book about the origins of the fantastical, colorful alebrije carvings. We visited Manuel Jimenez , who is attributed with starting the entire movement. As a result of our love of the art form, we created the book Dream Carver, which was published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Since then , our agreement has expired and we requested the return of rights. 

Fast forward, rights granted ! Since then, I have spent the last many months reworking and creating new images, with the goal of enhancing those images and creating a bilingual edition. Diana and I have revised the text, so that the format of two languages is not compromised. Steve has spent hours photographing and doing incredible layouts of text and image. Pages now look breathtaking! I am still painting. A labor of love, for certain.”

The Dream Carver tradition is alive and thrives today. The original artist, Manuel Jimenez, now deceased, passed his tradition to his sons, and one of them, Isaias, continues with his family to produce marvelous works. He opened the DreamCarver Museum and had students create murals based on Amy’s illustrations. He is very eager for the book, originally in English, to be published as a bilingual.

Our goal is to have books in hand for a big celebration at the Museum during the Dia de Muertos festival November 1 and 2, 2021.

Sunday, April 04, 2021


Our house is magical; it drew us into itself. All the way from New Mexico USA to Oaxaca, Mexico, near Central America. 

We have met neighbors who know the history of this place and of the couple who built it. Everyone in these parts knows it as a landmark. Standing around a bend, on a hillside—unlike every other house for miles.

A Mexican architect designed it and his wife financed construction. Alfredo Figueroa was married to a German agronomist. There are stories about him. It seems he was a tall man with a long beard and something of a mystic. Our neighbor, who is a talented artist and craftsman, knew Alfredo and said that he made this house as if designing a sacred cathedral. And this is the way we feel living in it.

Our art work now adorns the walls. The neighbor Mayolo, has designed a magnificent wrought iron railing for our stairs rising from the front entry to the flight above. He built us curved curtain rods to go above the vaulted windows in our bedroom. We can see Mayolo’s house down below the hillconvenient because he can do so many artistic tasks for us, and knows how to help us with our new culture. The problem is he only speaks Spanish; like almost everyone.

We live among poor people. Dwellings are very humble compared to ours. Mexico reminds me of other developing countries I have lived in, like Egypt or India. Infrastructure is problematic, and being surrounded by manicured beauty is an unaffordable luxury. Amy commented that not many of our friends would like the conditions apparent in our villagei.e dusty roads, hardscrabble little dwellings that are hastily built . . . lack of sophistication.

I like that we often hear singing from the neighborhood evangelical church nearby. There are birds in the trees at our home that make remarkable songs . . . the best I have ever heard. Days are hot but nights are sublime. People are friendly and many have gone out of their way to insure our well being. Our magnificent cactus is beginning to bloom and attracting hummingbirds. We have bought a sturdy comfortable car—a Honda CR-V four-door with plenty of space.

There is a large paper wasp nest outside our bedroom window. It is at eye level hanging from an eve. To me, a thing of beauty—and I respect wasps because they help control insect pests.

The house is built of adobe blocks. Adobe consists of earth and straw. It is excellent at insulation and moderating temperatures. That is why it is commonly used in countries that are typically dry. We knew beforehand that this home has no heating or cooling systems. It is self modulating. We installed a ceiling fan in the bedroom and it is perfect.

Sunday, August 16, 2020



This last week has been a whirlwind of happy circumstances. After announcing that Amy and I will be  closing our gallery, our collectors stepped in to buy art. Four paintings are going to Rising Fawn, Georgia, two to Fort Collins, Colorado, one to Glenwood Springs Co., one to Las Cruces New Mexico, and three go to Kerrville, Texas. 

Paintings go to two homes in Santa Fe. Collectors from Albuquerque, NM bought one and a collector from Edmond Oklahoma bought one. 

We are grateful for all the sales during the pandemic. Many businesses have been severely impacted; including our gallery. 

We had planned to close when our rent was scheduled to increase drastically beginning in 2021. Then we decided to quit early, and now we are going month-to-month, with the probability of shuttering by the end of the year.

Now we know we can for sure make virtual sales.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Call It Flux

The Boone Gallery, where Amy and I have exclusively shown our art, is closing. The covid-19 pandemic is forcing us to close earlier than we planned. 

We have some remorse, but both of us know changes occur in life and we must adapt. I call it flux, and have been in relationship with it for as long as I can remember.

Beginning in a few days—Wednesday, August 12, we are auctioning art.

Before our artwork goes elsewhere, we are offering it directly to the public and collectors at a discount. It is an opportunity to benefit both us and everyone else. 

To preview, click here: AUCTION

For further information, go to or

Remember to check it out and begin bidding on Wednesday, Aug. 12

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Beyond Coincidence

It is beyond coincidence—a spiritual epiphany, that Amy was surprised yesterday by a mysterious visit that coordinated perfectly with her heart and mind. 
She is deeply connected with indigenous cultures and yesterday at our gallery, decided to draw a kachina figure from her memory. Before going further, let me explain about kachina dolls: They are figures carved from cottonwood that represent a deified ancestral spirit of Pueblo culture. Most closely associated with the Hopi Tribe, they are highly stylized and once you have seen one, you recognize them forever.

Amy owns a small collection. Last summer at Indian market here in Santa Fe, I bought one from a young Hopi carver, and Amy bought another.

Back to our story: The Hopi Reservation is about 265 miles away from Santa Fe but when Amy had almost finished her drawing, a Hopi fellow came in the door, almost on queue. He had a box of kachinas he had carved. His companion and daughter were with him. The little family was desperate for cash to get back home and Amy bought a figure. The man, Lawrence, described his Kachina. The name is Mocking Kachina, (Kwikwilyaka). He represents a Hopi man that is incomplete but still holds his faith. The Mocking Kachina makes fun of everyone when it appears at the Mixed Kachina Dance. He mocks the actions of anyone who passes within his view. 

This carving wears only one shoe and carries a pouch of sacred cornmeal and a ceremonial rattle. 
I did research online and found descriptions like this of a ceremony with dancers in the role of Kachinas: "Kwikwilyaka is the Mocking Kachina.  As a clown he has little personality of his own but fastens like a leech onto any activity that catches his eye.  With mirror-like accuracy he will reflect every action of the unfortunate whom he decides to mimic.  He drives the other kachinas such as Hó-e to strong measures to rid themselves of this unwanted echo.  Should a person in the audience become the focus of this undesired attention, he must wait until something else diverts the kachina.  But the wait is very difficult without inadvertently making some movement, and the rapidity of the mocking usually produces gales of laughter from the rest of the audience. During the Bean Dance procession he is a foil for the Hó-e and an annoyance to others." (Barton Wright

For a good article, see: Kachinas 

The image at top, from left to right: Blue Star Kachina, Tawa (Sun), Mocking Kachina, Diné (Navajo), Crow Mother

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Good Luck Trolls on St. Paddy's Day

Recently Amy finished a round painting that included an extra-terrestrial riding a unicorn, surrounded by “lucky” symbols. Near the bottom are two trolls, also known to be good luck charms, (see: Troll Doll).

Trolls remind me of an episode from my youth that has always stayed with me. In the early 1960’s our family of seven were becoming upwardly mobile and lived in a lovely neighborhood in Washington DC. I was almost a teenager. Not quite. My father, Richard W. Boone,  worked in the field of social reform and was quite active leading an organization called Citizens Crusade Against Poverty. Mother had begun working as an independent insurance broker. It was decided to hire a live-in domestic helper. Mother nixed any applicants that were young and pretty. The choice was Mrs. Smith; a homely middle aged black woman who came to live with us and took a bus home to a black neighborhood on weekends. Mrs. Smith was treated with deference and became part of our family. She ate at the table and if any child talked back to her they would hear it from father. Her duties were cooking, keeping the home clean and tending to piles of laundry—everything my mother would be doing if she had not begun working as an insurance agent.

In the early 1960’s troll dolls became one of America’s biggest toy fads. Boys as well as girls collected them. I had several. I liked the broad round face, the hair that stood straight up, the glass eyes with the half-wild stare and the gooey feeling body that would bend and spring back. When I started keeping them in a private place in my clothes drawer, the trouble began.

One afternoon I was in my room and Mrs. Smith came in. She made me open my drawer, revealing my trolls. Two dolls were resting gently on their backs looking up at us. They smiled mischievously with their big eyes, resting contentedly upon a pile of clean, folded white t-shirts.

“What are these?” she demanded. I could not explain exactly what they were . . . “Well, take them out of the drawer. I don’t want to see them again! And I am serious!” I was flabbergasted but removed and hid them somewhere else.
A week or so later, after the storm had passed, my little trolls went back to their home in my drawer. Mrs. Smith took clean undershirts and pants to my room, opened my dresser and got a shock. This time she was almost furious with me. “I told you not to put those in your drawer!” I knew this time she meant it and my dolls absolutely gave her the creeps. Secretly, I was happy my trolls had such huge hidden voodoo powers—after all, I had thought them to be harmless pet toys.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Windmills To Vanquish

After leaving cosmopolitan Granada, Spain, Amy and I have gone north. Every night in bed we read from Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes in 1605 - 1615. “The story follows the adventures of a noble (hidalgo) named Alonso Quixano who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his sanity and decides to become a knight-errant(caballero andante), reviving chivalry and serving his country, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, who often employs a unique, earthy wit in dealing with Don Quixote's rhetorical orations on antiquated knighthood. Don Quixote, in the first part of the book, does not see the world for what it is and prefers to imagine that he is living out a knightly story.” (Wikipedia). How appropriate that I have also followed in his footsteps—referring to my life as THE DREAM. Amy is totally with me, so we have gone searching for windmills to vanquish, and found them.

Our first stop was Baeza. In the two days we stayed there we saw hardly a soul. Some if its streets are a thousand years old and the town is so preserved with antiquity that in 2003 it was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.It seemed we were in a movie, with a stage set in the renaissance and all the actors were gone.

Heading north again, following road instructions on Google Maps, we immediately found ourselves amidst immense tracts of olive orchards. Both of us were amazed at countless olive trees in neat rows as far as we could see. They sometimes overtook entire mountains; marching up one side and down the other. At one point, a gleaming golden wall caught my eye in passing. It was shrouded on a hillside not far off, amidst trees. I knew from my previous trips to Andalusia that there are many deserted estates. “Oh, I want to explore!” I said. Amy replied, “Well stop and turn around.” We found a little road and it was slick with mud in places. Adventure called and I managed to get to a dry place and stop, almost entirely confidant I could get us out again. We walked in wet grass and slippery clay to get to the place.

I felt such excitement and nostalgia too. The walls were holding up but the roofs were caved in and gone. Rubble filled the inside but I found a way in. Just then the sun came out from behind clouds and I felt the grand nature of the place as it once was. I took pictures as Amy sat  pondering by an old well. When we reached our car we were both covered in clumps and splatters of white clay. “Oh well, “ I said as we drove out, “it was worth it.”

Now we are in Consuegra, Spain. Our flat is spacious but does not seem to get warm enough. Our first excitement was to find the windmills that stand on a hilltop next to a castle built circa 1183 overlooking the town. Amy and I imagine these are the mills that Don Quixote took to be giants and charged at on horse with his lance intent on doing battle—heedless of the entreaties of his squire Sancho Panza that he was only fighting windmills.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Oaxaca and Day of the Dead

Now that Amy and I are in Mexico, we give ourselves to surprise and the unexpected. Being in Oaxaca during the celebration of Dia de Muertos, (Day of the Dead,) takes our experience to another level altogether.

We are situated in an apartment just two blocks from the town center. Our comfortable room is in a complex belonging to an elderly Mexican woman, Maria, who shares her extra space.  Amy is conversational in Spanish.

We have been in Oaxaca four days but it feels like we are living lifetimes. Mornings start out quiet and relaxed with barely traffic, then as the day progresses everything intensifies. By evening lines of cars move slowly on the avenues that are open and people flood streets in the center that are closed to traffic. Families are in costume and many people parade with painted faces. Clusters of musical groups abound, often accompanied by costumed dancers. I love the strong brass sections that always have tuba players that huff and puff along with the drummers belting out percussion.

Naomi, along with Maria's family
The multi-day Dia de Muertos holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember those loved ones who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. It is common to see “ofrendas”, altars decorated with marigold flowers and items like food that are made as gifts to the deceased. Supposedly the dead can follow the pungent scent of the marigolds and arrive home. Copal incense is burned too. Maria set up an altar in her home and when she learned that Amy and I were going to make a little altar for Naomi, my daughter, she told us to include Naomi’s picture with those of her family.

The first night of the holiday, Amy and I hired a taxi and went to Xoxo (pronounced ho-ho) cemetery, an old, intimate resting place for the dead that is known by locals as the best place to have the real experience. We arrived at dusk and stayed until after nightfall. Families brought huge bundles of flowers and marched to the graves of their loved ones to place the blooms and light candles. We were careful at all times not to step on graves. We saw a big foreign man sitting on tombs while taking pictures and knew he did not know how to respect the place. I could hear Amy praying in Spanish as we went. I took photos of candles and tombs. Early in the evening we came upon a small group of locals sitting by the grave of a loved one. An old woman caught my eye and I asked to take her picture. She said something and nodded. Afterward Amy told me she had agreed and said, “Yes, because I will fly away very soon.”

The next night we painted our faces in our room and found a cab to drive us to another cemetery, called Panteon Generale. It is bigger, but to our chagrin, after walking down a closed street with festive booths on each side we found the gates had closed at 6:30 PM. Oh well, that is how THE DREAM is sometimes. So we mingled with families having fun at a mini-carnival. At various times proud parents asked to photograph their children with us.

Isais Jimenez and Amy Cordova

Events continue to unfold and yesterday a wonderful wood carver whose father is very famous drove with his wife from a nearby village to retrieve us and take us home. Isais is the son of artist Manuel Jimenez Ramirez (December 9, 1919 – March 4, 2005) who is a legend in southern Mexico. He and his family carry on the tradition begun by the father of painted wood carvings that are magical (alebrijes). Amy illustrated a book about Manuel, called Dream Carver. It is about a young boy who has visions to make wooden animals. He wants them wild and wonderful, different than the traditional carvings of his people. The animals he sees in his dreams are ones that he carves and decorates. The text is written by Amy’s friend, Diana Cohn.
Isais, with the carving he gave us.

To our surprise Isais has made a museum to his father and on the walls surrounding the museum are huge mural copies of Amy’s illustrations. We were treated very warmly and talked with Isais about how to revive the book, which is out of print. He said he is asked every day for copies. As our time with Isais concluded he took us into the showroom and with a wave told us to choose any painted wood carving we wanted. Amy and I both gasped because the artwork is very valuable—and masterpieces. Isais would not let us offer any money. We chose a sculpture and Isais had his son wrap it, then we got back in his Chevy Suburban and drove the forty five minutes back into town.

Before we left he said, “You are both part of our family now.”

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Ocean Of Trees

I stumbled upon a shrine someone made and hid in the woods. Intoxicated with mountain fever and wandering off a trail at upper elevations, beauty had made me drunk. It is in moments like these that surprise comes.

Shimmering gold against a blue sky makes for a sublime dance in the mountains. For a brief span of about two weeks at the beginning of October it’s entrancing to go hiking in the woods high above the city. As seasons shift and autumn arrives, aspen trees heart-shaped leaves quake and gleam golden at the slightest breeze. Each white bark tree is rooted with another close by so that together, they make for some of the largest living organisms on earth and blanket mountainsides.

Amy and I began early—At 7, beginning with a stop for fresh coffee at a local cafe and then up along the winding road to Santa Fe Ski Area. Near the top is a favorite trail called Aspen Vista. We stopped there and to our surprise, although it was not yet 8:00, many cars were parked at the trailhead. It had rained recently so the ground was soft. A mist shrouded the upper mountain. We hiked on the broad path, reveling in the color of the aspens with accents of deep green from fir and spruce trees.

Near a small stream, we left the main trail to follow the water upward. Amy felt dizzy from high altitude so we found a place along the stream for her to sit. “I am going to explore the woods but won’t go far” I said, and left for a short sojourn into the primitive terrain, looking for the next photograph. Soon I was climbing over fallen tree trunks on the densely forested mountainside. The aspen stood side by side and shot up hundreds of feet toward the heavens. Often they are bare until near the top where foliage grows and receives sunlight. Dotted amidst the aspen are the deep green, sturdy fir trees with their skirts spread. I clambered over fallen trees and took photos, but thought of Amy and turned back after ten minutes. As I neared the stream, something caught my eye. A large shell gleamed underfoot. I had seen mollusk shells before in the southwest, even in desert regions where millennia before oceans covered the land. But this one was iridescent abalone and therefore struck me as unusual. Reaching down, I turned it over and saw that someone had put small symbolic objects underneath the protective cover. “Amy! Where are you?” I shouted. “Here” she replied and I saw her move just fifty feet away. She came and we both studied the tiny shrine. Amy is more familiar with native symbols and began telling the importance: Abalone shell used in sacred ceremonies for burning sage, obsidian stone, also called dragon stone, is volcanic glass and used in making arrow heads and also clearing blockages, white quartz for healing and purification, Native American pottery shard representing first people, and a metal bookmark with shell emblem—perhaps representing wisdom.

Someone had deep communication in the woods and felt thankful enough to make a sacred offering in a private ceremony which for some reason I was meant to discover.

The abalone is back in its place in the ocean of trees.

Amy, with two friends she met on the way home

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Zozobra, The Burning Of Old Man Gloom

He burns every year to great fanfare. Zozobra is called “Old Man Gloom”, and is constructed each year then burned at a stake in front of a large crowd. He has grown from his original height of about nine feet into the largest marionette in the world—50’ (15.21 m) tall. The event is the cause of great jubilation and people come from far and wide to witness it. The spectacle is the official start to Santa Fe’s Fiesta.

My partner Amy Córdova won the contest to have her artwork depicted on the Zozobra poster and was given special tickets. The theme was the sixties so she incorporated symbols from that era.  I haven’t been in years, and had issues with the burning of an effigy. Amy doesn’t like being in big crowds and was tempted to not go. But she is one of the stars of the show this year and I insisted we attend.

It is always a crazy event and people get bloodthirsty and overly excited. There is never enough parking and the field where he is burned is packed with all types of folks. I have a van so we put bicycles in it and drove as close as we could, then rode.

The air felt cool, with dramatic dark clouds becoming darker by the moment as the sun began setting. A steady stream of people walked on closed streets guarded by police at checkpoints. Near the park, Christian protestors proclaimed against the event, holding signs and entreating for Jesus. We found a fence, and locked our bikes to it. Our bags were checked and to my surprise we had to empty a thermos with coconut water in it. Only water from inside the park allowed. Our picnic food was okay.

I held Amy’s hand and pulled her forward through the crowd. People were everywhere, some already arrived and others streaming in. “I haven’t seen a crowd like this since carnival in Rio de Janeiro!” I said. We stopped at a concession stand to see Amy’s posters on sale then continued weaving into the mass of people standing or seated on blankets. I felt determined to arrive at the best vantage point available to us and we reached a spot directly in front of Zozobra and claimed a tiny patch of lawn. Now we had to wait an hour and half.

A bandstand nearby was the venue for live music that blared through loudspeakers. Anticipation was in the air as lightning flashed in the sky and thunder clapped. Zozobra stood at the top of a row of steps gazing imperturbably down at us. He looked clean and white against the dark blue expanse of sky. Around his neck hung a bolo tie.

“I felt a raindrop!” Amy exclaimed. Yep, soon it was raining steadily. Most people had brought ponchos or an umbrella. How could we have not bothered? Oh well, the music continued, lightning flashed behind Zozobra and thunder rolled.

At nine o:clock the mayor came out and shouted “Viva fiesta!” A proclamation reciting all the sins of Zozobra was read. The crowd chanted the verdict, “Burn him”.  Ghouls swarmed down the stairs, people with fiery torches pranced, and a beautiful woman fire dancer dressed in red leapt about with flaming torches at Zozobra’s feet. He began to move and moan. A string of firecrackers flashed from both sides of his head. His eyes came aglow. HIs head turned from side to side. Zozobra awoke and seemed to sense his fate. Then a little flame started him afire. All the crowd stood—some screaming burn him! I found myself shouting with the rest. It felt good. He seemed to catch fire from the inside. Light came from his mouth and he groaned loudly. Fireworks began shooting up behind his back as colored lights bathed him aglow. He became illuminated in fire and flickering brilliance. Everyone felt ecstatic, and some maybe a little sad. This year, I didn’t feel sad for him . . . he was built to burn; fulfilling his purpose. Anyway, he will be back again next year.

For more about Zozobra: