“Mexicanísimo” is a new exhibit by four Mexican-born, Memphis resident artists that sets the stage for the intersection of pre-colombian Aztec rhythm and the classical arts. Memphis is the home of opera singer Bethania Baray, Aztec dancer Agustín Díaz, ballet dancer Alberto Gaspar and visual artist Yancy Villa-Calvo.
“We come together to portray the beauty of our roots and what we bring to the Memphis community as Mexican immigrants," says Villa-Calvo who has lived in Memphis for 20 years. Gaspar, a company member of Ballet Memphis adds, “Our work is not restricted or limited to folklore. We like to be identified first and foremost as artists.” However, in this show they are focusing on their heritage, hence the title of the exhibition. "We are showcasing the contributions that Mexican artists bring to the Mid-South, which is seldom talked about,” says Baray.
The exhibit features artwork by Villa-Calvo, which includes canvases that have been painted by Gaspar's and Díaz’s feet while dancing classical ballet and moving to Aztec rhythms. Villa-Calvo then interjected painting strokes to capture the musical variations of Baray's opera singing, which helped bring all four art forms (opera, ballet, painting, and Aztec dance) together. In addition, an installation by Brazilian videomaker André Silveira will feature the creative inspiration provided by the interaction of the artists.
According to Díaz, this is a modern representation of the Ollin, an Aztec glyph that represents "the search of unity and balance - the movement of a universal understanding among the opposites." At a time when Mexican immigrants are perceived by some as "liabilities" and fitted often into stereotypes, the artists invite the Memphis community to be amazed and discover the unexpected.
We thank our family, friends and community for their support.
Many thanks also to our media coverage:
La Prensa Latina
WKNO 91.1 FM Checking on the Arts segment
Radio Ambiente interview with Mayra Peregrina
La Raza News
98.5 FM New Mix Interview with Nancy Aguila
Ollin, Movement in Search of Harmony
Gifts of Coexistence series
Having coffee in Memphis with two of my girlfriends, one Muslim and one Jewish, almost sounds like a tale. But instead, that event is a replica of an era where Jews coexisted creatively with surrounding Christian and Muslim cultures in the Spanish Iberian Peninsula known in Hebrew as Sepharad.
The Memphis Jewish Community Center, in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, made me (Mexican-born, Christian-raised and Memphian-by-heart) an invitation to create a Sephardic art exhibit that captures the “fertile interaction” of that time and place. As Jews fled from Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, we are reminded of their constant migration into new lands while absorbing fresh influences and preserving tradition, something that resonates loudly with many Hispanics today.
On the surface, today’s world often looks full of conflict and disagreement. This exhibit draws us to pause and appreciate the contributions of the Sephardics in the Golden Age; and invites us - like a good cup of coffee with friends – to appreciate the abundant gifts of coexistence.
It's a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and commonly used in jewelry and wall hangings. Depicting the open right hand with two thumbs. It's an image recognized and used as a sign of blessing and protection in many societies throughout history. The hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye.
The three major monotheistic religions used in the Golden Age:
In Islam, the hamsa is called the Hand of Fatima, in honor of one of the daughters of the Prophet Mohammed. Some say that in Islamic tradition the five fingers represent the Five Pillars of Islam.
In Christianity, the hamsa is the hand of Mary, mother of Jesus. It was given as a gift to women to promote fertility.
In Judaism, the name “hamsa” comes from the Hebrew word “hamesh,” which means five. “Hamsa” refers to the fact that there are five fingers on the talisman, though some also believe it represents the five books of the Torah. Sometimes it is called the Hand of Miriam, after Moses’ sister.
When the fingers of the hamsa are facing up it is asking God for blessing and when the fingers of the hamsa are facing down it is a sign of protection.
L'dor Vador - Acrylic and found objects over wood - $800
(From generation to generation)
Diaspora- The exodus of Hispanic Jews began on August 2nd, 1492. A few over one hundred and sixty thousand Jews were forced by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand & Isabella to leave Spain if they didn't convert to the Roman Church.
The Jews who chose to depart were given three months to leave their homes.
As they departed they took their keys with them hoping for one day to come back to Sepharad... Those keys were passed from generation to generation.
The lock in this art piece represent that hope.
Flamenco is the music and dance of the Andalucian region of Spain with its roots in east Indian, Arabic and European Gypsy music. It is a hybrid music in the sense that it is totally unique and separate from the musical forms which created it-very much like the emergence of American jazz.
From the VIII to the XV centuries, when Spain was under Arab domination, their music and musical instruments were modified and adapted by Christians and Sephardic Jews, and later by gypsies.
These groups in turn were persecuted at the end of the Arab rule and during the Spanish inquisition so that Flamenco was born and thrived as a voice of protest and hope and as a cultural and emotional expression of the subjugated masses.
The essence of Flamenco is cante, or song, often accompanied by guitar music and improvised dance. The music is mainly intensely sad and dealing with themes of death, anguish, despair or religious sentiments. Other flamenco songs are intermedio (intermediate) less profound but also moving, often with an oriental cast to the music; and chico (small or light) with subjects of love, ribald humor and happiness.
Romance Sefardi - Acylic over goldleaf over wood
After leaving Spain and Portugal the Sephardites settled in numerous communities in the Mediterranean region. There the mothers sought to maintain their Spanish culture by singing to their daughters in Ladino (ancient language-Spanish & Hebrew).
The singers further develop the living tradition and sang romantic "ballads." The lyrics of these songs recount the lives of Spanish Jewry accompanying themselves on the guitar and the frame drum (Ladino: pandeiro/ English: tambourine).
The Hebrew lettering meaning: You have changed my lament to my dance, you undid my sackcloth and girded me with joy. And I trust Your kindness, my heart rejoices in Your salvation. Psalm 13,6 and 30,12
Torah & Dreidel - Acrylic over goldleaf on wood; canvas roll – 53” x 58” $3,500
The dreidel is a game used to disguised the Romans when the Jews were secretly studying the Torah.
Here is the translation of the Hebrew written on the Torah piece:
I give thanks before You Living and Eternal King,
that you have turned within me my soul with compassion,
[how] abundant is Your faithfulness!
"My God, the soul You have given me is pure.
You created it into me. [and You guard it while it is within me,
and one day You will take it from me,
and restore it to me in the time to come.
As long as the soul is within me.
I will thank You,
my God and God of my ancestors,
Master of all works,
Lord of all souls.
Blessed are You, Lord who restores
souls to lifeless bodies."
The Torah that Moses commanded us
is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob.
Tree of Life
Acryilc over goldleaf on wood, 60" x 48"
SOLD - contact the artist for commission hamsas
Acrylic over goldleaf, 18" x 20" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Deeply Ingrained in Them to Forget
Acrylic over goldleaf on wood with found objects, 32" x 36" -SOLD
Torah Scrolls & Dreidel
Acrylic over goldleaf on wood; canvas roll – 53” x 58” For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Acrylic on wood, 29" x 19" SOLD
Acrylic over goldleaf, graphite and found objects, 24" x 24" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Acrylic over goldleaf and found objects, 32" x 24" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Acrylic over goldleaf on wood, 26" x 19" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Mixed media on wood, 13" x 14" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Mixed media on wood, 13" x 14" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
We'll Come Back
Acrylic over goldleaf on wood, 62" x 32" SOLD
Acrylic over goldleaf, 24" x 24" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Acrylic over goldleaf on wood, 24" x 19" each SOLD
Carry On series
Latino Memphis Art Show 2012
Acrylic on wood, 48" x 60" SOLD
Keep Going, Acrylic on wood, 32" x 41" SOLD
"Mi fuerza" yellow
My strength Acrylic on wood, 6.5” x ”10” SOLD
"Papá e hijo"
Father & Son, Mixed media, 22" x 24" SOLD
Carrying Flowers, Acrylic on wood, 30" x 46.5" SOLD
"Al final del día"
At the end of the day, Acrylic on wood, 27"x31" For pricing please contact the artist by clicking here.
Perseverance, Acrylic on wood, 24" x 20" For pricing please contact the artist by clicking here.
Carrying you, Acrylic on wood, 24" x 18", SOLD
Acrylic on wood, 36" x 48" SOLD
Together, Acrylic on wood, 24" x 20" SOLD
"Dancing is Living" series
Dancing is living is the series of paintings with more passion and movement. Dancing alone is experiencing freedom and not worrying about anything but just living the moment. Feel the air, close your eyes, love the moment!
The long skirts used in the Mexican folkloric dances, the veils in the air when belly dancing, the closeness of the tango dancers; there is passion in each movement and no words are needed.
Believe in Yourself
Acrylic over gold leaf on wood, 80" x 80" (triptych). For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
After the Rain
Acrylic over wood, 60" x 24" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Dancing is Living
Mixed media over wood, 36" x 36" Giclees available on canvas original sold
For Just One Moment
Acrylic over gold leaf on wood panel, 60" x 26" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
I Dreamed a Dream
Dancing in the Rain
Whispers of Color series
Solo show at Germantown Performing Arts Center 2013
When reflecting on my passion for trompos, or spinning tops, my head literally begins to spin. These seemingly "simple looking" toys are a rather magical combination of movement, balance, speed, color, and meaning.
Trompos have been around for many generations and in many cultures. Like spinning tops, each of us has it's own beauty and story. We are all connected in the circular motion of life.
This circular motion unites us and whatever we do it'll come back to us at some point. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "an injustice somewhere it's a threat to justice everywhere."
In the painting "Journey" Acrylic on wood, 60" x 23" embark us on an adventure every time we begin spinning.
Waiting, Acrylic over gold leaf on wood, 36" x 40" For pricing information please contact the artist by clicking here.
Whispers of Color
24" x 80" Acrylic and paper over wood, SOLD
Tu y Yo (You and Me) - Diptych
Acrylic over goldleaf on wood, 60” x 46” please contact artist for pricing infomation by clicking here.
Spinning in Memphis
Después de Jugar (After playing)
Acrylic over wood, 80” x 42” For pricing information please click here.
Acrylic over wood, 25" x 49" SOLD
No podría ser más felíz (Couldn't be happier) - Acrylic on canvas, triptych 20"x16" each panel.
Acrylic on wood, 32” x 35” For pricing information please click here.
“What shadow are you leaving?”I question myself often during this journey of parenting.Being a mother has been the most rewarding experience, and the most challenging one. Because of my past, death is a tangible reality and a constant reminder of the fragile present.
Like you, I strive to be the best I can be, with my children and, to them. Despite of it, the worst of me also comes out sometimes, in the least favorable moments - questioning my parenthood abilities.
These paintings are a deep look into my soul.The abstract paintings are the ones that explain best what parenthood is. Everyday you see it differently. Sometimes is joyful and other days is not so much.
My father wisely told me when my first baby was born, “se te acabo la tranquilidad para toda la vida” (Tranquility is over for the rest of your life.) They were harsh words but full of truth. Thankfully he added, “You can do it…with lots of patience and lots of love.”
Love is definitely there, the patience part… I work on it everyday!
Most of the pieces in this series are painted with the impasto technique, to express the heavy strokes in life and the overwhelming feelings. The strong colors reflect the intense emotions of being a parent. It’s a beautiful stage; nevertheless, a very complex one.
Each painting has its own story and it was painted in a particular way rather than trying to make every painting in the show flow together. There are some peaceful paintings, some full of joy, some passionate, some distressed, and some desperate. Pretty much how life is and how parenthood feels.
I use the word shadow instead of foot print or legacy because of its double connotation. Shadow might seem negative, scary, yet the stronger the light, the stronger the shadow.
1.A Mother’s Heart
It is the one painting I didn’t pay attention to artistic rules. The feelings needed to come out letting my heart guide the spatula. That day I began to experience separation and my heart was broken. I felt empty and made me reflect on the strongest moments of pain in my life; pregnancy and separation.
The painting shows the four stages of life as I perceive them. It begins with the bottom profile of a pregnant woman. It is followed by the image of the baby being carried in a rebozo, or sling, in the back of the mother.The third stage is when the child is growing and they are still holding hands beginning to leave a shadow. Finally, the last stage of life is the separation. The child has grown starting his own journey and one can only see the shadow of the mother.
The painting started with the cold colors and then the warm colors were added as of coming out from the mom’s heart and the baby’s heart. They are united through life and depart when mom leaves. However, some of the warmth remains with the child.
Red hue is only used twice in the most painful moments, pregnancy and separation.
She leaves a shadow, in this case the shadow reads, LOVE.
As we all are going to leave a shadow, it’s up to us the type of shadow we leave.
Maternal anguish.We often feel that what we do is not good enough and we agonize over every decision.
What’s the right thing to do?
Protecting You Always
A peaceful moment that you want to breathe it all in.
If you see closely, the mom’s eye was painted with her eye closed. However, looking from a distance it seems the eye is opened – she will always be looking out for him.
There Is a Reason
The past was hard and the future is uncertain, but what matters is right this moment and I am with you.
- The moments that matter most are the simple ones. A kiss, a hug, a caress, sitting next to them… all of those will remind them that we are present. They will make them stronger and will prepare them for their next life chapter. For when we depart, those moments will exist only in their memory.
With impasto technique this group of paintings represents those glimpses.
Hope and Happiness
What shadow would you like to leave? What words would you like them to remember? These two words and the father and the child images are in the painting. Do you see them?
Refuge, Strength, Confidence
Words will be forgotten but lived moments will be implanted in their heart.
One knows it will happen at some point but it is a distant future. Suddenly, and without warning, something happens and the fearful separation becomes a reality.
Red hue is used in the first two panels but not in the last one. The pain strengthens
25-26. It’s Not Easy.
It has started to depart from the bold, rich colors and begins to fade, to turn dark.
Reflecting on the past when pausing for a brief moment, I go over and over in my head trying to figure out where I made the mistake. I have always been free with my praise. In fact, maybe I had gone too far, although life knows, I had meant every word.
27.Let Her Go….She Can Do It
It portrays a reflection of my own separation experience with my mom. I clearly remember the feeling I saw in her eyes. She was trying to be strong while feeling helpless. She was terrified to let me go to another continent, another culture, a country of war.
It’s the anguish one feels when we see the world sometimes as a threat and it’s seems frightening.Still, we are reminded that the time has come.The colors have faded. It’s time to let go. The future seems uncertain…difficult.
You don’t want to throw her at the world knowing you are not always going to be there to protect her.
But you must to trust yourself, trust what you’ve done; you must have faith and Let Her Go….She Can Do It.
A Mother's Heart
Mixed media, 48" x 24" SOLD - Giclees available
Acrylic on canvas, 60” x 48”
Acrylic on wood panel, 44” x 36”
Beginning (diptych) Acrylic over goldleaf on wood, 24" x 19" each panel
Acrylic on canvas, 24” x 12”
Acrylic on reclaimed wood,
36” x 80”
Wood Burning Pieces
Aztec Calendar Twirler
Twirler or top with the Aztec calendar hand burned on wood. Every column is at a different angle and contains an Aztec symbol.