Each month on a Friday afternoon, Mazatlan holds an Art Walk downtown in the old historic district. With printed map in hand, visitors wander around bustling plazas and quiet back streets in search of the next spot. Once inside, sip a glass of wine or snack on some queso and chips while perusing local art. The artists (either native Mazatlecos or retired gringos) are often available for questions/conversation or, of course, purchases. Some of the locations are boutique shops selling unique objects, some are artist’s flats, one happened to be an elaborate home with canvasses or murals in every room. Items range from paintings to photography to mixed media, even jewelry or textiles.
Paintings by Rafael Avila Tirado
My favorite was Rafael Avila Tirado who painted several beautiful works of caballeros and children; even his plain wooden & barbed wire fences were lovely. One thought-provoking piece stood out: a honeycomb with shrouded, sleeping individuals in bar-coded cells, one girl finally waking up and climbing out. Rafael was in the midst of finishing a work of 3 children sitting in a tiny aluminum washtub boat, gossamer sails flowing under a starry eve. Beautiful. I can’t find a website for his work but here is a YouTube video.
But there was one stop… oh, it was the worst. I was embarrassed by my overwhelming desire to take a photo, only to prove its demerit. So I refrained. How dare I subject you to the absurdity? Plus, displaying it to the world simply to mock its ridiculousness seemed a tich disrespectful. I would have had to take the photo right in front of the artist. I am critical, just not THAT malicious. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t mock it with words.
Picture a plain room of dull watercolor paintings, in the center of which is a large wooden table showcasing numerous small statues. Ceramic? Not sure. I couldn’t bring myself to study them intently, not wanting to show false interest. You see, every piece is the same: a 2” wide sock-like thing that tapers off at the end, each black and white zebra-print. Its mouth sits flat on the table, the sock rising vertically for several inches straight up, then it flops over like a gnome’s stocking hat. Whaaaat is THAT supposed to be? (Confusion amongst my fellow gallery attendees is obvious, but we try to remain poker-faced).
These obscure sculptures were bad enough, but every painting on the surrounding walls incorporated this weird zebra sock. Normal watercolor of a house… bam… add zebra sock up in the rafters. Japanese garden…bam…zebra sock. Whatever talent there MAY have been was completely lost due to her distracting zebra fixation. Some of these mundane watercolors revealed obvious misplaced drops of water from a dripping brush… and they weren’t even framed, just pieces of paper taped to the wall like children’s refrigerator art. Then more wall tchotchkes: 5” open notebooks, completely shellacked, bearing a single letter or word on a page. Seriously? Bathroom-worthy. Maaaybe. But ONLY because there was a distinct LACK of zebra sock...whew. Top that experience off with a price list forced upon us on entering… ugggh, this chic has a lot to learn.
But, wait… isn’t anything “art” in the eye of the beholder? Apparently. Look, I’m no art aficionado. Obviously at least ONE person thought it was gallery-worthy …and her art professor, I imagine. But these days, in the attempt of both parents and educators to prop up the self-esteem of our floundering children, we do them a great disservice. “Oh, honey that… zebra sock…thingy, it’s…um… beautiful. You should be an artist!” It should stop there – but then they pay for art school. The ever-doting American Idol parent has thus created a world full of talentless hacks who, once in the real world, cannot fathom why no one buys their art, gives them a recording contract or offers them a job. OK, end of rant… I can rant once in a while, right?
Princesses on Display
On another evening, we sojourned downtown with Orlando and Linda on S/V “Cuba Libre” to Plaza Republica for a Carnaval preview. Not on the roster of major Carnaval events, this is a free “pep rally” of sorts intended to drum up support for the queen candidates and tally final vote counts. The night begins with live music, ornately costumed dancers performing traditional Spanish Flamenco and Caribbean styles. A subsequent parade of Carnaval candidates sashays across the stage flaunting dazzling dresses and shiny tuxedos. Each contestant for the King of Joy, Child Queen (7-8 yr olds) and the all-important position of Carnaval Queen beams with exuberance while gracefully double-handed-queen-waving at us onlookers for an hour (man, my arms would fall off if I ever had to wave that much).
Reminiscent of a political rally, contestants’ families and friends gather to garner support by sporting “Blanca” or “Felipe” t-shirts and carrying signs, complete with confetti bits blown about. Folks hoot n’ holler as their hopeful winner’s name is broadcast. The votes are tallied and the winners of the Carnaval King and Child Queen are announced that night (official coronation ceremonies take place later). Fireworks ensue; a celebration here is NOT complete without fireworks.
The selection of the 2016 Mazatlan Carnaval Queen is a separate and momentous occasion. The appointment itself is a highly coveted honor; current and prior queens (going back 116 years) are treated like royalty. Crowned during Carnaval week in a theater-based, Miss-America-style pageant, contestants must excel in a similar question/answer and talent show gauntlet. I just have two cents: Why not have a queen-waving contest with points for gracefulness and timed ability – the longer you can keep both arms up and swaying above 45 degrees (while still smiling) the more points!
The longer we remain in Maz, the more unique activities we discover. One such place is called RecReo, a refurbished colonial structure turned recreation hall where expatriates put on small-scale English speaking plays, hold art galleries and show old movies. This group doesn’t have funds or space to do a real play with costumes or props, there’s not even a stage per se, although they do possess a few theater lights and a movie screen backdrop. Essentially a few actors sit in a small group in front of the audience, reading un-memorized lines to each other from screenplay booklets. Sounds a bit, well… odd. Right? Like I’m paying money to watch an audition?
I’d never heard of, nor attended, a “play-reading” prior. Surprisingly though, we relaxed in real, stadium movie theater seating while watching “The Cocktail Hour” with a full house of about 50 attendees. And it was actually quite good! Since the entire play took place in a family room with four actors, the audience doesn’t really need all that expensive scenery to tell an interesting story. If you feel the need to get your English theater on, this is the place to be.
Here’s yet another unexpected cultural experience found in Mazatlan. We attended the above play-reading instead of the midget “Minion” cowboy rodeo show at the bullfighting arena that same night. Not kidding. Midget cowboys. Dressed as Minions (little yellow guys from the Pixar movie). What else is there to say? Wouldn’t THAT have been a great blog?