Thursday, May 14, 2020

"Calle Arteaga": a modern art street gallery

Calle Arteaga
All art has a beginning ... a thought, a feeling, a soft word, a hard angle, or an image that haunts. This one began with a street scene in Jiquilpan, Mexico, and became one of my favorite art pieces … not because I think it’s great, but because of where it took me. 

original photo
Where it began: A night scene on a street named after general and politician José María Arteaga Magallanes

Library with José Clemente Orozco murals
Backstory: Jiquilpan is a Pueblo Mágico in the Mexican state of Michoacán. Since it was close to Lake Chapala, a friend and I planned a short visit there and instantly fell in love.

It was one of those trips where serendipity happened repeatedly. At a coffee shop, we met a local celebrity who interviewed us and introduced us to everyone he thought we might like to meet. That night we joined a family at the plaza, laughing because we were in one of the most reputedly violent states in Mexico on one of the most peaceful nights of our lives.

Jiquilpan is the birthplace of one of the most popular presidents of Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas. When we visited his museum, there happened to be a VIP group touring. They invited us to join them and we were treated to a private tour. Too bad my Spanish wasn’t up to the opportunity. We went to see the silk workshop, but it was closed … until they opened it for us and our tour guide was the director. By the end of the first day, we were planning a return trip and I had thoughts of moving there. Although I returned to the US before that trip could happen, should I ever return to Mexico, Jiquilpan would be high on my list of places to visit and even live.

After returning to Ajijic and processing my photos, this street scene haunted me. As much as I liked the feel of the scene, that long empty street bothered me. I tried a horizontal crop but didn’t like the result.

During a trip to Zacatecas, I kept running into amazing collections of modern art and had recently discovered the ground-breaking work of Hilma af Klint (now recognized as the first modern artist). For some unknown reason, I began to drop pieces of modern art onto the street scene. The first was a piece of Mondrian’s work that was a perfect fit for the foreground of the street. It called a Jackson Pollock piece into the mix, and after that, there was a joyous scavenger hunt to find ways to include other modern artists and turn it into a modern art gallery on this historic city street.

This morning, however, this piece of art surprised me when it took another turn while I was listening to David DuChemin talk about choosing what intoxicates us in his podcast A Beautiful Anarchy. For some reason, it made me think of "Calle Arteaga” a piece that incorporates work from 14 modern artists. I wanted to revisit it and capture some of the intoxication I felt when I was in the midst of creating it. I wanted to remember the joy of finding the modern artists I loved and make a tiny bit of their work a part of this one.

This particular rabbit hole lasted a few hours as I traced down the artists, especially women modern artists, in order to incorporate and rediscover what I loved about modern art. Below is a list of those artists who are woven into this piece, with links to their work.  I'm repeating "Calle Arteaga" in case you want to follow along with the various pieces of each artist.

Calle Arteaga
This catalogue is still available from the Guggenheim.
Hilma af Klint - her portrait is framed by a piece of her work in the upper right corner. The Guggenheim recently featured an exhibit of her work titled Paintings for the Future. It is a good place to get acquainted with her work.
Wassily Kandinsky - before Hilma af Klint, Kandinsky was considered the father of modern art. I guess if he is the father, Hilma would be the mother. His portrait is on the left in front of one of his works.
Paul Klee - Swiss artist and pioneer in modern art. Klee’s work “Red Balloon” hovers over the street scene.
Kazimir Malevich - another pioneer. Yellow and black figure on right.
Michel-Eugène Chevreul - he is here, not because of his art but because of his ground-breaking color theory which influenced so many artists. His portrait is below Hilma's.
Jackson Pollock - American artist, foreground squiggles.
Fiona Rae - contemporary, British Hong Kong artist whose work I fell in love with. Small piece in upper right.
Tess Jaray - contemporary, British artist. Geometric on left wall foreground.
Sonia Delaunay and Robert Delaunay - French artists who founded the school of Orphism (strong color and geometric shapes). Three circles on the left near front. Link goes to a fun article about Sonia.
Mark Rothko - American contemporary artist who spoke four languages and was basically untrained in drawing and painting. Committed suicide at age 66.
Albert Irvin - British contemporary artist known for large canvases and broad brush strokes. Lower left to right of bottom Delaunay circle.
Dan Perfect - British contemporary artist known for complex fantasy canvases. Next to Irvin painting.
Paul Tonkin - British contemporary artist known for his visual metaphors. Small piece on left as if the woman is pointing at it.


  1. What a fabulous way to create a piece. Thanks for sharing your process. I love it!

  2. Wow! That is beautiful and haunting, and your story is amazing! Love. Love. Love.

    and thank you for the links -- especially the one to David DuChemin's podcast! More wow!

    1. Louise ... thanks for your note and delighted that you're discovering David. I went back and watched all of his podcasts. They're 15 minutes with no ads and always inspiring.

  3. Public art installations, street art, and community projects further demonstrate how art can bridge gaps, foster dialogue, and inspire collective action. link slot gacor