Friday, July 01, 2005

Art, Men, and Folklore

This was the week of my first art class in New York City. It was the most liberating feeling. I was ready to absorb all the knowledge being transmitted from my very nice teacher, who has dedicated her entire life to art, and now teaches at my favorite art school of New York City.

For the first time in my life I painted from a live model. This of course is very common in beginner’s art classes but is not the norm in Mexico. Good schools do have live models but students tend to get nervous the first time they paint a naked person.

The minute she uncovered herself I thought, how cool, she can just sit there and not care that everyone’s eyes are on her. To our “artist” point of view she was beautiful. And it was great to see that in the world of art, popular culture is absent except for the invisible influence it has had on the artist’s way of thinking.

I started painting the second she pressed her timer for the pose. I held my brush from the end, examining my thin-paint sketch from afar. My eyes never left her for more than a second. This was the only way to learn to observe and portray something as you really see it.

At the same time I thought about my dream having come true: painting inside the building of one of the most reputable art schools in New York City. Ha, ha, ha! Once again, I had done it! What a gift! It is hard for me to see how many New Yorkers and Americans take the richness of this city for granted! Many tourists have only the right to visit this city, but only a few lucky foreigners get to stay. You have to work for it. It has to be your dream.

One hour later I was officially done with my first painting in New York. It transmitted light and shadow well, but it still had a beginner’s background. I must say it was not at all bad for a first attempt and it made the woman look very sophisticated and at ease at the same time. My teacher told me my style was similar to a famous American painter I had never heard of. She said I was quite good. This gave me a feeling of triumph.

The day before, I was waiting for a phone call from my current preferred man. I don’t date a lot, particularly because I don’t know many people in this city. But for a new girl, one or two dates a month is a lot! My preferred man did not call either Saturday or Sunday. I was very angry since he had come visit me from Chicago for a couple of days that week, and I thought I deserved his call that weekend. Furthermore, we met almost a year ago and he has been visiting me ever since. The relationship has developed into something much more than a casual date but less than a formal relationship, particularly due to distance. We have remained in contact since he will move to NYC in August. On Monday I decided to stop worrying about the phone call that never came. After all, a woman should have so much more to think about than an inconsiderate man! I turned off my cell phone during my painting class.

I was done with my painting and I was feeling completely happy and oblivious to anything else happening in the world. These are the real gifts, I thought. When something absorbs you in such a way that nothing else matters. I get that feeling through singing also.

That night I got home and sure enough, the couple of hours I had me to think about, Preferred-man’s call had come. Funny. He’s probably expecting me to call him back tonight, I thought. No such luck for him. His turn to wait.

The day after art class I decided to go to a book reading by a famous Mexican female author. She happened to be in New York and I had been invited by people at the Mexican Consulate, so what the hell. I arrived to the bookstore where the event was taking place not quite knowing what to expect. This was my first time at one of these things. But it was culture, so it couldn’t hurt. Maria Amparo was amazing. The energy she projected and the air around her seemed full of passion, strength and peace. Her book was hilarious since it describes the new Mexican-American folklore happening at the border of our two countries. She covered the culture of Mexican-American truckers through a father and daughter story. In her book, people were speaking Span-glish, words only spoken in border states. She had a glossary for all these new Spang-glish terms.

Maria Amparo Escandon was a blatant example of the woman I want to become. Ready for any challenge, full of life, wisdom, fighting for women’s rights through her art, and not afraid to stand in front of everyone and proclaim it. Above all, her art is alive.

I was thrilled to speak Spanish for a couple of hours that evening with the people the event had attracted; many editors, a Mexican news agency, Consulate staff and Latin people who enjoy to read in Spanish. The best part was when a fellow Mexican came up to the cashier to pay for Maria Amparo’s book and he told us he had been a trucker at the border. He had been too shy to participate in the discussion. It would have added so much to it. After all, the story was about the culture he knew and had lived. But he did not feel at ease there, at a book-reading. He purchased his book and left the store, I imagine breathing a sigh of relief after being in a room where only college-educated Latins were present.

That is the sadness of our situation. We have not been able to come together. Not in Mexico and not here. Not fully. We had invited him to stay and try some of the wine and cheese. He gently declined. He was a recent immigrant to New York. I was very happy that he was interested in reading! Many Mexican people have not had the opportunity to approach the world of books.

On the other side of the room, a first generation Mexican from an immigrant family stood talking with every other college-educated person there. He had earned his B.A. and Master’s degree at prestigious schools in the city. He knew more about Spanish Literature than I could ever know. We talked politics and art; we spoke about life here and back home. My point: the first family immigrant will never be the one who wins. He will go through the hardship, he will secure a place for him and his family, and his children will get the new opportunities. It was a sad notion, but seeing him made for a wonderful evening.

All the while I had forgotten that my preferred man had called me again that day, after I had not returned his call the night before. This was all I needed. Reassurance that the man will be there especially when we take him a little bit for granted. And not taken for granted on purpose, just due to a more interesting life going on than just the expectation of a phone call!

If my Mexican ex-boyfriends had sometimes made me feel like they wore the pants in the relationship and I had to stay quiet, the notion was slowly melting into the New York summer heat. I walked out of the bookstore and strolled home stronger than before.

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posted by Mex-Goes-NY @ 7/01/2005 12:31:00 PM |

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