Opinion: My life as an artist began in Tijuana selling black velvet paintings and border kitsch

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Opinion: My life as an artist began in Tijuana selling black velvet paintings and border kitsch

Artenstein Filmmaker and professor. He lives in the oceanside.

The black velvet painting sent me to film school, along with a cowboy jacket and a handmade leather bag — all the best-selling items in my father’s antique store at Avenida Revolución. I loved art and was a kid with a picture fixed on the wall of an elementary school classroom. This made me very proud and helped me understand what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I helped sell to American tourists at my dad’s store (and learned English in the process). The 1960s and 1970s were the golden age of black velvet painting. Idyllic Mexican landscapes, cow fighting scenes, Aztec warriors sacrificing Aztec maidens, rock’n’roll legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and among them all, Elvis Presley Was rolling his cheeks with tears.

As the oldest kid, I always felt expected to take over the store, but one day my dad took an art class with Tarasco, Tijuana’s best black velvet painter. I was surprised to hear that. Tarasco was known for his photorealistic rendition of Playmates like the classic Gwen Wong, so I’m completely hoping to show up in his studio and start working from the Playboy Centerfold. I did.

I never went near those playboys. Tarasco — whose real name is historically important Fidelcortes — sat me on a stool, holding a pencil and drawing me from the white stucco of a Parisian bust that was dramatically illuminated from one side. Before picking up the brush, I first learned about lines and shadows, and how to render three-dimensional shapes.

This was the method of Academia de San Carlos learned by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orosco, and my beloved Maestro. Recalling his years as an art student in Mexico City, he has a collection of old leather volumes carved from old masters obtained at a flea market in Mexico City, from Albrecht Durer to Jose Guadalu Peposada. The old downtown that showed me.

When I started making movies, Tarasco magically appeared on the corner of Quarta Street and Avenida Revolution. There, I was trying to shoot a night scene with a flood lamp on a homemade stand made by Gustavo Basquez, the brother of Super Ohero, and Gustabo’s dad’s metal store. .. Tarasco squints, makes some adjustments, and offers instant lessons on the use of keys, fills, and backlights to create mood and three-dimensionality in celluloid.

We were high school students at the time, but the two internationally recognized Tijuana artists at the time were the painter and installation artist Marta Palau and the post-Surrealist painter Benjamin Serrano. Juan Angel Castillo, one of Baja California’s most important landscape painters, and Miguel Nahera, a famous villager, were still working on black velvet at the time.

After graduating from the California Institute of the Arts, my wife Jude and I settled in San Diego, creating documentary and indie features inspired by the cultural dynamics of the border region. He also attended the Border Arts Workshop / Taller de Arte Fronterizo with friends such as David Ávalos, Víctor Ochoa, Emily Hicks, Michael Schnorr, Robert Sánchez and Guillermo Gómez Peña. Our goal was to start collaborating with artists and writers across borders, such as Felipair Mada, Hugo Sanchez, Maria Elana, and Marco Vinicio, and to incorporate border art across borders.

The workshop included border kitsch, from Parisian ET and Bart Simpson plaster to, as you might expect, a black velvet painting. The typical crying Elvis has become part of the shooting set for Gomespena’s groundbreaking performance “Border Brujo”. Later, he became obsessed with the medium of black velvet and commissioned an original piece of black velvet from a Tijuana artist (maquiladora art, we call it), widely known as the “Black Velvet Hall of Fame”. I started to exhibit.

Since the days of the Border Arts Workshop / Taller de Arte Fronterizo, art has exploded in the Tijuana-San Diego region, with many of its visual artists internationally recognized and exhibited and acquired by museums and institutions around the world. I’m seeing. Importantly, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City recently announced the participation of two Tifanense artists, Arida Cervantes and Andrew Roberts, at the 2022 Biennale.

Over the years, this border area has provided me with a magnificent canvas (or black velvet roll) for artistic expression. My latest documentary, Harry Crosby’s Journey, a legendary photographer and historian on the Baja California Peninsula, premiered at Centro Cultural Tijuana on July 20th and at the San Diego History Center on July 28th. , Then it will be aired on PBS. This fall.

¡ Gracias Tijuanay feliz cumpleaños!

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