Bebina Bunny’s Cabinet of Curiosities on Amazon!

Bebina Bunny's Cabinet of Curiosities Book Cover

Finally, my new graphic novel Bebina Bunny’s Cabinet of Curiosities is available on Amazon! It’s an illustrated essay about the aesthetic of curiosity through the eyes of Bebina, and how she creates an extended reality by collecting “curiosities”: not objects but informations and ideas. The source of these curiosities comes from the history of women, mythology, nature, the body, motion, vibrations, sleep, magnetism and much more.

«Aesthetics begin at home. That is, the formation of personal taste begins with our mothers–the way they feed us, the wey they dress us, the way they decorate our home. Childhood, like Proust’s madelines, follows us forever. That’s why this book is dedicated to my mom

You can checkout the free preview of the eBook on Amazon (remember to write a review if you reed the book)!

Neil Young Ecologist

Neil Young Likes Ponchos, Too

Neil Young likes ponchos and classic cars (he even makes watercolors of them!). But, since these cars are gas guzzlers, Young’s gotten involved with trying to transform them into electric hybrids with no emissions and high mileage.
Often referred to as an environmentalist, Young hates Monsanto and, to criticize their food mutating ways, has recorded The Monsanto Years. Focusing on profit and not health puts all of us at risk.
Young will go on tour to promote the album. He will be travelling with the group Promise of The Real whose members include two of Willie Nelson’s sons. Willie, himself, is also an outspoken critic of Monsanto.
Using music as a form of protest is not new to Young. He wrote Southern Man to describe the racism towards Blacks in American’s South. Young also wrote the powerful Ohio about the four Kent State students killed by the National Guard in 1970.

She Found Him Dead

But Young’s songs are not just about protests. They reflect the 1960s mindshift promoting social awareness. Alternative ways to approaching the world were sought often leading to drugs and their “mind expanding” properties. Experimentation became the norm.
Myth has it that Young wrote Cinnamon Girl, Cowgirl In The Sand and Down By The River all in one afternoon while in bed with a high fever. The year was c. 1969.
I did some on-line research hoping to find explanations for the lyrics of these three songs and came to the conclusion that Young, himself, probably couldn’t explain them now.

Cinnamon Girl
Hippie love, Be Here Now, herbal teas and a return to nature is what cinnamon girls are about. They also like running around at night chasing the moonlight.

Together They Chased The Moonlight

Cowgirl In The Sand
Hippie cowgirls are not the same as country cowgirls just like hard rock is not the same as country rock. Cowgirls in the sand are liberated and, believing in sexual emancipation, practice free love which sometimes freaks out the boys.

She Was A Cowgirl In The Sand

Down By The River
Even Love and Peace chanters have problems controlling their emotions. This guy got tired of being dragged over rainbows by his girlfriend so he shot her. Unfortunately, 45 years later, there is a worldwide epidemic of women slaughtering.

He Took Her To The River

Recently, the ecologist Young dumped his wife of 36 years for the ex-actress and environmentalist Daryl Hannah. They are eco lovers.

Frida’s Garden

One of my favorite things about being back on Paros is the chance to work on my container garden. Being surrounded by plants makes me happy and I can’t imagine living without them. Seems Frida Kahlo also felt the need to be surrounded by vegetation.

Frida In Her Garden

Recently, there’s been a number of articles surfacing regarding the Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life exhibition at the New York Botantical Garden. The intention of the exhibit is to recreate the atmosphere of Frida’s Casa Azul garden in Coyoacán.

She Had Flowers On Her Table

Not only did Frida adorn her dining table with bouquets of zinnias, calla lilies, marigolds and violets as well as wear dahlias in her hair, she also like painting plants in her self-portraits. Her copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was full of pressed flowers from her garden. For Frida, man lived in symbiosis with nature.
When Frida went to the United States with Diego Riviera, she visited Luther Burbank’s home and, although she didn’t have the possibility of meeting him personally, was mesmerized by his botanical experimentation. For one, the idea of cross-pollination and hybridizing were concepts used in her art. Her admiration for him led her to painting his portrait in her own surrealistic style.

The Hybridization of Luther Burbank

In the painting, Luther himself is depicted as a hybrid. He is coming out of a tree whose roots are being fed by his own corpse (the leitmotif of life feeding off of death is common in Frida’s work). Burbank is holding a philodendron, fertility symbol in many ancient Aztec codices.
The Wizard of Horticulture, Burbank magically created a variety of new plants, fruits and vegetables via cross-breeding. His Russet Burbank potato has been extensively used by McDonald’s for their French fries since it’s easy to store and maintains a continuity of taste and texture.
Burbank had a revolutionary approach to horticulture believing that by manipulating nature, crops could yield more. For 20 years, he worked at creating a spineless cactus (c. 1908) in hopes of creating a desert plant that livestock could feed off of. Unfortunately, the cactus created was too delicate to survive desert weather and became his biggest economic failure.

Burbank Liked His Cactus Spineless

Frida felt she was like a plant and painted a self-portrait entitled Roots (1943) with vines coming out of her body. Fed by Frida’s blood, the vines can then feed the barren earth. Although she was not able to have a child, Frida desired to be a tree of life.

Art Gave Frida The Roots She Needed

Frida And Her Monkeys

Frida often included depictions of the Bird of Paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) in her paintings as well as Green Velvet plants (Alocasia frydeks).
There were also a number of statues in Frida’s garden. Many were from Riviera’s pre-Columbian collection whereas others were by the Mexican sculptor, Mardonio Magaña.  Riviera was so impressed by Magaña that he wrote his biography.

Frida Had Sculpture In Her Garden

Gisèle Freund, the French photographer, visited with Frida and Diego taking many photos of Frida in her garden (1951) providing us with much documentation.

Her Garden Let Her Grow

Frida has become such a fashion icon that models, dressed up like her, are photographed in her garden.

Vogue à la Frida

The garden was full of a variety of plants including mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), agave, old-man cactus (Cephalocereus senilis), organ pipe cactus, yucca, jacaranda, bougainvillea and swiss cheese (Monstera deliciosa).

She Watched From Behind The Plant

Probably the most tragic of all her self-portraits was the last. Entitled Self-Portrait Inside A Sunflower (1954), there is no longer that precision she’d developed when helping her father retouch his photos. Instead, her world has become blurred. Probably due to the painkillers she was on, everything seems approximated and clumsy. Frida stands in front of a lava wall wearing her typical traditional dress. There’s nothing flower like about the petals around her head. It looks more like she’s a bearded lady with a hair dye gone  wrong. The eyebrows are the only indication that it’s her. A short time after completing this painting, Frida died. She was only 47 years old.

Frida As A Sunflower

Se Vende Un Caballo, Espero Que No Sea El Mio

Para Claudia Baca!

Se Vende Un Caballo, Espero Que No Sea El Mio

Rancho Grande.

Fela was an important part of my childhood and left me with a treasure chest of memories. For example, I remember her listening to rancheras as she ironed. Rancheras tend to be hyper-sentimental about love gone bad but many songs are about a romanticized country life. And horses!
The horse was introduced into Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadors and helped create an equestrian culture among the indigenous people. Rural Mexico now was populated by ranches, the birth place of ranchera music. The popularity of rancheras spread during the Mexican Revolution, a revolution provoked by the 30 years of Porfrio Diaz’ dictatorship.
After the Revolution, new job opportunities developed in urban centers so workers from rural areas migrated to the cities bringing their music with them.

“El Rey” of rancheras is Vicente Fernández who grew up on a ranch outside Guadalajara. One of his most well-known songs is Se Vende Un Caballo: A man is putting up a Horse For Sale sign and feels like crying. The horse in question is neighing realizing he’s about to get dumped. The man asks the horse to forgive him but the horse reminds him too much of a perfidious woman so the horse has to go.
More than singing about horses, ranchera singer Chavela Vargas, according to rumor, enjoyed riding horses when drunk and naked simply “because I feel like it”.

Ponchos and the Aesthetics of Simplicity

Razors Are Not Just For Shaving Your Legs

Ponchos are a good example of the Ockham’s Razor Theory that the easiest solution is the best. Instead of being excessively complicated, sometimes ideas need to be pruned and the excess trimmed. That’s why the razor. A poncho is little more than a rectangular shaped cloth with a hole in the middle. And, because of its simplicity and practicality, it’s been around since ancient times.

Ponchos From The Paracas Peninsula

Some of the most amazing ponchos come from Peru and, in particular, the Paracas culture (600 BC–175 BC). In 1920, archeologists discovered about 2000 textiles in graves on the south Pacific coast of the central Andes. Mummified bodies were wrapped in layers and layers of woven and embroidered textiles. Thanks to the arid climate, these textiles were conserved and in excellent condition.
The word “Paracas” comes from “para-ako” from the Quecha word meaning “sand falling like rain”.

Ponchos Were Woven In Different Ways

The textile workers of Paracas were highly skilled. With simple tools, they were able to produce magnificent textiles. Weavers used cotton and the hair of alpaca and llamas to make their ponchos suggesting that the Paracas culture was involved in trade since cotton was grown on the coastal area whereas the wool came from the Andes mountains.
Some textiles were left in their natural color but others were dyed. Cochineal bugs were used to make carmine and plants for the other colors. The effect of colored ponchos against the beige and brown landscape must have been magical!

Ponchos Had A Variety Of MotifsTextiles were not just for clothing oneself. They also were a means of sharing ideas, beliefs and social status. Patterns and motifs helped to communicate these ideas. The motifs were generally embroidered onto to the textiles. Much use was made of geometric and anthropomorphous animal designs of felids, monkeys, birds and serpents. Winged figures probably representing shamanic flight into the spirit world were also abundant.

Even Moche Men Wear Ponchos

There are many figures dressed in ponchos found on Moche ceramics. The Moche ceramists of Peru were highly skilled artisans who produced a variety of decorated vessels in the form of drinking jugs, jars, bowls, cups and dippers. Moche ceramics tend to be narrative. They also often portray highly explicit depictions of sexual acts. Unfortunately, they were not appreciated by the Spanish Conquistadores who took many of these huacos eroticos and smashed them to pieces.
The use of ponchos was not just limited to Peru. Mexico, too, made good use of ponchos. When Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, he found Aztec men wearing highly colored ponchos made from a mixture of cotton and cactus fibers. The Aztecs believed that color helped to ward off evil spirits and used organic materials of all types to make dyes.
The women wore blouses, huipiles, similar in shape to a poncho except that the huipiles’ sides were sewn up whereas the ponchos’ were not.

Wear A Serape And Shake Your Maracas

One of the most popular types of Mexican ponchos is that made from the colorful serape blanket whose origins can be traced back to the Chichimecs of Coahuila. The famous singer Chavela Vargas eulogized the poncho by often wearing it when she performed.

American Indians Made Ponchos From Hides

Native American Indians also wore ponchos but theirs were made from animal hides. They also painted these hides with pigments and decorated them with beads and fringe. The Navajos were excellent weavers and, instead, made textile ponchos.

Clint Eastwood Wore A Poncho

Spaghetti Westerns contributed to the rediscovery of the poncho in contemporary society. In The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Clint Eastwood wore a poncho which was later copied by Marty McFly in Back to the Future III.

Even Homer Simpson Wears Ponchos

Hippies, an evolution of the beatnik hipsters, were in to anything alternative, easy and questionable. Hippie fashionistas eagerly adopted the use of ponchos. As did Homer Simpson many years later.

Rapper Macklemore Wears Ponchos

We’re not sure why, but lately rappers seem to be flaunting ponchos. Macklemore and Young Thug wear them while performing. Drake, instead, enjoys wearing a Chanel poncho while being photographed by paparazzi.

Despite its simple design, a poncho offers an infinite number of possibilities. That’s why it’s difficult to find a contemporary designer who hasn’t  presented a poncho in at least one collection. Salvatore Ferragamo, Kenzo, Dries van Noten, Nina Ricci, Christian Lacroix, Yohji Yamamoto, Moschino, Laura Biagiotti, Givenchy, Junya Watanabe, Valentino, Stella McCartney, Burburry, Vivienne Westwood, Comme Des Garçons, Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Tsumori Chisato, etc. all have presented ponchos on their catwalks.

Ponchos Are Perfect For Paris

Next time I go to Paris, I would like to wear a poncho like one of Dolce & Gabbana’s. I’m afraid that the rose embroidered fringe poncho would make me feel like an aging flamenco dancer so I’ll settle for the black and white polka dotted one instead. And Martin Margiela’s poncho that looks like a semi-shredded turtleneck sweater would be great to wear when the sky is gray.

Ponchos Are Perfect For City Walks

The next time I’m at San Lorenzo’s outdoor market, I will look for a used lace tablecloth that I can tinge with tea then cut into a faux fashionista poncho Alberta Ferretti style. Or even a crocheted cloth with appliquéd flowers to imitate Emilio Pucci would be good, too. Only where will I find the right kind of fringe?

Ponchos Like Waiting For A Breeze

The autumn might find me looking for fake fur to make a Roberto Cavalli style poncho. But maybe I’d feel more at ease in a studded and striped poncho like that of Yves St. Laurent.
But whatever poncho I’ll wear, it will be Muy Marcottage and handmade! Because we Boho-chic women can easily make ponchos by recycling old clothes, tablecloths, doilies, and fabrics in general.

Ponchos Love Recycling

So why not split some seams to transform an old boring sweater into a short and chic poncho. Or sew together all those neck scarves you don’t wear any more to make a casual covering. Or, for Mother’s Day, transform your baby’s blankets into a poncho for Grandma who will certainly tear at the eye with delight!

Frida Kahlo and Retablos

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, dreaming of a unified and independent Mexico,  sustained the Mexican Revolution and thus all things indigenous. They, like many other artists at the time, were highly influenced by educator and philosopher José Vasconcelos as well as painter and filmmaker Adolfo Best Maugard who both encouraged a return to Mexico’s native roots. This was the beginning of “Mexicanism” in the fine arts. Previously Mexicans, colonized by Spain, had a sense of artistic inferiority feeling that anything of cultural worth had to be of European origin.
So with this Mexican Renaissance, Frida and Rivera began collecting Hecho en Mexico. Their collection included folk art, Pre-Columbian artifacts as well as over 1000 retablos many of which are on display today at the Casa Azul. Collecting retablos was made easier for them by the fact that during the Revolution, many churches were closed by the authorities facilitating the appropriation of the retablos inside.

They Collected Retablos

The term retablo comes from retro tabula (“behind the altar”) and, in Spain, refers to the large paintings behind the church altar. However, in Mexico, retablo generally refers to small devotional ex-voto paintings commissioned by someone who wants to give thanks for an answered prayer.
The origin of a retablo is a need. And to resolve this need, one prays for help. If this need is taken care of, thanks must be given. So a retablero, one who paints retablos, is commissioned. The ex-voto painting has 3 basic elements: an icon of the person prayed to, a graphic description of the reason behind the prayer, and an inscription describing and thanking.

Personifications of Devotion

Prayers are generally directed to the Virgin of Guadalupe but sometimes Jesus or anyone of the infinite number of saints is supplicated including St. Lucia, St. Francis, St. Juan Diego and St. Peter of Verona.

Muchas Gracias to Our Lady of Sorrows

Frida found a retablo regarding a trolley car accident that so resembled her own that she decided to retouch it in such a way as to make it seem that the retablo had been made specifically for her. At the bottom she added the inscription: Mr. and Mrs. Guillermo Kahlo and Matilde C. de Kahlo give thanks to Our Lady of Sorrows for saving their daughter Frida from the accident which took place in 1925 on the corner of Cuauhtemotzin and Calzada de Tlalpan.
Many of Frida’s paintings resemble retablos in that they are narrations painted in a naïf style with an element of despair based on real life situations.
When André Breton saw Frida’s work, he called her a surrealist. But he also said that Mexico was the most surrealistic country in the world—relief sculptures of bloodletting Aztecs, Day of the Dead skeletons, martyred saint statues, imaginary animal carvings are all examples of this surrealism.

Wounded

One of Frida’s paintings is based on  a newspaper article about an unfaithful woman who’d been stabbed to death by her husband. The husband defended himself by saying that “it was just a few small nips”. Angered by the violence so frequently inflicted upon women, Frida painted the massacred wife (Unos Cuantos Piquetitos, 1935).

Recuerdo of Dorothy

Dorothy Hale was the wife of a well-to-do portrait painter but when her husband died in a crash, Dorothy was left without means to support herself. She decided to resolve the situation by throwing herself out of a skyscraper window. Dorothy’s friend, Clare Booth Luce, commissioned Frida to do a portrait for Dorothy’s mother. But the result was too hardcore for Luce who, instead of giving it to Dorothy’s mother, kept it hidden for years (The Death of Dorothy Hale, 1939).

Scissors Reflect My Solitude

When Frida discovered her husband was having an affair with her sister, she decided it was time for a divorce. Wearied by womanhood, Frida replaced her Tehuana costumes for a man’s suit, cut her long hair and portrayed herself with scissors in hand and locks of hair scattered all over the floor.  The verse of a song is painted across the top: «See, if I loved you, it was for your hair, now you’re bald, I don’t love you anymore». (Pelona, 1940)

Although there is no longer a market for retableros as in years past, there are artists such as Alfredo Vilchis Roque, Fermín Luna Sanbrano (or Zambrano) and David Mecalco who make paintings in retablo style. And, in the not too distant past, migrant workers from Mexico working in the U.S. also commissioned a number of retablos. Today, instead of commissioning retablos, many people simply leave on the wall of small churches photos with inscriptions of thanks.

Muchas Gracias For Your Divine Intervention That Saved Me From A

Muchas Gracias to St. Sebastian

Muchas Gracias For Our Refrigerator Full Of Food

I, too, have a passion for retablos. Retablos are not only visually delicious, they also represent the concept of gratitude. That’s why years ago I wrote about the Aesthetics of Appreciation and did a series of Cardboard Retablos. Expressing thanks for what we have has many benefits like reshaping our brain.

She Tried Reshaping Her Brain

A smile can automatically lift our spirits as can gratitude because both provoke chemical reactions in our brain. Both increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, the feel good neurotransmitters. Gratitude, then, is like Prozac. Some people take pills. Some people say thanks.
When you start expressing gratitude on a regular basis, negative thoughts are sent to the shadows. Instead of seeing the glass half empty, you see it half full.

Her Glass Was Half Full, His Half Empty

The more you give thanks, the more you realize how much you have to be grateful for. So why not make a retablo!

Happy Birthday Concha Buika!

Concha Buika

Her voice is softly flowing in and out of my mind as I write this. When she sings, she sings the history of her soul. And of how love burns and turns us into ashes.
A fusion of flamenco, jazz, blues and rancheras, Concha Buika’s songs are an emotional striptease.
Born in Palma de Mallorca, Buika’s African father abandoned the family when she was still a child. So Buika was raised by her mother and a highly matriarchal family. Grateful for their presence, she has the names of her “muses” tattooed on her arm.

A few years ago, Buika made an album, El Ultimo Trago, honoring Chavela Vargas. There are three songs particularly heart jerking.
The first, Se Me Hizo Fàcil, is about a man who thinks he can easily forget the woman he loved. Silly guy. He should read Pablo Neruda: Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Se me hizo fácil borrar de mi memoria a esa mujer a quién yo amaba tanto.
[I found it easy to erase from my memory the woman that I loved so much.]

She Erased His Name From Her Diary

Then there’s the poetic Somos with phrases like: «We are an impossible dream looking for the night». Or: «We are two tear drops in a song. What importance does life have if we are not together».

Somos en nuestra quimera doliente y querida dos hojas que el viento junto en el otoño.
[We are in our chimera aching and dear two leaves that the wind mates in the autumn.]

The Wind Blew Them Together

Finally, there’s Cruz De Olvido. The song speaks of a man abandoning his love not because he no longer loves her but for her well being. Sounds suspicious, no? Anyway, he says he will leave at sunset and, since leaving her will cause him to suffer, he will travel a sea of solitude with his cross of oblivion.

Con el atardecer me iré de ti… la barca en que me iré lleva una cruz de olvido.
[With the sunset I will depart from you… the boat I will depart in carries a cross of oblivion.]

When The Sun Set She Left

May 11th is Buika’s birthday and we celebrate her voice that’s like icing on a cake!