Hand Painted Furniture

GRACIAS POR TODO!

My painting is all about “coming home.”  I returned to Mexico to live in the early-90s because, though I lived in the U.S. for 60 years, raised my family, and had a “successful” life as an attorney, I never felt at home. Often while running in the fields near my home in Northern California, I would cry with the feeling, “I just want to go home.”

The colors of my work celebrate Mexico, trying to reflect the heart of Mexican culture – a blend between Huichol (brilliantly colored yarns pressed onto bees wax) and Alebrijes (brilliantly colored dot painted carved wooden animal figures).  “Colores de Mi Corazon” (Colors of my Heart) is the name I chose for my work.

Last year while Patrice was in the U.S. I found a mesquite stool in the house. On the terraza I began dripping paint on to the chair, then dots began to take form. When Patrice returned from her travels, I showed her the painted stool.  She asked excitedly, “Where did you buy it?!”  When I told her that I had painted it myself she was astonished.  It was that enthusiastic, loving and appreciative response that launched me.

 

I bought the most brilliant colors I could find or mix – turquoises, yellows, greens in 4 shades, blues in 5 shades, ROSA MEXICANA, purples and I began painting the dining room chairs in our home.  When I posted them on Facebook, they all sold in an hour. Nobody even asked what they cost!  Amazing! Two years later I have 11 hues of blue, 8 purple, 8 green, 3 yellows – a total of 51 colors so far; limited only by finding container

Since I can’t draw, I just do dots and lines.  I have absolutely no idea where the designs come from, they just emerge from the juxtaposition of colors and the process of losing myself in the process.  About 90% of my painting is done with toothpicks and sawed-off paint brush handles.  My favorite base colors (upon which I apply the lines and dots) are dark green, dark blue, purple, and black. I use Mexican built chairs and I just follow the shapes of the wood.  I never start with a design in mind. Often, about 1/3 of the way in, I get a strong feeling that the work isn/t working.  I have learned to smile because they always explode into more beautiful patterns and designs. As a result, I have no fear of “mistakes”

– I have learned to wait until the piece emerges.  Also, I have no concept of “finished” – I just paint until the piece tells me that it’s done.

I’m inspired by Patrice’s constant support – she’s never complained that I get up between 1:30 and 4 a.m. and work most days (except for eating) until 4 p.m.  I’m also inspired by the enthusiastic praise I’ve received from friends, customers, and artists I respect.

About 4 months after I started painting at 70 years of age in September 2019, we were visiting the famous alibrije town of San Martin de Tecaltepec outside of Oaxaca, visiting Javier Hernandez, a 4th generation Alebrijista.  Patrice showed him photos of my chairs on her IPhone.  He kept sliding the screen back and forth. “Tu eres me competencia!” he exclaimed. (You are my competition!)  To receive such a high compliment from a revered Mexican artisan sent me to the moon.

Photo by Jerry Rife

Photo by Jerry Rife

Another inspiration is that I humorously say I have 2 prices:  “Expensive and free.” At a December 2019 Abrazos Christmas party one of the children sat all night on one of my children’s chairs.  When I asked if she liked the chair, she shyly answered “Si, mucho.” “Entonces es un regalo para ti” (Then it’s a gift for you).  The big chairs pay for all supplies and the baby chairs.  As of December 2021 I’ve given away 17 baby chairs.

 I hope to give away 50 chairs as gifts before I die; it will be a grateful thank you to the Mexican people celebrating my return to a land, culture, people and place I love. I’ve never been happier and my painting expresses my “alegria,” my joy!

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