written by Sharyn Richey
I hate shopping. For that reason, I was surprised to find myself getting onto the return flight home from Oaxaca laden with several bags of recent purchases. How did this happen? I had pulled out my credit card multiple times as I fell in love with this or that art piece. Even if I hesitated on the matter of getting it home I was met with a response of “no problem.” Not only was shipping available at most places but another of my tour companions was always willing to share their luggage space so that I could bring it home to enjoy immediately.
As I puzzle over this unusual behavior on my part, I can see that the answer to my shopping “fall” was multifold: On our CAMIBAart tour of the Oaxacan area we visited the artists within their working place. It was there that I was struck by the artistic genius of particular genres of work. Perhaps my mind had been dulled by imitations I had seen in tourist and gift shops back in the States. I was startled by the beauty of the piece in the hand of the original artist. So there I was, enchanted by the high quality and aesthetic delight of a piece, finding it within my pocketbook range, and swayed by the feeling that my home would be missing something if I left these treasures behind.
Therefore, I am greatly anticipating the upcoming show at CAMIBAart Gallery, Studio Scene 2: An Annual Survey of Art from CAMIBAart Tours. The show is curated by Troy Campa, Director of CAMIBAart Gallery, in coordination with his partner, Rene Ibarra, who is Director of Tours. About 40 artworks by more than 25 artists will represent at least three countries and five of the geographic locations that they explore on their tours. The show will be on exhibit August 18 through September 15, with an opening reception Saturday, August 18, from 5 to 8 pm.
I visited Troy recently in his Austin gallery and got a chance to see many of the works that will be in the show. Troy loves his work and has a keen eye for good art. He is fascinated by the various artistic processes used by the artists, treasures his finds and has real affection and admiration for his artists. I asked Troy how he finds his artists and selects work for CAMIBAart Gallery.
After the initial recognition of “something special,” he says that high on his list is fine craftsmanship. The whole work should be finely honed and reflect the care of the artist in both its assemblage and presentation. He illustrated this by sharing his excitement about one of his newer finds, Orestes Ricardo Sánchez of Guatemala, who works with his partner, Rolando Súchite. Troy described the long and involved process they use to produce their clay mix for making delicate and yet strong ceramic pieces. Orestes then assembles them into intriguing patterns on various materials—giving one the impression of scattered flower petals. With the same clay mix, Rolando creates bold and curious ceramic jewelry.
At this time, CAMIBAart specializes in exploring the art worlds of the countries who are our closest neighbors to the south. Troy is especially excited to now be introducing well-established Cuban artists that have long been appreciated by the European art market. One of these is painter and sculptor Beatriz Sala Santacana. Her contemporary abstracted figures are meant to encourage dialog about human nature with its values and principles.
As Troy explores the art scene in these countries, he says the other thing that he is looking for is uniqueness. Not only should it convey the special creativity of a particular artist, but it should contain the flavor of its particular culture or place. Studio Scene 2 will display images from the tours to help viewers connect the work with this sense of place. I appreciate that a full range of socioeconomic settings are represented, in that the tours visit artists who have many resources as well as those who make do with whatever they can find—with often amazing results.
It is hard for me to say which studio I enjoyed the most while on the Oaxaca tour, but that of the internationally known weaver Bulmaro Perez would be up there at the top. I was enchanted by the vast array of rich dyes his family uses for their work in the small village of Teotilan del Valle. Their weavings include abstract patterns as well as figurative storied works. I knew almost immediately that I would be buying something there. Bulmaro has created some unique patterns of his own. I fell for a richly colored rug which incorporated one of his special patterns reflecting the country’s sky line.
Not only will Bulmaro and several of the other artists be present for the opening reception of Studio Scene 2, but he will also lead a pre-show workshop on fiber dyeing. More information is available from CAMIBAart Gallery and Tours.
I know my tour companions join me in looking forward to the show. Those from other CAMIBAart Tours will be doing the same, I am sure. Many of us have become collectors as a result of our travels together. Of course I will have an eye out for work from the artists whose work I have purchased, but it will be interesting to see their newer works and that of other artists and countries that I hope to visit in the future. For all who have been on the tours, the show will be enhanced by memories of the sights and sounds of each studio. (I will not forget my first earthquake. It was so minor that we all thought someone was wiggling on our shared outside bench. We wondered why people were fleeing the workshop!) However, one will not need the experience of a past tour to appreciate the great variety of work in the show. It will serve as an intriguing insight into the art being created in the countries visited on the tours: stone carvings, textiles, woodwork, paintings in several mediums.
I appreciate that Tour Director, Rene Ibarra, grew up in Mexico and knows the Latin American geography, society and culture. Needless to say, his connections are many and enable him to organize and fine tune the tours’ offerings. While each tour is organized around a sampling of the regional art, the goal of CAMIBAart is to provide cultural immersion. It was great fun to follow Rene through the mercado as he joked with the vendors and encouraged us to sample local fare. At restaurants, we were often joined by the owner or other locals who would entertain us with stories and information about the food and traditions. (And here I chuckle at remembering the good laugh the group had at my expense, when I gasped upon seeing all the food being brought to me after ordering a sampler of all Mexico’s mole sauces!) The smaller size of the tour groups also allowed us to get to know one another more easily as well as maintain a more flexible itinerary.
I believe that this show and these tours open a window to the countries to the south of us. In an era of increased isolationism, CAMIBAart helps maintain and strengthen connections by building awareness of people and their lives through fine art. I look forward to this show while I ponder over which country and its people I would like to visit next.
I still hate shopping in general, but I will happily go to a show or on a tour that is curated and hosted by Troy and Rene. I know it will be more than just shopping. CAMIBAart creates multidimensional feasts that are educational as well as great fun, and I might just bring home something beautiful.