• Making a big difference in a small town | Yelapa, Mexico

    How an inspiring art teacher has introduced art in the life of a Mexican small town teenagers, opening up for them a world of possibilities.

     

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    Nadya painting with student Alondra, February 2017

    Yelapa is a small town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, just south of Puerto Vallarta. An agricultural and fishermen town, it is now growing also as a tourist destination.  Nadya Delgado Zepeda has been the young art teacher in the local high school, 45 students in all, for the past four years. She is passionate about introducing her students to making art, be it drawing, painting, music or performance, and she has helped several of them to continue studying art in college, both in Mexico and in the US.

    On a weekend in February she and her students staged an art exhibition of their works in the low key/high style resort ‘Yelapa Oasis’, a group of cabanas by the river, renown for its annual croquet tournament, which was in fact in full swing.  The perfect weekend for selling drawings and water-colours to the tourists, to raise money for the art program of the school.

    Here she and one of her former student are in conversation with EAS. (English version below)

    ¿Qué te trajo aquí a enseñar arte en una escuela secundaria en Yelapa?

    Nadya: Nunca pensé que iba a dedicarme a ser maestra, pero se dio la oportunidad que alguien me invitara a formar parte de la preparatoria aquí en Yelapa y decidí venirme. Comenzó siendo una experiencia fantástica desde el principio. Es mi primera vez como maestra y creo que es mi profesión ser maestra. No tengo una formación como artista, pero creo que la vida y mis padres me han formado como artista desde pequeña.

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    "Unidos por el Arte", poster for the February 2017 exhibition

    Comencé con un pequeño taller dentro de la escuela una hora a la semana y posteriormente decidí que hasta tenía que ser más grande porque vi mucho talento en los jóvenes de Yelapa. Entonces hice un taller por las mañanas con los jóvenes que les interesaba a aprender un poco de pintura y ahora tenemos ya 3 años con ese taller.

    Parece que todos tus estudiantes están muy entusiasmados con tu clase. ¿Cuál es tu enfoque pedagógico?

    Nadya: Lo que trato de enseñarle a ellos principalmente es que tengan amor al arte; que puedan conocer lo sublime, lo sensible, que puedan experimentar ese lado artístico que tiene cada ser humano. Yo trato de que puedan entender que no solamente hay carreras cómo abogado o cómo ingenieros, doctores. Creo que [arte] es lo más valioso que tenemos ahora en este mundo porque hay mucha crueldad y hay mucha violencia y entre mas creemos arte mas sensibles de corazón nos vamos a hacer.

    ¿Qué te inspira como artista, y qué te inspira cuando le enseñas arte a tus estudiantes?

    Nadya: Me gusta mucho la historia del arte. Amo la historia del arte de Europa y principalmente mi época favorita es el Renacimiento, y me gustan bastante los artistas como Leonardo Buonarroti, Da Vinci, y Donatello. Porque fue una lucha encontrada entre la religión y el pensamiento del ser humano donde la religión quería imponer su forma de pensar. Entonces el hombre se dio cuenta que también tenia razonamiento y comenzó a expresar a través de sus ideas y sus sentimientos lo que pensaban en esa época.

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    'Otomi' by Nadya Delgado

    Lo que yo trato de comunicar con los estudiantes es que aprecien la naturaleza que tenemos; los arboles, el mar, las aves, que comiencen a disfrutar el mundo que tenemos que es hermoso y mas en esta comunidad de Yelapa que tenemos todo natural. No tenemos autos, solamente son 1,500 personas las que viven aquí.

    Y lo que más me interesa que aprendan es que no necesitan vivir en una ciudad para poder sobresalir. Que ellos saben que pueden salir adelante, no porque vengan de un lugar muy pequeño no quieran hacer nada. Ellos tienen que sobresalir y pueden hacer lo que ellos quieran.

    Uno de mis estudiantes, Enddy Rodrigo Aguirre, estuvo decidido a estudiar artes plásticas y lo conseguimos con la ayuda de un patrocinador; ahora el está estudiando en Canadá. Está estudiando el tercer año de preparatoria nuevamente y a sido aceptado a la Universidad de California. Yo estoy muy orgullosa de él. Ahora Alfredo está decidido y esta estudiando fotografía. Tengo otro alumno Luis Mario que le gusta mucho la fotografía es bailarín, y es pintor. Y va a enfocarse también en la universidad a estudiar danza o fotografía. Alondra también quiere estudiar fotografía y pintura. Entonces se está descubriendo mas el lado artístico de los jóvenes de aquí de Yelapa.

    Alfredo, eras estudiante en la preparatoria de Yelapa y ahora estudias arte y fotografía en la Universidad de Guadalajara. ¿Cuál fue tu experiencia con Nadya?

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    'Croquet' winning artwork for 2017 Croquet Tournament by Alfredo Rodriguez

    Duré seis meses en el taller con Nadya porque siempre estaba lleno el taller. Yo siempre tenía la curiosidad de experimentar sobre la pintura, pero nunca tuve la oportunidad. cuando ella llego a la escuela era como otra cosa. La escuela cambio totalmente, porque todo era tan estricto. Cuando Nadya llegó todo fue más relajado, ella traía otra energía otra vibra, entonces todos querían estar en el taller. Ella fue la chispa que le dio a la escuela.

    Este fue el momento que me dio la oportunidad de hacer arte como siempre quise. El taller empezó y fue genial, estar con Nadya es muy increíble, es una persona maravillosa.

    Estamos interesados en el labor que haces, en la manera que empleas los símbolos de otras culturas, como de India.

    Alfredo: Desde el año pasado me interesé por los mandalas al ver las composiciones que se creaban en una sola imagen, entonces comencé a investigar sobre que eran, y qué sentido tenía dibujar eso, y pues a lo que encontré fue que tenían un sentido de relajación interior, una paz, y que eran como una meditación.

    Empecé creando patrones simples, después unos mas complejos.

    Busqué mas imágenes para ver diferentes ejemplos. Entonces, de ahí fue de donde creció esto de la mandala hacia mi, para poder crearlo. Y pues es un poco divertido y entretenido realmente porque te pasas mucho tiempo -- es mucha dedicación. Pero a la hora que termina es algo increíble.

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    'Desamor' by Nadya Delgado

     

    Nadya Delgado Zepeda estudió Psicología en la Universidad de Guadalajara en el campus de Puerto Vallarta, y ha estado enseñando arte en la preparatoria de Yelapa durante los últimos tres años.
    Alfredo Rodriguez es ahora estudiante de primer año en la Universidad de Guadalajara, en el campus de Puerto Vallarta. Se concentra en Fotografía y Artes Plásticas.

     


    English Translation:

    What brought you here to teach art at a high school in Yelapa?

    I never thought I was going to dedicate myself to being a teacher, but I was given the opportunity when someone invited me to be part of the school here in Yelapa, and I decided to accept. It was my first time as a teacher, and a fantastic experience from the beginning. Teaching has become my call. I did not have a training as an artist, but I think that life and my parents, who are artists, have molded me as an artist since I was a child.

    I started here with a small workshop one hour a week, but soon it was clear that it had to be a larger class because many students wanted to participate. So I did workshops in the mornings with all those who were interested in painting and we have had them for three years.

    It seems that all your students are enthusiastic about your class. What is your pedagogical approach?

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    Exhibition of works by students of the Yelapa school, Oasis resort, February 2017

    The main thing I try to teach them is to love art, to recognize the sensibility, the sublime, to perceive the artistic side present in each human being, to get to know their emotional side. I am trying to tell them that there are not only careers as lawyers or engineers, or doctors. Art is the most valuable thing we have now in this world. There is a lot of cruelty, a lot of violence, and the more we create art, the more sensible we are going to become.

    What inspires you as an artist, and what inspires you when you teach art to your high school students?

    I really like the history of art. I love the history of European art. My favorite time is the Renaissance, and artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello. Why the Renaissance? Because it was a time of struggle between a humanistic and a religious view of the world. The religion view was imposing its way of thinking, but people started to realize that they were also capable of reasoning, and began to express their ideas and feelings, especially in art.

    What I try to convey to my students is the appreciation of nature around us: the trees, the sea, the birds; the enjoyment of the world we have, which is beautiful, and more so in this community of Yelapa, where everything is still natural. We do not have cars, only 1,500 people live here.

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    Exhibition of works by students of the Yelapa school, Oasis resort, February 2017

    What I want my students to learn more than anything is that they do not need to live in a city to excel, don’t need to give up or feel disadvantaged because they are from such a small town. They can excel and they can do whatever they want.
    One of my students, Enddy Rodrigo Aguirre, determined to study plastic arts, is now in his third year of high school in Canada, thanks to the help from a sponsor, and he has been accepted to study art at the University of California. I am so proud of him. Another student, Alfredo, is now studying photography at the University of Guadalajara. Luis Mario is a dancer, a painter, and likes photography as well, and will move on to college to study dance or photography. Alondra also wants to study photography and painting. The artistic side and the talent of the young people here in Yelapa is finally being discovered.

    Alfredo, You were a student in the high school here in Yelapa, and are now studying art and photography at the University of Guadalajara. What was you experience with Nadya?

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    Nadya and her students exhibiting their works at the Yelapa Oasis resort in 2016

    I was in the workshop with Nadya only for six months, because her classes were always full. I had always had the curiosity to experiment with painting, drawing, photography, but never had the chance. When Nadya arrived at the school, things changed completely. Everything was very strict before, very constrained, but when she arrived things started to relax. She brought a different energy, a different vibe. Since then, everyone wanted to attend the art workshops. She brought a spark to the school.

    This was the moment I finally had the chance to fulfill my desire to do art. The workshop started and it was something great. Nadya is a special person, and being in her workshop was an incredible experience.

    I am intrigued by the fact that in your work you employ patterns from other cultures, in particular from India.

    Since last year I became interested in the patterns of the Indian mandalas. I was fascinated by the compositions that were created in a single image. I started to research about what they are, and also what sense it had for me to draw them, and what I found was that they expressed inner relaxation, peace, they are like a meditation.

    I started drawing very simple patterns, then slightly more complex. I began to do more research, to see more images. That is how my interest for the mandala grew, when I started to be able to create them. It is really entertaining, because you spend a lot of time on it – it requires a lot of dedication. But at the end of the day, what you have is incredible.

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    From left to right: Camila Estefania Gradilla Esparza, Luis Mario Tovar, Nadya Delgado, Alfredo Rodriguez, Alondra Jazmín Machaen Ramos

    Nadya Delgado Zepeda
    studied Psychology at the University of Guadalajara on the campus of Puerto Vallarta, and has been teaching art in the high school of Yelapa for the past three years. 
    Alfredo Rodriguez is now a first year student at the University of Guadalajara, on the campus of Puerto Vallarta. He concentrates in Photography and Plastic Arts.

     

  • Teaching art to kids in a remote Indian village | Part 2

    On de-constructing and re-constructing 'Mona Lisa', de-contextualising works of art, and cross cultural influences in the global world. Pallavi Das, from Kolkata, in conversation with Paola Loomis, from San Francisco.

     

    Another eye catching project was on Leonardo da Vinci’s  ‘Mona Lisa’. Being one of the most famous artworks in history, I thought my students could easily connect with this work, as they were already somehow familiar with it. My objective here was to introduce the art of the European Renaissance, but then to let the students have a hand-on experience by recreating a famous work in their own visual language. I cut out the face and hand from colored prints of ‘Monalisa’ for each of them, and asked them to recreate the costume and the background.

    Drawings and collages created by Pallavi’s students around prints of ‘Mona Lisa’s face and hands

     

     In this project you have new and impressive images, realized by giving new backgrounds to one of the most cliché faces in art. How can we read the new portraits? Do they tell us something about what changes through encountering a different culture? 8Is “she” the same woman and are “we” the same men and women when moving among different cultures, different times, different spaces?

    Ahh, with these questions you push me towards art theory and theorisation, which is what I was afraid to step in. As an artist, I feel my job is to create an empty sign, a visual object with a void inside that provokes the beholder to fill it with their own associations, thoughts, imagination. Isn't it the case? A successful art has always an open ended aspect that does not allow us to reach the vanishing point of its meaning. I think that this is the mysterious ingredient of true art. I think that theorizing about art appears after the existence of the art object in question as a hypothesis, an interpretation.

    So, let me encounter your questions with trembling thoughts about the images produced by the students:

    Following Walter Benjamin, I claim that the prints of Monalisa have already lost the demonic aura of the historic painting, and they allow us to recreate and manipulate them more freely. And when, in order to get more freedom, I cut out her face and hands, I decontextualized it from its origin. These fragments of Monalisa have already loosen visual space, time and context all together. 11So, through this surgical technique we have begun to subtract all the visual elements that constitute the historical identity of the work. Now her identity appear as free floating, ready to be reconstructed and cast for new roles.

    We have in fact deconstructed the Monalisa. No, she is no more the same Monalisa, as she was methodically erased from her surroundings which were replaced by cultural and visual vocabularies belonging to the students.  As you can see here, Monalisa has been reimagined with popular East Asian imagery, as well as with the students’ associations with comics, cartoons and contemporary pop culture, like the one who reconstructed Monalisa as the Korean viral video 'Oppa Gangnam Style', after discovering  the similitude between the famous dance step and the hand gesture of Monalisa.

    One can point out that after erasing the background of the famous Da Vincian perspective, most of the students came up with rather flat and graphical backdrops, I guess because of their associations with calendar art and posters.

    The empty space around ‘Mona Lisa’ provided your students with an important opportunity to freely express themselves within that space. These interesting works prove that this is a successful way to introduce art to young people.

    14What if we turned this around and presented the same exercise to young students in Italy? With their hyper-familiarity with the image of ‘Mona Lisa' and Leonardo da Vinci, they certainly would not react with the freedom of your students. It is a great issue to explore within the frame of intercultural art...

    These are very interesting points to investigate for a cultural theorist or an art theorist, searching for details to examine their cultural influences, visual interferences and so on. I feel that it is impossible to identify an original culture with strong boundaries. Cultures develop with influences from other cultures. And in this globalized world, it is becoming harder to find original, distinctive cultural traits, especially when we are talking about art. I also feel that it depends on the beholder distance from the art object.

    I am curious now about how you perceive  these portraits, since you are far from this land. We have seen that various prominent Indian artists have been recognized or criticized from both East and West with weird confusion.

    The movie 'Pather Panchali (Song of the Road)', which was the first masterpiece by Satyajit Ray, one of the greatest Indian film directors, dealt with this same dilemma. In the West, it was considered too slow, and ambiguous with its eastern regional anecdotes, whereas in the East it was criticized for being too realistic (too close to ugly mundane life), more akin to the western style.

    Even Rabindranath Tagore's paintings faced similar reactions: they were admired in the West for their eastern originality, and criticized in the East because of a strong western influence.  Being an artist, I rather enjoy this void that art is capable of to initiate the dialogue on cultural identity, visual meaning and entire new narratives.

    monalisas

     

    to be continued...Stay tuned for the next and last episode!

     

  • Teaching art to kids in a remote Indian village

    Kolkata artist Pallavi Das shares here her experience teaching art to young students at the Manjushri Public School, in the Indian state of Sikkim. Rather than following the traditional art history curriculum, she wanted to create a 'free space' where the kids could participate and freely interact with the artists of the past, with Indian  folk art as well as with iconic Western works. 

    Paola Loomis, in San Francisco, joins in with some questions.

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    Sikkim is a small Indian state surrounded by the Himalayan range, and bordered by Nepal, China, Bhutan, and the state of West Bengal. It is considered to be the last to give up its monarchy and integrated to India in 1975.

     

    UnknownA residential school, the Manjushri Public School was founded in a small valley called Temi Tarku.  This school pushed the border of the standard educational system to create an alternative space, far from the urban society. Being in a valley, surrounded by hills, it was almost an isolated place. Communication with the world around was quite difficult. Newspapers and the internet could be accessed only once a while. Because of this limited accessibility to the media, the school focused more on the faculty and the students physical relationship with the world. It replaced the use of electronic media with reading books, gardening, learning music, and performance art.

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    Traditional hand painted Thangka

    Each and every student was responsible for cleaning and organizing the school compound and the surroundings. Here I was asked to participate in the school mission to restructure the pedagogy of the visual arts.

    In this remote location, visual art was only known through the traditional religious Buddhist painting called 'Thangka'. My objective was to introduce some of the norms and forms of world art which I found is neglected in the Indian school education system. My challenge was not only to inform the students about both the world and Indian art history,and  but also to let them physically absorb the varieties of style, and to understand history through a playful manipulation of famous artworks. I chose not to follow the chronology of art history but to start instead with the students’ own visual knowledge.

    In my first class, with junior students, I started with prehistoric art as the first discovery of visual art. Informing them about Bhimbedka cave and Altamira cave paintings, I explained the use of colors in prehistory and the different assumptions behind creating those. Then I asked them to freely choose a subject they liked and paint it on different surfaces (paper, cardboard, stones).

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    Drawings created by the students inspired by cave paintings

     

    After mingling up with the middle grade students, I observed that they were familiar with visual narratives of comic strips. I came up with the idea of introducing  them to “Patachitra”, the traditional visual narratives of rural Bengal. "Patachitra" are scroll paintings which visually narrate religious epic story. Interestingly, the rural artisans perform each story by singing out loud and revealing each scene by scrolling down the pat. These paintings traditionally use bright vibrant colors and bold black outlines.

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    A 'Patachitra' created by a students group

    I shared with them the history of "Patachitra", and then invite them to sit in a group and think of a story. Some of the group members had to plan and write the story plot, and some had to start painting each scene, using bright vibrant color and outlining them with bold black outline. At last they were asked to narrate their stories visually scrolling down each scene and vocally narrating their stories keeping the same essence of patachitra.

     

    If texts are part of the work, is it possible to read some of the stories they wrote?

    In the tradition of “Patachitra”, texts are not part of this art form. Rather than texts, they are closer to the performances. In the traditional style, the Patuas (the artists of Patachitra) paint the entire narrative on the scrolls and then roll them up. Then they compose the narrative in the form of a folk ballad, a poem, or just a story. When they gather their viewers they sang, recite, or just tell the story while unveiling the scroll scene after scene. You can call it the predecessor folk format of modern day film.

    So, I'm afraid that there is no text or script. The artists have to perform the story orally as they unveil their Patachitra (scroll with paintings) scene by scene. It is a performance that go along with the visual.

    to be continued...Stay tuned for the next episode!

    Pallavi Das from Emergent Art Space on Vimeo.

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