Art Career

A Civil War: A War Between My Jobs and Education

The hiatus from posting has stemmed from a series of life happenings. Recently, I lost my one day off from work because I am transitioning into full-time work beginning in July while training my replacements at my now second part-time job. Furthermore, my second masters program began, and I decided to start in summer, which condenses the graduate course into 5 weeks instead of 15. C has also decided to switch careers and transition in AF Reserve and try to retrain. As a result, my brain feels like melted butter. 

A common misconception with marrying military is that the airmen can provide for you so you can depend on them for financial support as well as support from just being in a relationship. However, lower ranked enlisted do not make enough money to support a family without there being tension and financial stress. C finally told me how his paychecks work from how he receives his BH check to how the GI is pulled from his salary. My jaw dropped. All I saw each month for the purpose of our household budgets was $1500 every two weeks go into his bank account. I didn’t take into account the additional BH was included in this salary check nor did I think money would be removed from the sum that I thought he was receiving each month. I was baffled at our lack of communication, but I also knew how much my paycheck mattered to our lifestyle. Even though his paycheck can provide basic needs, it does not provide anything extra like nights out or travel money. 

I never was raised to be dependent-I hate that term being associated with me, which is why I found two part-time jobs to pay for my share of the bills. It has been overwhelming though waking up each morning, working 7-9 hours a day, coming home, taking care of household chores then studying for 5 hours before going to bed and beginning again. But that’s the nature of working part-time jobs: low pay and no pay for days taken off. It can be intimidating and seem worthless to other dependents who have one source of income and benefits from their airmen, but working at least one part-time job will help relieve the financial stress or even the stress that comes with being cooped up in the house all day. 

My decision to go back to graduate school was partially inspired by C being military. A career in the arts is not always available if we were to PCS, but a job involving Library and Information Sciences would be a more likely an option. In an ideal world, I would find full-time work in an art museum’s collections management. It is an online program so my program could travel with me. I love school, but losing my one day off from work then coming home and needing to critically think is difficult. I understand why dependents choose to not go to school afterall. However, my advice for other dependents who use these reasonings as a way to avoid getting their education is this: online programs are available so take advantage of an education that can PCS with you, coming home from part-time jobs is exhausting but after you earn the degree full-time vocational work will be available, and your spouse may not tell you he needs help, but he needs the financial help. 

C is also potentially switching to Reserves, which threw a wrench in the plan. I just earned full-time work at an art museum working with living artist, and now there is the potential that we will have to move in the Fall. At first I was angry and rejected the idea of moving. After getting my education, working part-time 55-60 hours a week for over a year and finally catching a break, he now decides to throw my hard work away by PCSing and retraining in Reserves. But then I thought about and thought about and thought about. A new city is a new fresh start with new opportunities. Just because my opportunity here in Tucson may end short from my expectation does not mean that I will not find work that is equally as satisfying or better. My game plan is to apply to art museums in the area of the Reserve base options and hope to transition into full-time work in my field. If not, I will find work in my new area of study. Or just create new opportunities. I learned to not be afraid of the unknown. Life is too short to avoid moving in fear of what I do not know. As dependents we should know the value of life more than others, especially after deployment orders. 


Marrying military can be overwhelming. It can be easy to lose your identity and camouflage with your significant other whose career is demanding and just as unstable as it is stable. The important thing to remember is to never give up on yourself, your aspiration, or on the military. Always think of the positives and find or create solutions to resolve the negatives. It requires extra mental effort and extra hard work to accomplish both careers, but it is well worth the effort.  What I won’t do is give up on my education, on my career, and on C. 

Never give-up. 

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Art Career

Butterflyheart Collection

Butterflies are associated with spirituality in many cultures. Often they symbolize transformation and migration since these beautiful creatures cross both liminal and literal boundaries. The fluttering of wings are also a metaphor for the internal feeling of love.

Long-distance and love were catalysts for the San Francisco native Anne Cooper to create the unique yet stunning Butterflyheart Collection jewelry series. Her husband was in the military and received orders to go overseas. In love letters they drew butterflies and hearts on the paper, which were the initial designs used in the jewelry pendants; there are 5 different designs. Each pendant is made from sterling silver. The material’s weight and texture from the designs were an intentional combination to act similarly to a worry stone. Whenever you’re nervous or anxious, rubbing the pendant produces a calming effect.

It is a unique jewelry idea with military wives in mind. When our loved ones are sent overseas, it is difficult to sort out the truth on the news and in papers. It is difficult to keep our minds off the war and the potential dangers our troops face while deployed each day. Military wives worry and rightfully so. The distance is difficult, but the Butterflyheart Collection is a positive product that developed from these moments of worry.

Here is a link to the website: Click Here

One can also purchase these necklaces in the Tucson Museum of Art Store.

 

 

Art Career

Peak of Pride: Volcanoes in Mexican Landscape Painting

A vocation is an intuitive calling for a career.

I have spent six years intensively studying the relationship between art, history, socio-political issues, and the space or means in which these subjects collide. It is my vocation to be an art curator at an art museum. It is this career that I try to balance with my fiancé’s military career. Some responsibilities include:

  • receiving artwork on loan or purchasing artwork for the permanent collect
  • studying artists and the individual works of art for upcoming exhibitions
  • selecting artwork for exhibitions under one cohesive theme
  • explain these works to a public audience with a variety of experiential backgrounds using text panels and exhibition catalogs.

It sounds simple. However, it is a complex process because the relationships between the paintings differ based on those selected for the exhibition. The text panels alongside the artwork may be the only source of information they have experienced about that artist or artwork. The thesis of each exhibition molds the way the public understands the intertwinement between art history and contemporary politics.

For graduate school, I had to curate a mini exhibition for one of my classes. Below is the exhibition I selected to curate. It is titled: Peak of Pride: Volcanoes in Mexican Landscape Painting.

Explanation of Exhibition:

Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl are two legendary volcanic mountains visible in Mexico City. The common thread throughout the exhibition is the inclusion of these the two volcanic peaks as subject matter in the Mexican landscape paintings. The continuous portrayal of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl in Mexican landscape paintings signifies the sacredness of the volcanoes to both Indigenous cultures and modern Mexicans. The selected paintings contextualize the relationship of the two volcanoes with Mexico from pre-colonialism through modernization. Effectively, Indigenous culture remains relevant. Although Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl are renowned geographical landmarks in Mexico, the two peaks evolved into representations of national Mexican pride.

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Diego Rivera, The Market of Tlatelolco, c. 1929-1935, Fresco, Plaza de la Constitución

In the foreground is a romanticized depiction of commerce at Tlatelolco’s marketplace. The focal point of the composition is the darker skin toned man on a throne wearing white garments and holding a fan in the center of the composition. Surrounding this man is a mass of dark skin toned people wearing traditional Indigenous garments. Rivera depicted the people without space between the bodies. Baskets of grains and rice are scattered throughout the composition. Rivera uses linear perspective to depict two receding parallel lines in the center of the composition. Effectively, the focus becomes the ancient Aztec ruin and the two legendary snow-capped volcanic mountains in the background, Popcatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl.

Rivera painted in the Palacio Nacional de México amidst the post-Revolutionary period in Mexico. The federal building is located in the renown Plaza de la Constitución, otherwise known as El Zócalo. In 1928,  the elected president, Álvaro Obregón, was assassinated and succeeded by Plutarco Elías Calles. In effect, the National Revolutionary Party was formed in attempt to provide stability and unity in Mexico. However, revolutionary reforms were neglected and censorship became limiting to artists. The Mexican Community Party gained popularity by extreme liberal artist, such as Rivera, in Mexico. Artists began to search for new spaces and audiences to present their work that excluded the patronage of the government.  However, Rivera continued to paint public murals due to his international success. Furthermore, modern Mexico still had tension in national identity.

In the fresco, Rivera romanticizes the Aztec culture in Mexico. Tlatelolco was an Aztec city located in the valley of Mexico near the capital Tenochtitlan. The marketplace of Tlatelolco flourished, as depicted by Rivera, due to the trading of luxury goods and food production. Baskets of these goods are in overabundance in the foreground. The people are draped in traditional Aztec clothes and adorned in turquoise, which signifies social status. The buildings in the background allude to a civilization. He purposefully selected imagery to combat the uncivilized stereotype of both Indigenous people and modern Mexicans. By elevating the Aztec emperor in the center of the composition, Rivera is celebrating pre-Hispanic culture rather than Eurocentric ideology or American imperialism.

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Saturnino Herrán, Legend of the Volcanoes, 1910, Triptych, oil on canvas

The painting consists of three narrative panels. Each rectangular panel depicts a personification of the two volcanoes with a red pigment frame. Popocatépetl is viewed as a light skinned woman whereas Iztaccíhuat is a darker skinned man. In the first panel, the man is kneeling behind the kneeling woman. His arms are wrapped around her. The second panel depicts the man with white hair, arms horiztonally stretched, and his back is towards the viewer. The woman is standing and leaning away from her lover. The third panel is just the man sitting on the ground with his forehead resting on the palm of his hand.

The names of the volcanic mountains—Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl–are derived from the Mexican Indigenous language Nahuatl spoken by the Aztecs. Popocatépetl translates to “White Woman,” and Iztaccíhuatl translates to “Smoking Mountain.” The Aztecs personified the mountains in the legend. In effect, an intertwinement between the land, culture, and the people began, and the environment gained importance to both Indigenous and modern Mexicans. According to the legend, an Aztec emperor gave permission to one of his warriors, Popocatepetl, that he could marry his daughter, Iztaccíhuatl, if he returned successful from war. However, a rival suitor lied to Iztaccíhuatl and stated that her betrothed died in battle. Grief-stricken, she transformed into a mountain as did Popocatepetl when he returned to find his love had died.

Herrán was inspired by the Aztec legend of the two lovers who were separated by war and only reunited after death transformed them into the mountains. Each panel visually depicts part of the narrative. However, Herrán alters the legend. In the script written on the bottom of the first panel Herrán incorporates the tension between race. Leading up to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, tension between Indigenous cultures and European influence began in defining Mexicanness. The princess is depicted as white whereas her lover is Indian. Herrán’s variation embodies relevant political issues in modern Mexico within an ancient legend. Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl becomes a representation of national pride in both ancient and modern Mexico. Futhermore, the volcanoes become a reminder of the history of the landscape.

 

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Daniel Egerton, Gust of Wind on Summer, Iztaccíhuatl, c. 1834, Oil on canvas on masonite, Banco Nacional de México S.N.C., Mexico City

Egerton depicts a close study of the Iztaccíhuatl’s ridge. Repetitions of triangular planes are in the foreground. The windward side of the volcano extends from the lower half the canvas towards the center at the diagonal.  Boulders are along this plane. By depicting another shadow on the lower left corner extending towards the center, Egerton produces dimension and depth. Egerton depicts a gust of wind that sweeps across the high horizon to soften the division on the canvas. The high horizon is a device to display the grandeur scale of the mountain. Only a small gray-blue portion of the sky is visible.

Iztaccíhuatl is an ancient yet active and potentially dangerous volcano that has become an iconic Mexican landmark. In the nineteenth-century traveler artists were allured by the exoticism of Mexico. In the 1830s, Daniel Egerton, a British landscape painter, traveled to Mexico and introduced Romanticism into Mexican art with his companion Baron Gros. On a small canvas he depicts Iztaccíhuatl as part of Mexico’s sublime landscape. The small canvas allows portability for the artist. Furthermore, the small canvas is easier to complete a study of a specific fleeting moment with a specific atmospheric light source from the top of the Iztaccíhuatl’s peak. Although he uses natural light sources and realistic hues, the painting is not intended to document the space, which is evident in the cropping of the volcano in the composition.

Egerton’s representation of Iztaccíhuatl promotes preservation of landscape amidst modernization in Mexico because his depiction provides strength and power to the landscape. Dramatic contrast in hues between shadows and highlights is used to depict the landscape. Also, in comparison to the scale of the mountain in the composition, Egerton would be diminutive. Despite the danger of Iztaccíhuatl being an active volcano, Egerton would have climbed the side of the mountain with his companion Gros to paint this scene. Climbing the volcanoes remains a popular tourist activity in Mexico. Tourism in Mexico triggers the complex issues of identifying Mexicanness on both a national and international stage in the nineteenth-century. Landscape, particularly the two legendary volcanoes, becomes representations of Mexico.

José María Velasco The Valley of Mexico from the Santa Isabel Mountain Range, 1875 Oil on canvas Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA, Mexico City

Velasco depicts a picturesque variation of the lush valley of Mexico. In the foreground are three peasants embodied into the landscape. The people are minimized in scale compared to the surrounding environment and appear to be moving away from civilization. In the foreground are mounds towards the left of the composition and parallel rock formations towards the right. Both these structures guide the eye diagonally towards the receding lakes in the center of the composition. Minimized details of iconic architecture are in the background. However, the mountain range and the two volcanoes, Popocatéypetl and Iztaccíhuatl, dominate the horizon line.

The valley of Mexico has been the location for the Mexican capital city for the past seven centuries. Correspondingly, the landscape has evolved and transformed from pre-colonization through the modernization of Mexico. In the distance, small details of an urban environment are depicted. The scale of the civilization in comparison to the grandeur of nature displays the significance and admiration for the land by the people of Mexico. Landmarks, such as Popocatéypetl and Iztaccíhuatl, are incorporated into the space despite the scale of each object being unrealistic to the site of vision at this particular angle. Velasco was a renowned student at Academia de San Carlos. He studied under the Italian landscape painter, Eugenio Landesio, who similarly romanticized the topography of Mexico and who became highly influential on the Academic Mexican landscape paintings.

Velasco paints a picturesque and lush Mexican landscape with a naturalistic light that celebrates Mexico. The painting was exhibited at the world’s fairs in both Philadelphia and Paris. Velasco’s post-Revolutionary landscape painting became an international representation of the beauty in Mexico. The painting also combats the negative reputation that Mexico had on the international stage. The abundance of nature nostalgically portrays historic landmarks and promotes a national pride in the dominating rural landscape in Mexico. Amidst a period of division in social class and ethnic race, Indigenous cultures in binary opposition to European influence, the painting by Velasco becomes a non-ethnic portrait of the country that neither required knowledge of historical context nor contemporary politics to appreciate.

 

 

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David Alfaro Siqueiros, Study, 1941-1942, Charcoal and conte crayon drawings on paper, MOLAA Permanent Collection

Siquerios depicts the dominating urban grid system that can only be viewed from an aerial perspective.  The contrast between black and white provides depth in the composition and three-dimensionality to the diagonal lines and cylindrical shapes. Siquerios uses linear perspective that guides the viewer’s eyes towards the high horizon. In the background are geometrical and cubist-inspired depictions of the two iconic volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The use of charcoal provides an industrial aesthetic by referencing machinery rather than the unsaturated colors associated with Mexico. The overlapping of cylindrical shapes provokes a densely populated space and alludes to the chaos of modern urban cities.

Aerial photograph impacted the artwork of Mexican artist Siqueiros. The technological advancements of modernity provided a new perception of the land. Photography became one of the most influential inventions on aerial artwork. Documentation of the landscape required panoramic views of the spaces in Mexico, similarly to satellite photos. By attaching cameras to planes, engineers were able to view the entire layout of the city and provide photos of Mexico from a new perspective. In effect, the streets of Mexico appeared as lines, and the buildings as geometric shapes. Painters, such as Siqueiros, began imitating that perception of viewing the city from this new aerial perspective. Since photography also captured an instant realistic depiction of the landscape, painters also gained more liberty to explore abstract and geometric stylizations of landscape unique to paint as a medium.

Simultaneously, Mexico City in the valley of Mexico has developed into an industrial and urban setting. Rather than an abundance of rural land, the space has become a grid of streets and buildings with a high population. Siqueiros depicts the chaos of urbanization in a geometrical style. By incorporating Popocatépetyl and Iztaccíhuatl, Siqueiros identifies the otherwise abstract landscape as the valley of Mexico. The two volcanoes remain in existence and maintain a strong presence despite the industrialization of the space amidst the modernization of Mexico. In the painting, Popocatépetyl and Iztaccíhuatl also signify historical pride in Mexican landscape. By incorporating the mountains in the background, Siquerios inserts the binary opposition of land preservation and urbanization.

 

Bibliography

Acevedo, Esther. “Mexico: A Landscape Revisited.” 15-27. Accessed March 15, 2016.

Ades. “José María Velasco.” 100-09. Accessed March 17, 2016.

Instituto Nacional De Bellas Artes/Museo De Arte Alvar Y Carmen T. De Carrillo Gil.       “Siqueiros and Photography: From the Source to the Optic Device.” News release, 2010. Accessed March 17, 2016.

Macías, Eugenia. “ICA Foundation Historical Archive: History, Technology and the           Specific Nature O the Aerial Gaze in Mexico.” In Transformations in Mexico’s Urban Landscape. Representation and Visual Record, edited by Peter Krieger,        212-19.

Medina, Yoma, Maria Rebeca Martos Lopez, and Luis Alberto. “Tlatelolco: Shop                            Window of the Aztec Empire.” UNESCO Courier 49, no. 11 (November 96): 14.            Accessed March 14, 2016.

Oles, James. Art and Architecture in Mexico. New York City: Hudson&Thames, 2013.

Ramírez Rojas, Fausto. Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra Del         Fuego to the Arctic. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.