Having already spent too much time this morning reading the NYTimes online – not that much time, actually, but not a lot is needed to get into a news-funk – I will tear myself away from The Issues of the Day to my self-assigned exercise in self-discipline.
Here where we live, St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of single women (and the occasional man) who pray to him for a spouse. Perhaps in a late celebration of his Feast Day (June 13) or maybe just because it was when the time was available at the gallery, last night a group of several women and one man opened their gently satirical show at Caftan Rojo in Coátepec. Caftan Rojo is a modest building, not old, built around a courtyard with a fountain in the center. It may even have been built for its current use as an art and education center, a term which sounds pompous, though the place isn’t.
We arrived a bit after seven and met up with our friend who was exhibiting two pieces. She sat at a low round table surrounded by some of her family and a couple of other friends. It looked like each artist was at such a table with friends and family. Here families not only often eat dinner together, they go to art openings and to Costco together. In fact, one of her friends, a Frenchwoman married to a Mexican said that she looks forward to when her family goes away so much together are they – and, she said, the French are much more enjoyers of solitude than are Mexicans.
And solititude of a sort is what perhaps ironically I suppose, the artists celebrated. If I can translate at all accurately, the double themes of the show were first, that singleness women shouldn’t have to give up their freedom in order to get married – and attendant themes about marriage – and that when we are all free from bonds we allow to be created, when we have time to explore inside our own heads, we can find our own miracles, we don’t have to pray to saints for them.
But there was nothing in-your-face militant about the show, rather gently symbolic pieces of various sorts, including one our friend painted on a box in which she alone (or rather everywoman) was surrounded by objects of nature that she loved: birds and bugs and stars and plants and where you could see huge, ugly modern buildings tumbling. This friend is no amateur nature lover, but an expert birder who tromps through the bosques and selvas and cafetelas with her telescope over her shoulder. She is a beautiful woman, in her late forties I would say, slender and elegant and well-off and married. She also is involved in activities on behalf of battered women and broken families.
She also did a terrific retablo but I am almost out of my self-imposed page limit and want to mention that we were also treated to a performance by an excellent actor as a rather ineffective Saint but very articulate (as the original one was) San Antonio – my Spanish was not good enough to catch all that he said by any means, but I did catch some sarcastic commentary about pederasty among priests: St. Anthony after all was, as he said, single and often seen carrying a child, (the baby Jesus!). It was also clear that this San Antonio had a grumpy relationship with God who seemed not to hear his complaints. Thus, San Antonio had at his command a couple of Zen tools for calming himself.