Dec 15, 2016



But all of these are true, so it's just the end of another year. Each December is for me, another ending, another beginning, due to my birthday being this month as well. 

2016 began with preparations for my solo exhibition at El Nigromante Bellas Artes, titled HILOS. (Threads)
Lena Bartula's HILOS exhibition, Bellas Artes, San Miguel de Allende
(photo credit: Hal Schade)

365 Huipiles for 2016, Lena Bartula, Bellas Artes, San Miguel de Allende
(photo credit: Hal Schade)

In July, I travelled to San Cristobal de las Casas, for a stint at the paper-making workshop Taller Leñateros. I was so inspired by the process, the town, and then, by the director, Javier, that he and I began to work towards an exhibition of HILOS. He secured all three salas at Casa de la Enseñaza, a spectacular cultural center in the heart of San Cris. It's set to open March 4, 2017.

Casa de la Enseñaza, San Cristobal de las Casas

And as I was enjoying a nice autumn vacation with the family, I got an invitation to show here in San Miguel with my friend Alberto Lenz, the director of Bellas Artes. He is a prolific painter, sculptor and jeweler, and I'm honored to be sharing an exhibition with him that runs from December 16 to February 13, at Bar Berlin. For this, I made new works, smaller and two-dimensional, for the first time in 5 years. Many of these are re-visioned, re-cycled works that were never resolved, but are now finally what they wanted to be.

Promotion for Armonías en Oposición / Opposing Harmonies

For now, it feels like the END OF A REMARKABLE YET UNREMARKABLE YEAR. I'm grateful for it, and for all my friends and supporters who continue to fill my life with abundance, frivolity, creativity, meaning and love.


Sep 5, 2016


My obsession with huipiles began in 1995 in Mexico City, when I met an elderly woman named Mercedes sitting outside the bank where I was on the hunt for an ATM machine, aka Caja Automatico. Mercedes was perched on a step, in the shade of the bank building, selling a few colorful things that caught my eye.  Wearing a blouse of the most intricate and dynamic weaving that I had ever seen, she told me it was called a huipil. Then she regaled me with stories of her village, San Antonio Aguas Calientes, in Guatemala. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it was then that I became a huipilista. Since that day, due to my encounter with Mercedes and the first huipil I ever bought.... 

Lena Bartula / first huipil in an ever-expanding collection.

.... I have loved, collected and worn huipiles, travelled to find them and traded to acquire them. To this day, they continue to speak to me in the language of art, and of heart. I didn’t know until years later, what influence they would have in my life and my art.
And I didn't know until recently how much I wish this huipil was still whole. I split the seam, years ago, and gave it the other half to my ex-other half. I hope he's still enjoying his as much as I enjoy mine. 

The second part of that story is this only two of Mercedes' meager offerings went home with me. Besides the huipil, I also bought this mask from her. 
Lizard Woman mask, collection of Lena Bartula

No one would be very surprised to learn that it turned into this collection that now lives in my Mexican kitchen:

Mask collection, Mexico and Guatemala

Aug 30, 2016


Lidia Lopez, from San Antonio Aguas Calientes, is a maestra in every sense of the word. An expert weaver on a backstrap loom, she also knows the foot loom, embroidery techniques, thread preparation, dyeing, selling, teaching, and the symbolism of the figures on any given huipil from any region of Guatemala.  I'm not sure there's anyone better I could have connected with, not only because of all that, but that she's a genuinely kind, loving, brilliant, fabulous being on all levels.
Lidia Lopez and her bird, Tikal
 When I was in Antigua, we collaborated on a huipil, my first experience ever on a backstrap loom. She and her sister Blandena created the warp, then she and I together worked on the weft, recycling both plastic bags and fabric strips. Here's a bit of what Kerstin Sabene and Emy Bartula captured on camera. 
Blandena and Lidia on their patio in San Antonio Aguas Calientes.

Not finished, but happy that we got this far in only 2 weeks. The remainder will have to be done in my studio in San Miguel de Allende. Gracias por todos, amigas queridas!

Jul 15, 2016


Last week, La Huipilista spent a few days at Taller Leñateros, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. San Cris, as it is lovingly called by some, is in many ways very similar to San Miguel de Allende. Gorgeous colonial architecture, grand churches and precious plazas, colorful facades, although with more varied color choices from blue to green to hot pink. Upscale restaurants of every kind, near perfect climate but with more rain, and the same friendly, generous people. But that might be where the similarity ends.

 Ample sidewalks and walking streets that ring the central plaza abound with sidewalk cafes, buildings that are lower, often not more than one or two stories tall. Indigenous peoples from surrounding communities, offering artesania and wearing tipica traje, i.e. huipiles, and the women's skirts are made from sheepskin as often as from the loom. With all of this, it reflected the Mayan influence of their brothers and sisters across the border in Guatemala. Indigenous languages too, mostly Tzotzil, are incredibly well preserved, and they speak it more often than Spanish.

Even though I had planned to write about the workshop I took, I'm going to continue down this line of thought and feature some of the fabulous huipiles and other textiles. The Museo de los Altos de Chiapas and Museo de los Trajes Regionales "Sergio Castro" had some examples of the finest clothing I've seen. 

And so, I leave you to drool over these, until the next time, when I tell you about the paper making workshop at Taller Leñateros.  

May 8, 2016


'Ni Una Mas' is a slogan used by mothers when their slain daughters, victims of Femicide, are found in Ciudad Juárez.  The murder of women, whether in Mexico or other parts of the world, rather than decreasing, is on the increase. I wanted to call attention to this on March 8, International Women's Day, with an art intervention. 

Pink crosses remember the victims of femicide in Ciudad Juárez

Today being Mothers' Day, I decided to write about it. Because it's the MOTHERS who make the pink crosses, who mourn, and who march in the streets, push for legislation, and cry out for justice. These are warrior women, as are the mothers of the 43 students who refuse to stop asking the tough questions.  

Arriving at the Bellas Artes that morning, my friend Emerson Pirot and I carried pink crosses, candles, flowers, and a huipil I had created in 2009, to commemorate  these women.
Ni Una Mas huipil, Lena Bartula, 2009

Along with  Antonio, the ever-helpful groundskeeper, we began to trace a figure in the dirt of the courtyard. 
Then the Ni Una Mas huipil was placed on top of the figure, and we completed the space with the crosses and other things we had brought. As we placed the last pieces, it began to rain, heavily and unseasonably, so much that we had to stop for a few hours. 


We watched helplessly as the huipil sank into the rocks that were there to hold it down in the wind. At 4 pm, the sun came out, and some members of Ser Mujer along with other friends, gathered to join us in a small ceremony. Standing in a semi-circle, each of us read aloud a name of one woman from Juárez, plus that of any woman we knew who had been a femicide victim. Due to the rains, we were unable to light a candle, but the spirit of sisterhood, motherhood, and solidarity shone brightly.
Ni Una Mas ceremony at Bellas Artes, International Women's Day 2016
Recently, Annie Leibovitz viewed and photographed a section of the rio with pink crosses in Chimalhuacan.  

Apr 5, 2016


Some are tributes, others are drawings, poems. Some ask forgiveness, some grant pardon. Some are simple, other prodigious. Such are the "Letter to Mother" - aka MATRIX. 
Interactive at its core, it invites visitors to sit, contemplate, and then write on one of the small paper huipils provided. The concept of Mother, I explain, is varied and vast, open to personal interpretation. 'Mother' is one of the common threads of our existence; we all come from a mother, in human terms. That idea alone binds us together as a species. 

Matrix Huipil Window Project, Bellas Artes, 2016

Brothers enjoy their own notes to mother. 

Visiting school groups love the Matrix!

The variety of Mother terms gets interpreted according to one's notion of the word.

"When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me....."

A thank you letter to Mother Nature.

Prayer to Divine Mother

Mom, you are inspiration. I love you.
"I never found sufficient words, poems, songs, that can
describe the immensity of my love for you."

... and many just wait for translations because I really don't know what they say. 


Mother / Madre 
Grandmother / Abuela
Godmother / Madrina
Fairy Godmother / Hadamadrina
Divine Mother / Madre Divina
Holy Mother / Madre Santa
Mother Earth / Madre Tierra
Pachamama / Mother Earth
Mother Mary / Madre Maria
Tonantzin / Mother Goddess
Coatlicue / Mother of the gods
Chicomceoatl / Corn Mother 
la Virgen de Guadalupe /Virgin of Guadalupe
Green Tara / Mother Creator
Kwan Yin / Mother of Compassion

There must be hundreds more that I've missed. 
Please feel free to leave yours in the comments!

Mar 2, 2016


Last blog post, I described how many of the works in HILOS are actually collaborative, community projects that would not/ could not have been realized without the support, contributions, and assistance of many friends. This is so powerful, important, and also so much fun, creating an atmosphere of 'We' in the sala at Bellas Artes. 

Today I want to feature two collaborations, beginning with LAS TRAZAS (TRACES). In my post on August 17, 2015, I told you about Marisa Boullosa and her donation of banners from an exhibition. The banners were from her exhibition FRONTERA HERIDA  (WOUNDED BORDER).
Las Trazas has created much attention and interest from visitors, often bringing tears and provoking deep conversations. My young friend Josué from Honduras, who you might have met in a previous post, came to see it when he was here, before heading down to Antigua to live with his mom. So many of you helped him with his bus fare, and arts+activism was again part of this body of work.
Traces of a life in transit. El Nigromante Bellas Artes,
collaboration with Marissa Boullosa. 
The other collaboration, with Wendy Coulson Catalan, is LA LIBERTAD (Liberty or Freedom.) The iron cage I had for some years, and I kept seeing it as a skirt. My neighbor Felipe is an iron-worker, and after making my doors, drapery rods, etc, I asked if he'd like to be an art assistant as well. He made this perfect stand for the cage, and it twists apart for ease in packing and delivering. 
La Libertad, collaboration with Wendy Coulson Catalan. 
Back to Wendy! I asked if she could help me make a felted huipil for this piece, because it's her business, "Felpa Felt", and she is quite the expert. We met at her studio and began playing with colors, threads, size requirements. Her assistant, Sol, actually ended up doing the hard and heavy work. Once I began to watch, I knew there was no way I would be able to do it! It requires so much strength, I was in awe watching her manipulate it. Wendy herself made this perfect purple bird in no time at all. Ana Thiel and Robin Loving each had a gardener that collected branches in their yards, and brought them to my studio. Ana even found small bird nests, as seen in the cage. Denise Baca, an artist who also works part time at Bellas Artes, built the nest during the installation, with a little help from Orlando Alandia, George Wyklidge and me. Friends stopped by in the following days, adding and weaving their own scraps, feathers, colors to the nest, just as a bird would do. 
 HILOS continues at the Sala Principal of Bellas Artes El Nigromante, through April 24.