Dec 29, 2017


As have most of her fans, I've always loved Frida Kahlo's self portrait of her two sides: the indigenous side and her European side. You can read all about the meaning, the analysis, the critic reviews of Las Dos Fridas and still walk away wishing you knew more. 
Las Dos Fridas, Frida Kahlo, 1939
Many artists over the years have replicated this fascinating scenario in their own visionary ways and I decided, while working on dolls for DOLL THERAPY, that it was time to imagine my own version. My Las Dos Frida Barbies is a small theatrical box / shrine with Barbies holding hands, hearts of milagros instead of blood, her sewing scissors, an original Barbie wedding dress, and a Tejuana huipil and skirt hand-sewn by La Huipilista herself. The shrine is set in a rosa mexicana nicho with some of Frida's favorite things: colorful flowers, paint tubes, brushes, mirror and turpentine bucket. 
Las Dos Frida Barbies/ installation by Lena Bartula, 2017

Las Dos Frida Barbies, Lena Bartula, 2017
And now to share with you some of the wild and varied Las Dos Fridas I found on the internet last week. I apologize that I don't have the names of the artists who created them because well, sometimes they just aren't available. If you know the artists, feel free to share with me and our audience. It feels rather exciting and enjoyable to be in league with all these other artists who found themselves entranced and inspired by this same image. 

por Humberto Spindola

Nov 29, 2017


“Doll Therapy”

“A doll is one of the most intimate expressions possible of the human spirit….a commentary on human society, the little world of dolldom reflecting the great, for everything that happens in the great world is reflected in the little. A dollographer, when he studies a doll, studies also people, a social scene; and sometimes there may be only a doll to tell the story.”  Marguerite Young

            The American novelist who scripted this quote was a doll collector and creative writing instructor.  One of her students, Edward Swift, grew up around rag dolls lovingly made by his grandmother, but he confesses “they were something mysterious, not cute or precious.” His work in this exhibition, bundled paper-mache creatures that frolic, haunt, twist and turn, hint at the story of his relationship with those childhood dolls. Swift sees them as people bewildered by the complexities of life, yet with a sense of humor about their journey. Some seem to be waving a flag, others appear to sing; all are thought-provoking.

Edward Swift

            Multidisciplinary and experimental artist Gabriela Buenrostro Solórzano, known in San Miguel as Gaby Black, employs recycled materials such as discarded toys, doll parts and furniture. Embellished and swaddled with yarn, baubles and beads, her hybrid babies are highly textured and colorful. Inspired by natural and organic forms, Black’s work is infused with a sense of the unknown, unexpected and unexplained.
Gaby Black

            A member of Philadelphia’s Dumpster Divers, Ellen Benson says “I look at a bottlecap on the street and see a little hat; my old paintbrushes look like legs.” Her doll people incorporate plastic bags, recycled paper, old doll clothes, toys and other found objects. A natural born storyteller, she sees cigar boxes as houses in which to create a narrative. Benson has agoal of creating 1000 figures; she’s made about 600 so far.
Ellen Benson

            When asked “why dolls?’, Carole Clement proclaims “because I can!” Her dolls, as in her other art, tell her what they want. Some require lengthy layering while others want to be kissed fast and furious. Her work is an attempt to uncover, tame and embrace the spirit of those dolls with mindfulness and nonattachment. Like a midwife, she’s there to listen, massage, or get out of the way so that their mystery can unfold. 
Carole Clement

As for myself, I'm back to repurposing Barbie dolls. She’s a blank canvas, open to endless possibilities, ready for visual messages different from the ones given to the children who collect her and dress her up. Barbie has grown up somewhat since she was invented, but the perfection and proportions still convey an impossible ideal. My dolls, like my other work, play in the realm of social, political and commentary.  
Lena Bartula

All the dolls in this exhibition will be for sale, and the show continues through January 9, 2018.  La Huipilista Artspace is participating in Guadalup/Arte December Art Crawl, a new event I organized with some artist neighbors. All of us live and work in Guadalupe, and all will have different hours that day. 
Participating venues will provide maps of locations and times of events.  

Nov 5, 2017


Every year for Dia de los Muertos, I invite a small group of friends to help me construct an altar for this ancient tradition of honoring those who came before us. Altars at this time of year are called "ofrendas," on which we offer food, drink, sugar skulls, etc. to the visiting souls. 
Dia de los Muertos ofrenda 2017

Everyone brings photos of family and friends who are no longer with us, and we share our memories and stories about them. Often there is a certain focus or dedication, and this year, I chose to use the huipil "Behind the Label" to remember those in the garment industry who have lost their lives in the work of making the clothes we wear. 

Tribute to the garment workers of the world.

Fashion Revolution, a movement begun
after collapse of Rana Plaza

In the photo below, I chose to remember and honor Petronila, or Doña P as she is lovingly called. I met her in Antigua a few years ago, and many of my huipiles and cortes are from her collection. She left us this year, and joins that spiritual legacy of women in the garment industry who beautify us and our world. 


Then yesterday morning, when I walked into the room, I heard a voice say "Release me" and though I don't know which one said it, I knew it was time to disassemble the ofrenda. And so it is. Until next year. 

Oct 17, 2017


La Huipilista Artspace has been open two weeks now, and I'm as excited as ever to have landed in this incredible location, in an old house that transformed beautifully into an art gallery. The inauguration was well-attended; we had fun, wine, sales, and a huge downpour. A portion of all sales that night was donated to earthquake and hurricane victims, shared between Oaxaca, Mexico City, Chiapas, Tepotzlan and Puerto Rico. Thank you all who braved the weather and contributed to a successful first event whose ripples go out far and wide beyond San Miguel and our own loving art community. 

and last week, Jessica Antonelli shot this little interview for Lokkal:

Please stop in to say hi and check out my new space when you're in San Miguel. Hours are 1-5, Thursday - Saturday, and by appointment. The rest of the week I'm in my studio making more art, still on Carlos del Castillo, only a couple of blocks away. 

Sep 13, 2017


One month ago, just as I returned from San Cristobal de Las Casas, a neighbor emailed me to say she was leaving and her rented house was soon to be available. Then she asked if I wanted to have first shot at taking it. Seeing it, I found that it was exactly what I had envisioned; now I'll be opening it as an artspace. If this all sounds strange, let me tell you the back story:

When I was in San Cristobal, repacking 6 big boxes at Taller Leñateros, I was wondering "what now?" What was I going to do with all this work from my exhibition at La Enseñanza? And before that at Bellas Artes? My studio gallery at home is just not big enough and definitely there is not room under my bed for storage. I decided to find a place that would be more public than my house, and also large enough to accommodate more work. Can I just tell you that the location is better than I could have imagined!

It began like this, in the main room... i.e. living 
room turned sala principal. 

With paint and track lights, it became this:

and for the installed exhibition, stay tuned!

but for now, here's the passage gallery:

which became:
before the track lights were installed.

for some reason I have no shots of the secondary
gallery before, when it was the master bedroom.
We'll just leave that room for the next blogpost. 

OPENING is Friday, Sept. 22, 5 - 8 pm
Location is Julian Carrillo #1, Col. Guadalupe
and I'll just tell you now, there is no better location, 
a one-minute walk from my house and studio.
A main walking street from Centro into Guadalupe. 
The official ARTS DISTRICT of San Miguel.

How does it get any better than this?

Aug 12, 2017


Another full moon has passed, a spectacular solar eclipse looms, and I am noticing a pattern of circles popping up in my photos. Because I live too far south to witness this coming cosmic event, I decided to share my personal circular activity here on this blog. May we all celebrate the energy of circle, the essence of round. Dark and light, intense and subtle, large and small, this energy is about all of us. It IS all of us. 

The full moon, the sun, planet Earth and all the planets in the cosmos, all are circles. Even our eyes with which we view them are circles. In exploring the concept of circle, I find it represents unity, wholeness and life cycles. Without beginning or end, it represents inclusivity and its affiliate number is one. We can imagine that when we sit within a circle, we are all equal, one and the same. Being inside the circle, we also feel the safety and protection from anything outside that zone. When someone says they're in or out of their 'comfort zone' I picture that as a circle. 

"Dark Moon Angel"
recycled from a gift of Sees Chocolates

  Here are some huipiles from the 365 4 2015 series, in which I made one small huipil every day in the year 2015.  Looking back at them now from a different viewpoint, I wonder what led me to create so many circular forms. 

"Teach Tolerance"
The circular motion of joining hands says inclusivity. It's going to take
all of us working together to bring balance to our Mother planet.

"Letter to the U.S."
It's Not a Crime to be Black. Living while black, driving
while black, walking while black, it's all is part of the system
that spawned yesterdays tragic events in Charlottesville.  
"Spot On"
Occasionally a day goes just right, you come up with a
solution that works, and the term for that sums it up in these circles.
"Shiva the Destroyer"
Crushing the demon of ignorance, Shiva's dance recalls
the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. All is circular. 
"Connect the Dots"
This one is like "follow the money" when we're trying to
understand how the world works. It's not in "mysterious ways." 
"Que Milagro!"
We all wish for miracles, and maybe they do happen, but
I'm not convinced. What do you think?

To continue further, the following examples show up in my huipils, as
faces, bottle cap textiles and neck openings. 

"Thirst /Sed" (detail)  bottle caps and wire, 2014
We're all longing for something to quench our thirst or hunger.
What is it you thirst for and how do you go about finding it?
Chicomecoatl, Corn Mother, corn husks, iron,
Ceremonia de Té, tea packets and bags, 2016

Circles and round things show up in my photographs of places and things:
Hats on a wall at Sergio Castro's Museo create a wall of circles.
Page from a book about Bolom Chon, by
Taller Leñateros, describes the spots on a jaguar.
Circles and stars or butterflies adorn the front door of
the church in Chamula, Chiapas.
Cans of spray paint on the sidewalk during Festival de
Arte Urbano,with Muros en Blanco.

Life Cycle of Corn shrine, por Maria Godoy,
Milpa: Pueblos de Maíz, Museo de los Artes Populares 

“Life is a full circle, widening until it joins the circle motions of the infinite.”  ― Anaïs Nin

Apr 6, 2017


The fields of the milpa lay fallow, scattered with dried cobs, colorless husks and rotting stalks that weren’t gathered after the last season. Soon, the farmer will bundle them all together and light a fire, burning them and the fields themselves and all else that has found its way there. She watches then, Corn Mother does, because she knows the time of her rebirth is near. A long wooden stick will poke holes in her earthen skin, her children from the last season will be dropped in, and she will wait. 

She will wait in the black soil, for the sun, for the water, for the fresh warm air, before she emerges again. She will emerge from her own earthen skin, giving birth again and again, in tiny green shoots that recall the ancestors, and their ancestors before them.

Blessing Ceremony by Maruch Mendez, inaugurating "Cuentos Cosidos"

 Her people glorify her in ceremony, singing their praise and asking her blessing, burning copal as they go. In return, Corn Mother blesses her people with bountiful crops, if there is sufficient rain, but not more than is needed. If there is sunshine, but not more than is needed. If her people are there to care for her, once again, as they have since the beginning.

With a huge amount of gratitude to Taller Leñateros for Corn Mother's 
face, from the cover of their book "Conjuros y Ebriedades; 
Cantos de Mujeres Mayas." Que un gran honor!!