Dec 18, 2013


With the approaching Winter Solstice, I have been considering all the gifts of that might come our way this time of year. Some of the gifts I ask for are clarity, insight, awakening. One gift that stands out on my GRATITUDE LIST is the gift I call Freedom of Ceremony. It doesn't sound like a big deal, does it? I mean, Christians have Freedom of Religion. But what do we call Freedom of NO Religion?

In planning and preparing for a ceremonial gathering I've been invited to, I was working on something light. Something white.... musical....  poetic. But then a different something popped into my head that propelled me into the studio. I found myself in the company of the witches, healers and wisewomen burned at the stake, and the Spanish Inquisition, and other things I hadn't meant to be thinking about today.  A new huipil was born, one I hadn't ever imagined to create. It is called HERETICS AND HEALERS. 



It began as two perfectly clean sheets of rich, cottony paper, as white as I had been imagining for a Solstice Ceremony. Taking it out to my back patio, to the area known to some of my friends as "the bruja's burning place," I hung it on the brick wall. At a height that was level with my own body, it began to speak to me of all the wisdom that has gone up in flames, literally, since the beginning of patriarchy. All the wisdom that now, today, we must learn to reclaim as our birthright.


 Call it magic, call it brujeria. 

 It is our right to joy, consciousness, love and wellness. 

 A deep re-connection to all that is. 


And so, on this Winter Solstice, I open my heart to the wisdom of the grandmothers, the guardians, the guides, the healers, all those who went before and all those who are here now, the lightbringers we so need right now. This I do for those who will come after we leave this place. 

Nov 17, 2013


It is so rewarding and exciting to see laid out before me, this path of bliss which of course includes two of my favorite passions: art and travel. You are invited to join me in any of these locations in 2014:

Feb. 4 - 16, Museo Ixchel, Guatemala City
Mar. 1 - 31, Biblioteca Henestrosa, Oaxaca City
Jul. 5 - Aug. 3, Santo Domingo, Antigua, Guate.

All three exhibitions will have the same title, HUIPILES CONTEMPORANEOS, and all will have some of the same works depending on the space variations. Each venue will allow for at least one installation, which will be done on-site according to materials available. 

The first exhibition, Museo Ixchel, houses one of the most varied and extensive collections of huipils anywhere. Check out their website: and if you happen to be in Antigua during those two weeks, you really must spend some time seeing their collection and the renovations. When I get a firm date for the opening reception, I'll post it for all to see. We plan on hiring a shuttle from Antigua for it, to make it really easy and fun for visitors.

Oct 6, 2013


Sometimes there is just nothing as pleasing as women working together, talking, sharing, laughing or crying, and I confess, we did some of each in this workshop. Olga's weaving studio, Indigo, served as a perfect space, we had the front half while her weavers worked in the back area on their looms. In the usual magical way, all the right people showed up to participate, and there was a perfect combination of experienced, intermediate and beginner energy.

Judy and Jane work at one end, talking and laughing and working it all out. 

Jane, Mary, Linda and Judy busily designing, deciding, cutting and gluing.

Our trusty help Emy at the ready, who needs their brushes cleaned?

Answering questions and giving advice, I love teaching this
workshop to people who say they aren't artists.

In creating our own huipil, we talk about using it as a container, where acceptance, forgiveness and transformation have a place to coexist. The following quote by Toko-Pa really speaks to this process:
 "We must give the story of our misfortunes a home. This always seeking to start anew, to cover our eyes and elude some pain, eventually only makes refugees of our wounds..... We
must be willing to say their, gather them and feed them with our remembering until they acquiesce as the great allies that they are."

Sep 20, 2013


I am so excited to announce an upcoming 
 in Antigua, Guatemala. 

Judy Sadlier, who came from Guatemala for my last workshop, has invited me to present the same material there in Antigua. She has secured the wonderful studio space of Olga Reiche, INDIGO, and the dates are set for Thurs/Fri, Oct. 3/4.

I love Antigua so much, and all the surrounding villages where women weavers still create the most amazing huipils, some very traditional and others more modern. Over the years, I've come to know some of them, and this time, we'll be meeting with Petronila Méndez, the grande dame of huipils at the Antigua mercado as we initiate THE HUIPIL PROJECT.

about the work :
In "Walk in Beauty," you might notice that the center panel features a person with a head bundle. Certainly one sees a lot of this in indigenous cultures, and often in places like Guatemala, Chiapas and Oaxaca. 

Did you know that the spanish word Llevar means "to carry" and also "to wear?" Because before suitcases and bags, wearing a thing was the way to carry it. It can be a perfect way to carry a bundle of things one needs that day, while still having hands free for shopping, kids, selling, etc.  It can also be the only way to cross a river and end up on the other side with something dry to wear. This week I've been thinking about it in regard to all the displaced people due to flooding, from Colorado to Mexico to Guatemala. So many missing, so many dead, and those who survived may have left their homes with nothing more than something they could put on their heads. How do I, the artist, speak about this?

I didn't know it at the time I created the work, but afterwards emerged a prayer for all those displaced. Those whose lives hinge on their ability to walk away, to just walk one step at a time, to walk with beauty, grace, dignity and hope. Some of you may recognize the title, it's from an ancient Navajo chant I learned many years ago from Annie Kahn in New Mexico. On those days when just putting one foot in front of the other is a chore, we can sing this chant and continue down our path, trusting that it will lead us in the right direction. Walk in beauty!


Sep 9, 2013


 "The path is the goal. It has one distinct characteristic: it is not prefabricated. It doesn't already exist. The path that we're talking about is the moment by moment evolution of our experience, the moment by moment evolution of the world of phenomena, the moment by moment evolution of our thoughts and emotions. The path is uncharted. It comes into existence moment by moment and at the same time drops away behind us."

- Comfortable With Uncertainty by Pema Chodron

Kathleen ponders her design ideas.
None of us, neither students or this teacher, could have predicted the absolute flow that we encountered this week as we worked and played together on what we like to call "our stuff." From the moment the workshop began, with a presentation of my huipil collection and a brief explanation of the history and traditions, to contemporary thought in regards to symbolism, metaphor and materials, the energy swept us all into an exquisite excitement that lasted for two days. 

Judy wonders how she's going to sew a snake.

Patricia contemplates the nearly blank canvas.

 Two students, unbeknownst to each other, had brought heirloom aprons to incorporate into their huipils. After much debate, one ended the other claimed hers as a bit of wholeness that was needed for her to survive in tact. What do aprons have to do with huipils? Women's work, of course! We stitched, we glued, we cut, we ate, and we talked. Alot!  As women do.

Excitement prevails when something goes
the way you want it to!
Placement of objects and focus!

Tears were shed, laughter was shared, creativity soared and madness ruled! Nothing had to make sense, everything was perfect as it was, no right, no wrong, just following the creative path as far as we could in the allotted time. 

Freeing the mind makes for too many choices.

Strangers became friends, scraps became art, personal histories became intertwined with imagination. 

Some of the themes we played with:

Old ways of being 

Beliefs no longer held 
Hoped-for experiences  
Past actions vs being present 
Who we think we are 
Who others think we are.

All get concealed and revealed, revealed and concealed, until they blend, and we accept them. They're beautiful.... we are who we are because of them!

Says Patricia: 
"I have wanted to work with Lena for many years now and was thrilled when she announced the Pathmakers-Huipil Workshop. What a pleasure to work for two days with others making personal art. The studio-artist's home sings with creativity. Between the surroundings and Lena's supportive, guiding presence my vision for what might be was surpassed. YES!"

Says Kathleen:
"Any time you can work with an artist in their studio, jump at the chance! I was lucky to hear about Lena's workshop in time to attend and enjoyed every minute living in her particular and beautiful world of visual art. Working with new materials and concepts I learned to expand my creative horizons and now feel inspired to take risks, think way outside my various boxes and deeply contemplate my creative Path"

Says Judy: 
"After signing up I found myself very occupied remembering my entire life and mentally searching for ways to represent it tangibly. Gathering my materials, I traveled to Mexico from Guatemala, and what a joy! Lena is a gentle inspiration as a workshop leader and a lovely person. The group was compatible as we all worked and talked and shared our past lives. And each of us had a rewarding and big start on the final image we created at the workshop to take  home and complete."

The gift of sharing this huipil path with others is that it's not just in the viewing but in the doing!  Next workshop: Oct. 21 / 22. Email me if you're interested,  
Class size is limited.

Sep 1, 2013


(Veracruz, 1501 – 1530)

a woman called by so many names!

This child’s dress, patterned with the calendar glyphs of the Pochtecas, is also layered with gauze to simulate a veil between La Malinche and us. Called a traitor by some, a liberator and mother of the new race by others, a veil exists through space and time, making it impossible for us to ever fully know her own story. 

A DRESS FOR MALINTZIN, mixed media, 17x21", 2009
MENSAJES GUARDADOS, Galeria 6, Mineral de Pozos

At the age of 10, her parents sold her to a band of traveling merchants, the Pochtecas. They resold her at 13, to Chocun Putun, as a maid in waiting. Seeing her exceptional talents, they then presented her, along with 19 other women, to Hernán Cortés. He made her into his translator, his guide, his concubine, eventually having children by her. Christianized, she became Doña Marina. As his reluctant accomplice, she is negated still today, and nowhere are her own words recorded.

Images from early codices show La Malinche speaking for Cortés, wearing a long huipil.

In July, on a trip to Mexico City, I was again reminded of her while visiting the Museo de la Ciudad. The building that houses it was built on the ancient site of the Tenochtitlan causeway, and these codex images most likely represent the first meeting between Cortés and Moctezuma. 

Jun 29, 2013


Who are YOU on this journey of life?
What paths have you taken that bring you to NOW?


Come join me for this 2-day workshop where we will explore ideas about the journey, the individual and the collective path, the things we save and the things we treasure. I'll share some some historical reference to the huipil, and why we use it for this workshop. Some pieces from my own collection of huipils from Oaxaca to Guatemala will be on display as well.

We're all on this journey together! Bring your own ephemera, all other materials will be provided, including a blank huipil made of canvas or paper on which to begin your own personal Pathmaker. We'll embellish with paint, collage, fabric, thread, found objects and of course, YOUR ephemera. We'll glue, stitch, hammer and wire, until your huipil is ready for hanging. You'll go home with a finished piece and a rod on which to hang it.

DATES: Thurs / Fri, Sep. 5/6, 10 - 3
COST: 1,900 pesos, includes all materials
ADDRESS: Carlos del Castillo 12A, Col. Guadalupe
Please call or email if you have questions. 
studio: 121.0621   cel: 415.103.3028
from a U.S. cel: 521.415.103.3028
Feel free to share this with your friends!

Jun 20, 2013


Today I was reminded by a friend in Antigua, Guatemala, about a huipil book I made a few years ago. Judy Sadlier, who I met last time I visited that amazing San Miguelish kind of city, is helping me put together an exhibition, tentatively titled The Huipil Project. In looking at my website, she had come across Singing Bird, an homage to murdered Afghani poet Nadia Anjuman

SINGING BIRD, altered book, mixed media, 2009
Galeria 6, Mineral de Pozos

In her email, Judy said she has a thing for larks, and wondered if I might send her something more about the poem. Reading that email, I was called right back to the moment I first heard about Nadia and started researching her life, her death, her words, now memorialized forever rather than silenced.

(private collection, San Francisco)

Nadia Anjuman
translation by T.S. Kerrigan

My wings are closed... I cannot fly,
She wrote before she plummeted,         
A creature less of earth than sky,

A lark that bullies killed with stones,
She fell to earth, her music stilled,
A broken heap of shattered bones. 

What gift like hers endures for long
Where ignorance flings stones at art,
And bullies put an end to song?
To choose to sing's an act of will,
She had to know instinctively
A singing bird's the first they kill.

Book cover, SINGING BIRD
Nadia was martyred, killed by her husband for her love of words. This story prompted me to read Christina Lamb's book Sewing Circles of Herat, which was the name of an underground school for women who wanted to read and write when it became forbidden to do so in Afghanistan. Re-creating and re-membering stories of silenced women like this have become my life's work, and the huipil continues to be the perfect container for them.

Mar 22, 2013


Jyoti's huipil is an homage to the 23 yr. old  woman who died after she was gang raped on a bus in Delhi, India in December, 2012 It is also an homage to her father, the hero in this tragic tale. Overcoming the traditions of secrecy and shame that have always surrounded rape in his culture, he has spoken her name publicly: "Her name is Jyoti Singh Pandey."  He has denounced the culture of rape in his country, and the shame that goes with it, so that his daughter's life and her death will not be forgotten.  

  The small blue patch peeking out beneath the veil is embroidered in gold thread with the words "imagine a world without violence", or something like that, in Hindi. The fabric was purchased on my first trip to Delhi in 2010, the embroidery was done in Nepal. I thought I was making them for the Mariposas. Who would have guessed how it would come to be used in 2013.  Here's to lifting the veil; we must expose the wrong if we are going to change it.


Mar 9, 2013


photo credit: Victoria Lynn Pierce
PATHMAKER was beautiful before the installation, I almost believed it was enough, but given its own room and some props, it became more of perhaps what it wanted to be all along. The tree planted on the viewer's left side creates a space to mentally enter into, to contemplate the safety, or the wisdom, of walking beneath those branches, into whatever may lie beyond. The lone figure is reading a quote written on the wall:

"You enter the forest 
at the darkest point, where there is no path.

Where there is a way or a path,
it is someone else's path.
You are not on your own path."

-Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey   

A tumbleweed, an old suitcase covered in dry leaves and a large hat offering shade from a harsh sun propose the possibility of a long sojourn.

Are you ready to take the step? 

Maps of the world, maps of Mexico, it doesn't matter - they're all upside down anyway. You have no need for them, make your own path!

"Let each man take the path according to his own capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path."

-Sivananda Saraswat

Inside the Pathmaker's pocket is a loose leaf book of "Things Collected Along the Path." Because surely, if you take the path, you will be gifted with treasures that will remain in your heart and your mind for all of your life.

"When the path ignites a soul, there's no remaining in place. The foot touches the ground, but not for long.' - Hakim Sanai

Feb 28, 2013


“Thirst” was inspired by the work of El Anatsui, an artist from Ghana who uses bottle caps, candy and gum wrappers to create monumental works of extraordinary beauty. My huipil-shaped wall hanging, of bottle caps from beer and soft drinks, reminds us that these kinds of liquids cannot quench our thirst, whether the thirst be in our bodies, our hearts or our minds. It’s a symbol of how we live so much of our lives eating and drinking and taking and collecting, and still we’re never satisfied. In the gallery, “Thirst” cascades down the wall into a pool of more caps, sand and tumbleweeds, the dry lake bed of our souls’ yearnings.

Jan 12, 2013


THE HUIPIL; A REVISIONING, solo exhibition by Lena Bartula
Happenings Gallery, Mesones 57, San Miguel de Allende
Reception: Jan. 12, 2013  -  5 to 7 pm
Continues through Jan. 24

“My obsession with huipiles began years ago in Mexico City, with an old woman in a blouse of the most intricate and dynamic weaving my eyes had ever seen. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it was then that I became a huipilista. Since that day, I have loved, collected and worn huipiles, travelled to find them, traded to acquire them, because they speak to me in the language of art, and of heart.

In 2004, I felt the next step, as an artist, was to create huipiles not meant to be worn. I began to think imaginally about the process; I was not a weaver and probably would never be. But stitching I do know. Paper, canvas and thread are the materials; themes of women’s issues, equality, truth and history are the voice. Often I combine incongruent materials such as cornhusks, rose petals, plastic, milagros and found objects as a way of weaving together ideas. Letters or poems often show up, honoring the relationship between the words text, textile and texture.

The central theme that runs through this work is that the traditional huipil is a “cover up,” hiding vital parts of a woman’s body: the breasts and the belly. My aim is to expose rather than conceal the essence of a woman’s story, uncovering and revisioning, defining and illuminating.”   -Lena Bartula, 2013

"Mi obsesión con huipiles comenzó hace años en la Ciudad de México, al conocer una mujer mayor que lucia una blusa con los más detallados y dinámicos tejidos que mis ojos jamás habían visto. Aunque yo no lo sabía en ese momento, fue cuando me convertí en una huipilista. Desde ese día, he amado, coleccionado y lucido huipiles, he viajado para encontrarlos, negociado para adquirirlos, porque los huipiles me hablan en el lenguaje del arte, y del corazón.

En 2004, sentí que mi siguiente paso, como artista, sería crea huipiles con la intención de no utilizarlos. Empecé a pensar creativamente sobre el proceso, yo no era una tejedora y probablemente nunca lo sería. Pero sí sé coser. Papel, tela y el hilo son los materiales. Los temas son cuestiones de la mujer; la igualdad, la verdad y la historia son la voz. A menudo combino materiales incongruentes, como hojas de maíz, pétalos de rosa, plástico, milagros y objetos encontrados, como una manera de entrelazar ideas. Las cartas o poemas suelen aparecer en honor a la relación entre las palabras texto, textil y textura. El tema central de este trabajo es que el huipil tradicional es un "encubrimiento" que oculta las partes vitales del cuerpo de la mujer: los pechos y el vientre. Mi objetivo es exponer en vez de ocultar la esencia de la historia de una mujer, descubrir y re-visionar,  definir y iluminar. "
-Lena Bartula, 2013