Feb 23, 2014


Book art has been one of my favorite methods of capturing /containing / combining ideas, materials and techniques within the confines of a smallish structure. I love creating huipil books, such as these two just completed for HUIPILES CONTEMPORANEOS in Oaxaca next month.
EPHEMERA, handmade huipil book
pages from EPHEMERA
pages from EPHEMERA

Sometimes, I like to simply choose an old book with an interesting title, and use that to inspire the theme. Filling it with collage, photo transfer, paint, writing, etc. it becomes more than the book that was sitting there unread, damaged by moisture or neglect. Here's one that started out with a title I liked, but when I began working in it, I changed the theme to reflect a poem I'd read by Delmira Agustini, titled "Nocturna." Her voice and her life were silenced at the age of 27, and she left us with some sensual yet deeply haunting poetry.

pages from NOCTURNO
NOCTURNO, altered book

pages from NOCTURNO

Other handmade or altered books from the past includes these and more:

pages from WITNESS, a carousel book, 2001

SOL Y LUNA fold-out, pop-up book from a cigar box, 2005

One advantage of traveling with my art, as I've been doing this month with an exhibition at the Museo Ixchel, is meeting new people and making new connections within a community. Thanks to my friend Judy Sadlier in Antigua, I'm fortunate to meet more and more new friends each time I come.  This trip, she and her friends invited me to present another workshop. The last one, in October, was a huipil-making workshop,(seen here in a previous blogpost titled WOMEN'S WORK.)  This time, however, I decided to teach altered books instead of contemporary huipils. 

The location of the workshop, which happened last Thursday and Friday, was one fantastic site: the open-air restaurant at the Vivero Escalonia. 

Escalonia gardens

Situated on the grounds of a large nursery, it includes gardens, fountains, sculptures, tiendas offering everything from skin products to artesania, healthy breakfast and lunch choices and wi-fi.

Artmaking in the covered patio.

And if that isn't enough, so many covered patios that we were able to secure one of them to do our work. And work we did, if you can call it that, but we don't of course. We call it play and as you can see, it's serious fun. 

Thank you to Judy, Ellen, Irene, Letty and Tova, for joining me in this workshop, I applaud your courageous creativity, bold enthusiasm and genuine love of experiment. I believe you made those sad old books very happy.


"At first I worried that I wouldn't be able to come up with ideas, but once I let my mind relax and opened it to all the possibilities that the materials offered, the ideas and the work flowed along. Allowing myself the freedom to change a page, recreate it, was very liberating. Lena is so helpful with suggestions, and I love her style of teaching."  - Irene

"Before this workshop, it had never occurred to me to alter a book, but once I got started it was great fun. Lena had so many good ideas to inspire us, and although I didn't finish the project in two days, I feel I can do it now on my own." - Ellen

"The workshop really opened a path for me, altering poetry books and poet's biographies. When I came home, I found a biography of Walt Whitman, can't wait to start." - Letty

Feb 12, 2014


A reception for the artist is generally thought of as a time for celebrating the artist. That's how it sounds, right? But as the artist, it might be something else, something quite different. For me the artist, it's about celebrating the art that finally made its way into the public eye, after months or years packed away in a box, hung on a lonely wall in some room or other, then stashed in a suitcase to get to wherever it's going. It steps out and says "hey there, I made it!!" 

Great turnout at the Museo Ixchel for the opening reception.

El Equipo/The Installaion Team: Marlen, me, Wagner, Emy, it took all of us to
install it, and it turned out just perfectly.  Photo credit: Armando Mazariegos.

It's a celebration of the muse, a gratitude party for her guidance, her patience and perserverence. Whether she's been there every moment, or I've had to coax and cajole her to please come back, I know she never really leaves.  
It's always good to see people studying the work, enjoying it up close.

 And thirdly, the reception allows me to celebrate all those who come to see the work, gaze deeply into it, allow themselves to fall into it, to feel it, to listen to it. 

Because that is what brings the work to life. When it's finished in my studio, then installed in a space, it's still really only half complete. But when the visitors arrive, the work is no longer a static collection of materials hanging on a wall or standing on a floor. It becomes involved, engaged. It sings, it speaks, it becomes part of the party. 

Director Cecilia Dias, me, Judy, Emy, and Maria.

And a little bit of it gets to go home with each and every guest, whether in their hearts, their minds or deep down in their souls where they might not even notice it for some time. I'm not just guessing or wishing this, I've heard this from too many people for too many years to believe otherwise. Have you had this experience? I can personally say that I have after attending exhibitions, whether the artists were friends or strangers.

So this is just to say, when you attend your next artist's opening, reception or exhibition, I want you to know and value the impact of your presence there. It's so much more than you might have considered. 

Viva el arte!  Viva la vida!  Viva la vida del arte! 

Feb 1, 2014


When Emy and I were walking around Antigua, we saw a junk store with a sewing machine table out front. We had been talking about creating an installation for "Behind the Label" if only we could find some old sewing machines. 

We went inside, and found several old ones, so we approached the owner, Juan Axel, and asked if any of them would be "se renta." He kept replying "si, se vende." And I kept saying "no, no, se renta." and he was so confused. I guess he had never been asked that before, but when I told him about the exhibition, and explained the importance of showing the machines that were probably used in old textile factories, he agreed to rent them to us for the museum exhibition. 

Juan Axel and me in front of his amazing store.

We then headed to the mercado and bought a few old pieces of clothing. I cut them into strips and attached lengths of them to the existing huipil.

BEHIND THE LABEL installation, featuring the huipil with recycled clothing
strips running to the vintage machines, lined up line a row of workers in a factory.

On installation day, we picked up the machines and headed to the Museo Ixchel. I had imagined putting them on a long table.... three machines with three chairs for imaginary seamstresses. But there was no table to be used, only black pedestals. Exactly three. Well, meant to be, I said. And I have to say, I think it was exactly right. The space worked perfectly for it; what do you think?

We don't have the Behind the Label video ready to accompany it, but when 
we do, the next installation will be even better! All things in their time.