Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Gin, Grapefruit & Pomegranate Cocktail

Gin, Grapefruit & Pomegranate Cocktail
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2016
A grapefruit cocktail doesn’t need many ingredients to showcase the citrus flavor and intoxicating aroma.  But a perfect marriage is Ruby red grapefruit juice and seasonal pomegranate seeds with a generous splash of gin.  It’s a nice and tart cocktail, but the addition of simple syrup gives it just the right amount of balance.  And to take the cocktail to another level, rim the glass with sugar and crushed red chile flakes.  It’s the tickling boost of flavor to a citrus fruit that is traditionally eaten with chile in México.  You can also use Tajín powder for the rimming of the glasses.  Tajín is a tangy Mexican seasoning that consists of chile peppers, salt, dehydrated lime juice, and crushed dried mango.  

Grapefruits can be available year round, depending on your location, but in the southern US and Mexico, the peak season for the best Ruby red grapefruit starts in November and December.  Ruby red grapefruit has a bright pink/red color and a balanced sweet-tart flavor.

Oh and the pomegranates!  Crushed and mixed with the grapefruit juice makes for a delicious and mighty punch of perfume in your mouth.  Both fruits are unique and powerful antioxidants and the pomegranate season mirrors that of grapefruit, typically between October thru February.  

What makes the cocktail great?  The humble gin, especially one that is supremely English with its aromatic botanicals and juniper berries.  Gin had a history of being the poor people’s choice of drink because of the manner of back alley spirit distilling and the way it was drunk in barns, country celebrations, and peasant gatherings.  But I say let's just enjoy!  

Celebrations call for flavorful cocktails and the perfect expression for a party is a gathering of joy among friends and family, and terrific good cheer.  

Gin, Grapefruit & Pomegranate Cocktail


  • 1 1/2 ounces of pomegranate juice (preferably from freshly crushed seeds)
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin (Beefeater London Dry Gin)
  • 1-ounce simple syrup or honey
  • A few dashes orange bitters (optional)
  • Ice

  1. Muddle the pomegranate seeds to obtain the juice.  In a cocktail shaker, add the pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, gin, simple syrup or honey, bitters, and ice.
  2. Shake vigorously.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has been rimmed with Mexican Tajín or sugar and red chile flakes.

To make simple syrup combine an equal amount of sugar and water. Heat to dissolve. Let cool completely before mixing with the cocktail.  

Written by Leticia Alaniz © 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Siege of Numantia - A City Turns To Dust

The Siege of Numantia Directed by Cora Cardona.  Cast: Ignacio Lujan,
Sixto Orellana, Omar Padilla, Carlos Ayala, Sorany Gutiérrez, Leticia Alaniz, Marbella Barreto,
Enrique Arellano, Martin Mejía, Ninoshka Martinez, Nichole Sanchez 
A city has turned to dust out of the ashes of its people who called themselves Numantinos.  The blood of life ran like a river of death thru every corner and at every turn of the streets of the Iberian Peninsula; where the Celtiberian people had made their oppidum or fortified large settlement in the final centuries BC.  The citizens of Numancia had taken their own lives in order to prevent a brutal death at the hands of the Romans who had begun conquering Europe.  Terror wreaked loud and they feared for their beloved city.  Archeologically, Numancia’s bloodshed occurred in what is now north-central Spain.  

Leticia Alaniz in The Siege of Numantia
Directed by Cora Cardona
Teatro Dallas
Houses no longer had the sound of children’s laughter, nor the sweet smell of bread baking.  The people obeyed the orders of their leader Teógenes, whom would not allow their terrible fate to plunder their dignity.  They were to resist the Romans by their own hands with the blessings of their god Jupiter.  Thousands of logs were piled high, and they built a large fire in the middle of the city in its central plaza.  One by one, the Numantinos plunged themselves to their final breath before the forced entry of the Romans who were led by Scipión the consul, and his consort Jugurtha.  The Numantinos had deliberately crushed Scipión’s chances of a final victory for the Romans and his regal power was shadowed by shame.  

Enrique Arellano, Ignacio Lujan
Sixto Orellana in The Siege of Numantia
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2016
The mission of the Romans was to capture Numancia, the ancient rich city of Hispaniola for the Roman empire.  But for sixteen years, the strong Numantinos resisted the war and their rebellion was powerful; they were few but fierce. 

Scipión had a strong iron army  that outnumbered the citizens of Numancia who were warriors and firm survivors.  With that in mind, Scipión knew that if he was to capture Numancia he had to build an outer wall around the city and isolate its citizens from any relief or provisions.  Therefore, the only way to capture the city was by starvation.  A nearby swamp was dammed and created a lake between the city walls and the outer wall that was built by Scipión’s army.  Seven towers were built interspersed to keep a watchful eye and prevent any escape from the desperate and starving people.  Sharp arrows were shot at anyone without mercy.

Omar Padilla & Sorany Gutiérrez in
The Siege of Numantia
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2016
The gentle river Duero which surrounded the city was their only source of drinking water.  Greedily, Scipión captured it’s life giving flow and strung a large cable across with blades to prevent both boats and swimmers from leaving or entering the city.  The blockade of the river and the isolation caused death by starvation, but for the Numantinos it was preferable to starve rather than be captured by the Romans whom would brutally kill their men and enslave their women and children.

Teógenes, wishing for a peaceful outcome for his people, sent ambassadors to speak to Scipión and asked for their liberty and peace in return for a complete surrender.  But the bloodthirsty Scipión refused and offered Teógenes the flag of death.  Still, the city refused to surrender.  Starvation and dead bodies were the landscape, and cannibalism ensued.  The suicide of the remaining citizens in the fire was the dignified living death that never perished their memory.  Bravery was the face of the Numantinos and they overcame the ostentatious hand of the enemy.

Marbella Barreto as Mother Earth in
The Siege of Numantia
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2016
The story of the Numantinos and the burning of their city was pinned by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1582 with his tragedy titled: El Cerco de Numancia/ The Siege of Numantia.  Cervantes enveloped the tragedy in descriptive dialogue and rhyme tercets, redondillas and octaves and it contains epic elements that describe allegorical figures and Spain as the Madre Tierra or Mother Earth.  Famine, domestic misery, rage, patriotism, love, and finally mass suicide play a key role in the tragic denouement.  

Leticia Alaniz, Carlos Ayala & Nichole Sánchez in
The Siege of Numantia Directed by Cora Cardona
Teatro Dallas
Artistic director Cora Cardona has brought to Teatro Dallas one of the best plays of the year by adapting a staging of the classical work that Cervantes gifted the world.  Cardona’s adaptation is an intricate weaving of an apocalyptic ambiance that reflects on past wars as well as current wars in which destruction, hunger, and sickness are the inevitable outcome.  Cardona’s vision shed light and political criticism on the condemnation of war by highlighting projections of the destruction of Syria, a current tragedy shaking the world that proves that the conquest of nations become the theater for tragedy and military, political and economic advancement.  It is the sacking of the weak in their bleak misery for the glory of the powerful.  

In some of the most horrific scenes of Cardona’s adaptation, the women bore arms with the men and cried for their slain.  Others slew their children with their own hands and threw them into the burning flames, considering death preferable to captivity.  Entire families set fire to their houses and cut their own throats.  They would not succumb to the Roman rule of making a desert of death and call it peace.  Immolation was the answer to combat slavery. 

Cardona mastered a visual staging of an allegorical Spain as a bleeding Mother Earth weeping for the pain and suffering caused upon her land and rivers and the death of her children in which blood played a central role. Celtiberian resistance to Rome was fierce, but Numancia had defied the Romans even if it was left to ashes.  

Cora Cardona is a master of the theater and she proved once again that her vision can be brought to life through the careful selection of an ensemble cast that can give voice to the tragedy of The Siege of Numancia.  It's a privilege to be a working actor and an honor to have had the opportunity to work once again on the stage of Teatro Dallas under the direction of Cora Cardona.  

The Siege Of Numantia Cast

Omar Padilla
Ignacio Lujan
Sixto Orellana
Sorany Gutiérrez
Marbella Barreto
Leticia Alaniz
Carlos Ayala
Enrique Arellano
Ninoshka Martínez
Martin Mejía
Nichole Sánchez
Fernando Lara
Omar Padilla in The Siege of Numantia
Directed by Cora Cardona
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2016

Written by Leticia Alaniz © 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sonia Mendez García - A Chef With Mexican Roots

Chef Sonia Mendez García
Photo by Richard Brennan
Chef Sonia Mendez García is the creator of one of the most popular Mexican food blogs, La Piña en la Cocina.  It combines easy to follow recipes and a narrative that will pull you in even if you don’t cook.  It’s food writing and appetizing photographs at its best.  Each one of her recipes is carefully researched and prepared in her New York based kitchen.  Scroll thru any of the photos on La Piña en la Cocina’s website and you’re bound to find delicious images that will make you hungry and feel inspired to cook her recipes in your own kitchen.  The stories will make you feel right at home and they trigger nostalgia and emotion, especially if your memory is activated and you remember stories of your own upbringing.  

Sonia grew up in Los Angeles and in Houston with a very typical childhood of baseball games, riding bikes, the roller rink on Saturdays and trips to Monterrey, Mexico twice a year.  Those were the trips to her grandmother’s house where food became the binding glue that brought the family together.

For Sonia, food is love, it’s life and its what nurtures us.  Her mom cooked everyday, therefore food was a focus of her daily routine and it’s what connects her to her family with each dish that she prepares.

Sonia got serious about food in the midst of cooking classes, but it wasn’t until she lost both of her parents when it became a goal to learn as much as possible about Mexican food, the food of her ancestors which took on a new meaning in life.  What makes Sonia most proud is when someone writes to her and they express how a dish she has shared on her blog remind them of home.  

Food has the power to bring us together and that’s how I met Sonia.  It was like meeting a long lost cousin as we share a very similar background and may even share genes from our ancestral tree, with Sonia being from Monterrey and I from Allende, Mexico.  And when Mexican cousins meet, its an automatic fiesta!

Sonia talks about what food means to her and what drives her very successful blog:

SM - When I was growing up, my parents owned a food business for a short time.  Mom always sold her tamales during the holidays.  I would say that’s how I learned that food could be a passion as well as a business.  I was asked to teach Mexican cooking classes at the local kitchen store and that led me to get serous about the whole Mexican food scene.  For the most part, my cooking technique and style is traditional but I do enjoy some fusion now and then.  

LA - Are you considering opening a restaurant or which direction are you heading in now?  Is a cookbook with your recipes stirring the back of your mind? 

SM - At this point in my life a restaurant is out of the question.  No restaurant for now.  Been there, done that.  It’s too much work.  I would like to continue teaching and would absolutely love a cookbook filled with my recipes and stories.  

LA - How have your roots influenced your cooking?  Do you preserve your heritage thru your food?

SM - I would be nothing as a cook without the influence of my heritage, of my parents and extended family.  I owe it all to them.  My food is definitely and expression of who I am and the passion I feel for what I do.  I feel like I have developed my own style but with an ancestral influence on the flavors.  

LA - What other cuisines of the world have had an influence on you and what are your favorites?

SM - All the foods of Latin America inspire me, as well as indian and asian foods.  I love all the spices!  Flavors and ingredients that are on my list to experiment with in my kitchen are what make up Spanish cooking, which in a way was influenced by Mexican cooking.  

LA - What is the heart and soul of your flavors?

SM - The heart and soul to me is believing and standing by the ingredients.  As simple as fresh chiles, tomatoes and onions can be, they can also yield the most organic and delicious flavors.  It takes us back to the soul of ancestral cooking.  

LA - Would you say that Mexican cuisine ranks among the top in the world and one that is replicated in other cultures? 

SM - Yes and yes!  True Mexican cuisine is an art.  One never stops learning and I hope to continue taking it to new levels in my own repertoire.  

LA - What would you say is your everyday food or dish that you put together for breakfast, la comida or dinner that you repeat often?

SM - Breakfast on the weekends, always papas con huevo!  Basically its a comfort dish of fried potatoes with scrambles eggs, chiles and salsa, served in warm tortillas and they’re anything but simple and so enjoyable.  Comidas, all kinds of tacos.  Dinner, guisados and rice are a must!    

LA - What’s your favorite antojito and main dish?  

SM - My favorite antojito would have to be churros de maíz that Dad used to prepare from the freshly blended nixtamal masa.  With fresh lime and chile, of course!  The main dish would have to be Mom’s bean and jalapeño tamales hands down.  So simple but so delicious.  It’s dishes like these that bring me comfort.  

LA - What has been the most recent ingredient you acquired that was extremely rare and expensive and what dish did you use it in?

SM - For me it would have to be squash blossoms or flor de calabaza.  They’re very hard to come by where I live in New York.  I prepared them simply stuffed with queso chihuahua, covered in a batter and served in spicy caldillo de jitomate or tomato broth. They were to die for!  

LA - What is one of the most memorable meals you have had and in what country?

SM - In 2011, I finally returned to Monterrey after a long absence.  My Tia Minerva prepared pescado gratinado which is a fish au gratin.  It was prepared with minimal ingredients but so tasty and it reminded me of the seafood of my childhood.  Sadly, we recently lost her and she will never know how much it meant to me to spend that time with her. 

LA - Simple dishes prepared by our loved ones always give us strength and they always have the magic of bringing back the loving memories of our past.  That’s why it’s so special to keep the recipes of our grandmothers alive.  You definitely transported me to savor the wonderful fish you describe.  Is there a personal anecdote from your formative years that you remember that had an influence on you to become a chef?

SM - As a teenager during the summer, I would help distribute free lunches to low income children.  It was very rewarding to share food, its something that I continue to do any chance I get.  Always pay forward whenever you can. 

LA - I agree with you on that!  Sharing food makes us more human and it gives us dignity.  

LA - Are there any personal challenges or obstacles that you faced as you were becoming a chef?

SM - Yes!  It wasn’t easy trying to sell authentic Mexican food to the general public.  Especially since they had not tasted the authentic flavors and were used to the industrialized flavors of Tex-mex restaurants which aren’t even Mexican at all.  

LA - Do you dream about food?

SM - Absolutely!  It never stops! Lol!  I dream about cooking, eating, savoring and then cooking some more.  I love to participate in cook-offs, Chef’s night at kitchen stores, celebrity chef dinners, etc.  Recently I was at a chef dinner with Aaron Sanchez, whom I admire for his bold flavors and style.  

LA - Aaron Sanchez got his start in his own mother’s kitchen, the well known chef Zarela Martinez which I have admired and followed for years.  What other chefs inspire you?

SM - First, I admire my parents and all that they taught me about food.  Another one of my favorite chefs is Rick Bayless, although he’s not Mexican, I admire his passion for Mexican cuisine.  Chef Aaron Sanchez is Mexican American like me and he’s a good role model showing that hard work pays off.  My friend, chef Raul Vazquez, who I finally had the pleasure of meeting in person and enjoying his most delicious Mexican food.  Just listening to him speak of the food and his work is inspirational, you know he’s very passionate about what he does.  I admire that very much.  I also admire avant-garde chefs for their experimental foods such as molecular gastronomy, although I can’t say I would understand it or would even try to prepare it, but its inspiring to watch how passionate the chefs are when they prepare their dishes, which are works of art.  

LA - In your kitchen, what is the basic setup and what are the essential items you can’t do without such as cazuelas, ollas, molcajetes, etc…?

SM - My kitchen is very small!  I’m forever prepping ahead of time just to keep up.  Essentials are good knives, strong cutting boards, prep bowls, cazuelas, a molcajete, and a good blender!  I like to keep it simple.  

“My philosophy in life when it comes to food always gravitates towards the traditional.  I don’t take shortcuts.  When you take the time, your passion will shine and everything will be portrayed on a plate of food.  I believe simple is best.  Going back to our roots is where our true colors come thru, it’s our personality.” - Sonia Mendez García

Sonia is a chef, food writer, entrepreneur and creator of La Piña en la Cocina website.  She is also a resident chef at Hispanic Kitchen, a collaborator at Que rica Vida/General Mills and teaches cooking classes at select chef events throughout the country.  

Sonia graciously shared with us a very special dish which was taught to her by her mother, whom learned the traditional recipe from her ancestors: Asado de puerco en chile colorado.  It’s a rich, savory dish that every norteño, meaning from the northern part of Nuevo León, Mexico is familiar with and one that is traditionally served at special fiestas and bodas or weddings. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Chiles en Nogada - Mexico's Patriotic Dish

In late July and into September, markets in Mexico start having a peculiar resonating sound that resembles light wood or sticks being hit against each other.  Melodious calls and chatter invite passersby with, ¡Nueces, nueces de castilla!  In other words, There are walnuts, lots of walnuts everywhere!  Walnuts are picked from the trees that grow at the foot of the Popocateptl volcano in Atlautla, Estado de México and they’re brought down to the valley on large hand woven baskets. The cracking of the walnuts enlivens the markets in one of the most festive times of the year as the date of El Grito and the anniversary of the Mexican Independence approaches on the 16th of September.   The nueceras, or walnut vendors beat the nuts quickly and efficiently with only three or four knocks to crack them and reveal their sweet, tender fleshy inside that is used for the nogada sauce; a creamy, fragrant blanket that will be spread delicately over one of the most emblematic and historical dishes of Mexico: Chiles en Nogada.    

Along with the walnuts, your eyes will delight in the shimmering glitter of ruby-red pomegranate seeds neatly mounded in petite mountains that vendors proudly display.  The pomegranate seeds or granadas as they’re called in Mexico, are like glistening jewels that decorate and add crunch to the chiles en nogada.  Undoubtedly, its one of the most impressive and delicious manifestations of the Mexican culinary arts.

But those are only two of the star ingredients in the dish.  The creation was born out of the convents of Puebla in which the Augustine nuns took advantage of up to one hundred seasonal ingredients and utilized them in their ripest glory.  But Chiles en Nogada would not have existed without the indigenous women in the kitchen that lent their ancestral knowledge and tecniques to the dish.  It was a collaboration of cultures.

Grilled poblano chiles are stuffed with a spicy, fruity meat picadillo and sparkly pieces of acitrón, the dried candied flesh from the biznaga cactus that grows in the dessert; then they’re lightly dipped in an airy merengue batter called capeado and fried.  Finally, they’re cloaked in the most creamy, walnuty delectable nogada sauce finished with a touch of dry sherry and decorated with granada seeds and fresh coriander leaves.  

As with all things wonderful, industrial harvesting has had a negative effect on the cati.  The biznaga cactus grows very slow and over the years it has become a highly threatened species.  In recent years, in order to protect the species, harvest of the cactus has been made illegal, negatively affecting the indigenous populations that would harvest the cactus on a small scale as they have been doing for thousands of years for their sacred ceremonies, as well as for food and medicine.  In the caves of Tehuacan, Puebla, there is evidence of the use of biznagas dating back to 6,500 years.  

There are several versions on when exactly the Chiles en Nogada first made their appearance on Mexican tables.  But there’s no doubt that they made they’re historic debut around an important celebration which occurred in 1821, when the self-declared emperor, Don Agustin de Iturbide signed The Act of Independence and The Córdoba Treaty after The Mexican War of Independence in 1810.  

In the kitchens of the convents, the nuns were in a joyful patriotic frenzy and in the spirit of the celebration, they decided to honor the entrance of Agustin de Iturbide with a delectable dish which would also serve as a tribute to the Tri-Color army or Ejército Trigarante who fought for independence and donned the colors: green, white and red on their flag: Mexico’s National flag.  It coincided exactly in the month of September when the nueces de castilla or walnuts and pomegranates are harvested along with many of the other seasonal fruits. 

Chiles en Nogada are a great source of national pride and a tradition in Mexican kitchens; it's a Baroque dish clearly symbolic of the Mexican flag with its vibrant green, white and red; green for the chile and coriander leaves, white for the nogada sauce and red for the pomegranate.  It sets it apart as one of the most historical and unique in the world and it rightfully became Mexico’s most patriotic dish.       

Chiles en Nogada require many separate preparations, but don’t be intimidated.  All of them can be prepared well in advance and the capeado is the only last minute effort.  It's my favorite season and I just take it one step at a time.

Finally, when you serve the commemorative dish to your guests, it will surely impress- con gusto!  

 ¡Que chula es Puebla!  How beautiful is Puebla!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Toddlers Learn To Write

A Toddler Learns to Write
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2016
At an early age, children become aware that written symbols, such as letters, pictures, or lines from their imagination represent real objects that have meaning for other people.  This awareness lays the foundation for them to become writers and readers.  As soon as they understand that letters stand for sounds and that groups of letters become words, thus begins their lifelong journey of communication.

If given the tools for writing and drawing, a toddler can learn to make scribbles that develop his imagination and writing skills as early as 18 months.  Soon enough, he will achieve motor coordination in his hands and will develop a special meaning that lays the foundation for learning.  

Children naturally become enthusiastic if they’re encouraged and their “art” is appreciated.  His daydreaming and curiosity could be a clue of developing stories that he may want to express.  By the age of three, a toddler may be talking full sentences and therefore, crafting his stories.  

As Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Every child learns at his own pace, some toddlers are interested only at looking at pictures or playing with other toys, while others seem to be restless or find it difficult to be seated for longer than three minutes.  But the most important thing to remember is to be encouraging, give lots of hugs, and enjoy the special moments of his learning milestones through this wonderful journey as he explores his world.

By Leticia Alaniz

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Love in the Time of Kahlúa

Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2016
If Love in the Time of Khalúa sound like words you might have uttered or read before, that’s because they’re a play on words based on the great classic novel, Love in the Time of Cholera by beloved Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez.  They’re words that lead you to a delicious cocktail that includes as it’s main ingredient the novel (of course) and the Mexican coffee liquor Kahlúa. 

“Never settle… even for a doctor… with a hot accent.  Otherwise you could go for a half-century till you find the real thing.”

Tim Federle, an award-winning American novelist, actor and theater librettist came up with the clever novelty cocktail recipe book, Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist based on his own mother’s book club which involved great literature and good wine of course!

“In Márquez’s version of romance, the zipper-straining desire of the trio of lovebirds is practically an illness eating his characters from the inside out.”

Those who have read the novel know exactly how the fifty-one year romance lead to the two lovebirds eventually being reunited after the first husband (the doctor) dies.  The main characters, Florentino and Fermina, lovers in their youth, exchange several love letters but Fermina realizes that her relationship with Florentino was nothing but a dream and she breaks off their engagement to marry a doctor with a good reputation in society (not to mention that he’s rich).  

Florentino, even after she broke off their engagement and she married, continued to wait for her.  Five decades pass… you might as well prepare several of these Kahlúa cocktails because it’s a juicy read.   It’s in the time of the cholera epidemic…  It’s hot, humid and it will cool you off.  

The doctor, Juvenal Urbino at his elderly age climbed on a ladder to attempt to get his pet parrot out of a mango tree, only to fall off the ladder and die.  It’s Florentino’s chance to proclaim his love for Fermina who is now a widow still wearing black dresses.  He hardly even waited for the funeral to be over, what a nerve! 

Love in the Time of Khalúa is one of the many cocktails that will inspire you to read more of the classics or if you’ve read them, then you can revisit them with a good cocktail that evokes rich literature.  Other cocktails in Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist include, One Flew Over the Cosmo’s Nest, A Cocktail of Two Cities, Howards Blend, The Count of Monte Cristal, A Farewell to Amaretto, The Malted Falcon, and many more.

Other titles by Tim Federle:

The Great American Whatever
Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist
Better Nate Than Ever
Hickory Daiquiri Dock: Cocktails with a Nursery Rhyme Twist
Five, Six, Seven, Nate!
Tommy Can’t Stop

For the cocktail:

1 Part Kahlúa
2 Part Rum (or Vodka)
1 Part Heavy Cream
1 shot of cold espresso

Fill a  rocks glass with ice cubes.  Add Kahlúa and Rum, finish up with a cream layer.  You can sprinkle a little bit of nutmeg or cinnamon on top and drink to passion.  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Viola Delgado - Artist in Overalls

Artist Viola Delgado
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2016

I don’t know anyone who's been lucky enough to meet Viola Delgado who is not fascinated by her.  There’s something about the way she dresses in long, worn, faded overalls patched throughout in colors to match her painter’s palette and a bright crimson smile.  Usually, she wears smart specks and when she speaks, it’s soft yet she commands attention with her fascinating stories that only she knows how to tell.  She’s a living raconteur with an understanding voice about life, nature and infinite beauty of the universe which she translates into narratives on canvases, murals and sculptures.  She has a passion for the simple details and vibrant color.  Her prodigious curiosity competes with her transcendent wholesomeness in a calm, peaceful manner and best of all, her gentle humor shines thru in just about everything she says.

Her poetry is private, yet she uses a certain quality of language that evokes meaning.  Perhaps it’s the way that life has had a hand in shaping her personality.  Much of her poetry translates directly to her visual pieces.  Her paintings can be a verse of nature, love, idealistic aspirations, the struggles of women or even death.  Much of her writing is written by hand in the form of memos, letters, poems, thoughts and stories in leather bound hand made books which also include small drawings.

In her formative years she attended Dallas Baptist College where she studied Psychology and Sociology.  Later she went to Art League School in Alexandria and studied printmaking.  But that was a long way from Sinton, Texas, a small town just outside of Corpus Christi where she grew up as a young girl.  

Viola revisits her past and expresses her gratitude in her simplistic upbringing that greatly influenced her artistic style

My parents set a great example and they wanted my two brothers, my sister and I to be the best that we could be.  We lived a simple life close to the beach in a two room house.  A curtain divided a living room from a make shift  bedroom where my bother and I slept in one bed and my parents slept in another.  A small kitchen was next to it.  We used a large tub to bathe in.  Mother would warm water on the stove and pour it in the tub.  She always made it fun.  We also had an outhouse.  Later a room was added.  This room was on our property but not attached to the house.  Later the room was attached and became a bathroom and a bedroom for my parents.  I have to mention the tub in this bathroom was pink.  I’m sure someone gave it to my parents, but that was the first house my parents actually owned.  Our evenings were spent at my maternal grandmother’s house, while my aunts and ladies in the neighborhood would all gather for coffee.  During the summers we would go to the beach on Saturdays.  The women would take all the kids in the morning and the men usually arrived in the afternoon.  We would cookout, there was lots of singing and laughing.  I believe that my imagination strongly developed during this time.  I spent endless hours looking at the sky and beyond the ocean.  I would imagine what would lie on the other side.  I loved to spend time listening and looking.  The ocean waves sounded like soft, strong rhythms.  Sometimes I close my eyes and go there, especially when life gets a little rough. 

School was always an important factor growing up and my father went to great lengths to ensure that.  He had a third grade education and worked hard as a janitor at my school, but he never gave up.  Later he went to welding school and moved the family to Plano and then to Garland.  My mother had trained as a nurse but when I was born she decided to stay at home to raise me and my siblings. 

Growing up I’m sure there were economic hardships.  There was an older woman named Chentita who helped my mother.  Sometimes she would babysit or just helped hang clothes on the line.  Mother cleaned houses at the Plymouth Petroleum encampment.  She also drove other ladies to the encampment to clean houses.  There was a house in which the VP of the company lived and my mother loved to clean that house.  She would make believe it was hers, thinking of ways she would decorate it and which would be my room and my brother’s.  The house had porcelain light switch plates.  Several years later the company closed and my father decided to buy the house for my mother.  He could not place a bid because he was Mexican American, so he got his friend Mr. Henry, who also loaned him the money to place the bid for him.  The house was then moved to a lot in town.  It had a big screened porch and those porcelain light switch plates (which I still saved).  The house still stands in my hometown.   

We didn’t have much money but my mother was a minimalist anyway.  We didn’t have more furniture than we needed and it was never a cluttered house.  When we moved into that house we always ate together at a big table.  By that time there were four children.  One time I remember Mother saying that we were going to eat like the “white people” did.  This meant that we were going to get dressed up and have hamburger patties on a slice of bread with white gravy over it and homemade fries.  We were only allowed to have one serving because “white people” didn’t have several servings.  Many years later she told me the reason she did that was because there wasn't a lot of money so she had to stretch the food.  She would use half a can of Pet milk, mix it with water and place it in the fridge for our cereal.  I never liked the taste or the smell, even to this day.  I know there were hardships, but our house was always busy and happy.  My mother passed away at 68 and my father a year and a half later.

Floating Women Oil on Canvas by Viola Delgado
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2016
I think my culture and upbringing is definitely represented in the subject matter and color of my art.  As I mentioned before there was a woman (Chentita) that lived next door to us in my younger years.  She was sort of old fashioned in her dressing and style.  She wore long skirts and rebozos, her hair was always in a bun and she cooked on a wood burning stove.  She was the nicest woman, I really loved her.  Years after I started painting I was in an interview at a university and was asked where I got my images. Did I spend time in the Mexican countryside? I said no. As the woman was asking me questions it dawned on me that the women in my paintings were Chentita! Voila!!  I had never realized or made that connection, it was definitely her. I didn't know that she had left such an impact on me and that years later there she was back in my mind.  So yes, I would definitely say that there is some representation of my upbringing.  I also did a painting of a grandmother holding a baby.  Later I made the connection that it was my grandmother Pabla holding the baby.  So I think that these memories cannot help but come thru onto one’s creation.

On the challenges of being a woman artist 

From the writings of artist Viola Delgado
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2016
I never experienced discrimination as a latina artist, but as a woman in the art field I think we do experience some discrimination, such as at times society sees us not as professional artists but as art being a hobby for us.  Where as for men it’s a profession.  In the art world it’s been defined this way for many years.  I do believe it’s getting better with technology and I feel it levels the playing field a bit more.  Being a professional artist is like someone owning their own business.  You do your work, if someone likes it enough they buy it.  It’s always hard, never easy and more so never easy to let go of cherished art work.  But I’m always glad when it goes to someone that appreciates my work.  You never quit thinking about it, images, ideas, you see them, feel them, they’re always all around you and then on top of that, most people don’t understand you.  There are times people might think you’re odd, not with the norm, and sometimes your friends or family don’t want to talk about art.  So at times you find yourself feeling alone.  I think it’s hard for artists and even harder for women artists.  But there’s a strong movement towards changing this thought.  I myself am working hard to make that change.  As for challenges, I’m a lousy business woman.  Yet I try to be reasonable in my pricing.  I was once given great advise by an art critic when I asked how I should price my work.  He said, “Do you want to keep your art in the closet or do you want to sell it?”  I always kept that in mind.  It was the best advise I got and I pass it on to other artists.  I’m not in gallery circles much so most of my work is sold thru word of mouth or when shown in exhibits.  That has been my most successful method.  I have great business women and friends around me that always network for me.

From the writings of artists Viola Delgado
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2016
On being single

Most of the time society tries to dictate to women about her life and future.  I used to be
asked if I was married or ever had been, and of course I would say no.  I never felt like I had to be married, my parents never asked me when or why not.  The people that would ask were usually people I grew up with or my relatives, never my immediate family.  I did come close to being married, but we both decided against it, mainly because we both wanted different outcomes in our lives.  He did marry someone else shortly after that so I don’t think he cared who he married.  Later I found out he was really in love with my roommate rather than with me.  I found a letter many years later where she said no and never.  I’m so glad that went south.  I think in my generation girls were encouraged to marry and many of my classmates married young.  Some are still happily married but others have been divorced.  I think that in today’s time, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re married or not.

Religion: God’s Nature

I was a Catholic girl going to a Baptist College.  In my circle of friends most of them were preacher or missionary kids.  They were usually from overseas countries I would have only dreamed of what they were like.  I would always ask my mother what was past the ocean that was before me and her response was, “Look it up in the encyclopedia that we’re still paying for.”  Anyway, I was always asked where I went to church by my classmates.  I guess where you went to church was a big thing, so I would say I’m catholic.  One day I decided that I was tired of answering so I changed my response.  I said, “I go to the church of God’s Nature.”  They would never ask where it was, which I was grateful for.  As I get older and as an artist I feel that I’m in God’s presence every time I see a bird, a tree, take a walk to process my thoughts, see a baby, or children playing freely, or gaze at the clouds.  I feel the presence mostly when I paint or write words or thoughts.  This to me is my most spiritual time of my life.  Maybe it’s because as artists we at times have to sweep the floor of thought and it might not be so pretty that we need our spiritual self to be present.  This is my balance and sanity.

Leaving a career in psycology to become an artist

Before art I was working with the Dallas Independent School District in the migrant program.  I was assigned schools that I would visit to find out if they had any migrants that were coming from places such as Michigan, California, Florida, etc. places known for migrant workers.  I would visit their homes, with the parents of the students to find out if they had done fieldwork.  I really enjoyed meeting some of the parents in their homes, they were always friendly. It was like living in a small town drinking coffee with them and getting to know their children.  The problem was that I was not happy with my work situation so I left. I had always liked art, I’ll always credit my mother for that.  She would make stick figures on handmade coloring books.  She would tie them up on pretty strips of cloth from flour bags.  They were usually remnants from a dress she had made for me.  Or she would use the metal from the coffee cans.  Those were my first tools.  Even though I studied psychology and sociology and had a good job, I left all of that behind and in 1986 I followed my passion and started doing artwork.  I attended a community college and then the Alexandria Art League School.  I started with printmaking which I found most interesting.  At the Discover Graphic Atelier housed with Art League School I studied under the guidance of Japanese printmaker Alan Kaneshiro.  Kaneshiro and Penelope Barringer were the founders of the Atelier.  I later developed an allergic reaction to some chemicals I was using so I went back to painting.  I still do some printmaking using drypoint.  This is not work that I exhibit much so not many people are aware that I work in this media.  I was young and thought it was no big deal to look for another career, what I didn't know was the profession I had chosen was not an easy one.  But it was worth the sacrifice. I cannot imagine doing anything else.

A therapeutic technique: “The design is all in my head”

Most of my artwork is designed in my head first. I actually think of all that goes into the artwork, every line, color, movement, the whole design, which is therapeutic for me.  By the time I go to my surface it’s 90% completed.  I never make sketches or preliminary drawings before I paint.  That’s not to say that I might not decide to add something else to it but it’s almost done. This is because my mind is like a ticker tape that runs rapidly across and the images are picked out and placed in the artwork. I put some back and sometimes keep the images. It’s like that when I write, very fast. There are some images that stay for a long time and then alter into other images. I have created paintings that have a repeated image, over and over. I once did an art piece with an image of small blue squares and a sun in each square, one after another on one huge paper.  I created others with different patterns but in the same style, although I found these to be the most exhausting pieces I had ever done.  

Avoiding the human face

I avoid making faces in most of my paintings.  The face expresses emotion and I like the viewer to associate themselves with the image with their own interpretation. Sometimes the viewer will comment about the image reminding them of their grandmothers, mothers, someone that they know or knew in their lives. This makes me feel like it has touched them in some way.  It’s always a good feeling, when they can relate to an art piece.  I started with paintings of women in rebozos doing different things but never showing their faces. It has been mostly flat painting with not much depth.  They were very colorful.  One day I woke from a dream of laying on the ground looking up at the sky and a red wall. I thought the ache in my hands was enough to have me start a new series. Later it was just clouds, not the whole sky as I saw it but just snippets of the sky.  One day last year I start to bring them all together but this time the red was a box on a table that sat in a field. No chairs around the table but one chair in the far distance. I found this thought and its transformation very moving because it said to me that I was bringing them all together. Making on image a part of another, like an embrace.  It’s a spiritual reunion.  It made me shed a tear when this was finished.  I still look at the image and find much narrative and creative narrative is always in my work.  Something that leads to a thought.  This is because I feel that my artwork is a thought in transformation. It’s always on going.  I use bright colors to bring it alive, to make it speak, to express my culture.  I once worked with a woman that was elderly, Mrs.K. Doolin.  Every time I worked with her we had a fresh bouquet of flowers, beautiful flowers of all colors.  She and I would sit and work with soft pastels.  I would get carried away with my usage of color, until one day one of her nurses, a caregiver said that I shouldn't use too much color because Mrs. Doolin was spending time looking at my artwork and not doing her art piece.  In other words I was being a distraction.  So I toned it down, as much as I enjoyed working with Mrs. Doolin it was a paid job.  One day I’m working away and she stops her work and is looking at me, when I asked if she needed a color or another paper she said no. She then said there is no bright color.  Mrs. Doolin sometimes had trouble articulating but this was one time she had no trouble telling me what she saw. So I went back to using my bright colors. Nothing was said about that again.  On the last time I worked with her she was on her hospital bed at home. I was working on one single rose. The nurse had turned her towards me and by that time she was going in and out of sleep.  I kept working.  All of a sudden out of nowhere she said "you make things dance".  That is the way I want to remember her.

Working while listening to old country western music and poetry

I try to stay with the flow of my thoughts. So far I have had probably five series that I have worked on.  One is the women, two the red walls, third the clouds, fourth is printmaking, fifth sculpting. Sometimes I get caught up in working in one series for a lengthy time and then don't come back to it for a while. I like finding new ways in translating my idea, my thought thru these methods mentioned. I once had a work sculpture that I had designed and it took me 20 years for it to become a steel sculpture. I teased that it took me 20 years to give birth to it. I like to design and I have pages of designs that will someday come into fruition.  When I paint I like to listen to music or poetry.  Not many people that know me know that I like the old country western music, George Strait, Dolly Parton, George Jones, etc.. When listening to poetry I like Robert Hastings, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pounds, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, and Borjas, etc. I never can remember anyone of the works but I can listen to the same one as if it were new to me.  Except for the Robert Hastings poem The Station and even then it is only a frame that I remember. Sort of funny because I listen to them over and over again.

Her thoughts are like a ticker paper, they run endlessly

I sometime write when I am not painting.  I again say that my brain and thoughts are like a ticker tape, they run endlessly. I think there is medication for that right?  LOL!  But I take advantage of these moments.  Sometimes they’re sad times and I work thru thoughts by processing them with words.  I tend to suffer or have moments of depression and so I have found, that for me, writing or painting helps a lot.  It doesn't always go away but it just helps me deal with it.  I had serval journals full of writings and images going back to my childhood that were stolen by a semi-friend that had schizophrenia.  One day he found out where I lived and came over.  I had asked a neighbor to join us being that I didn't want to be alone with him because he was not taking his medications and sometimes that was not a good thing.  While my artist friend and I were in the living room he went to the bathroom and ended up in my study taking my journals in his trench coat.  I was so devastated to find out later but was afraid to confront him.  He was a great person who spoke many languages, quoted great poetry, and was a math genius.  He was part of a coffee group that I had joined every morning at the Madeleine Café.  Yet when he was not on meds he was not himself and could be mean.  Later I found out he died in a fire while living behind a gas station, a sad situation. I did find out that he had the journals because he told others that he they were his.  This was before computers.  A life was taken in those journals…  The funny thing is that he also took all the labels off anything in my pantry.  So I would laugh every time I had to open a can.  Oh well, so it goes.  I do have plans to someday publish my own poetry or stories. I have some poems that are written about certain paintings and maybe I could combine both. I would love to do a book in clouds and red walls.  I really don't have regrets because all that has happened in my life is meant to be or a lesson in life.  There are times that I should have gone south and went north but what I found by going north was an adventure.

The glass mosaic medallion at the DFW International Airport and other public sculptures

I’m proud of most of my work because it takes so much out of me emotionally to create that it’s a miracle that they get finished.  But I guess the public art is something I’m proud of.  I love that so many people look at it on a daily basis.  The glass mosaic medallion at the DFW International Airport gets seen by thousands of people. The Lake June and Rowlett DART Stations also get seen many times over.  The sculpture at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center which people see as they are sitting at the light or driving by.  It doesn't matter if they know who created it, what matters is that they’re there for others to see to experience, and hopefully they remember it at some point.  They are like my children, you want them to shine, to be enjoyable while they’re out of your site. They’re there so that many years later my own family can see them and know that part of their bloodline created that art design.  Hopefully they will not forget me as part of their ancestry and they’ll be proud of where they came from.  And as for dreams for the future, I want to create more public art pieces, more images, and write more poems.  I have wanted to go to different parts of the world and paint under different light.  I want to see different skies and clouds and how they affect the painting trying different methods.  

Artist Viola Delgado
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2016
Viola Delgado’s paintings and public large scale sculptures are a heritage that she will continue to contribute to.  She finds inspiration in the simple aspects of life and the changing moods of the scenery that surrounds her.  Her body of work forms an indelible scene of the narrative she portrays thru vibrant colors and simple stories which we can all relate to.  The dream state of her own omniscience has remained strong and directly nurtures her unique imagination which we can all appreciate thru her work. 

Delgado's murals can be found at the Latino Cultural Center, Dallas; Stevens Park and Tolbert Elementary Schools, Dallas; the Dallas West Library Courtyard; the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Station; and Vickery Village/Buckner Baptist Children's Home, Dallas.  One of her extraordinary medallions is located on the Departure Concourse of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  

 Written by Leticia Alaniz © 2016


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cloris Leachman - Becoming Ruth Popper In The Last Picture Show (1971)

Cloris Leachman as Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show (1971)
Director Peter Bogdanovich
In the decade of the 1970’s, American cinema culture was experiencing a trend of films catering to the younger generation with films such as The Graduate and Saturday Night Fever.  Gritty crime films with elements of film noir such as The Godfather I and II, The French Connection and Serpico were enjoyed in theaters throughout the country.  Full splashy color became the norm and big-name studios demanded it.  Blockbuster had its beginning in 1975 and was another money-making distribution option.  

But there were still a few directors who set their talent on the traditional black and white celluloid for their storytelling efforts.  Such is the case of Peter Bogdanovich with his film The Last Picture Show, released in 1971.  At the time, his decision to film the script in black and white was considered a big commercial risk, but his artistic instinct stood ground and that was what gave the film its monochrome richness and a more compelling intention with the period.  It’s such a beautiful form and the cinematography by Robert L. Surtees gave the film the luminance of the classics that can only be captured in black and white.

Faces in the film are bright, beautiful and dewy just as they should be.  Nothing could take away from the actor-driven drama of the coming of age bittersweet picture.  There are so many strong characters, yet one of my favorites in which a female lead shines is that of Ruth Popper.    

In The Last Picture Show, Ruth Popper greets Sunny at the door, “Hello Sunny, what you want?”  The scene opened with the immediate introduction of the young high school student Sunny, and the wife of the high school coach Ruth Popper, played by Cloris Leachman and Timothy Bottoms, respectively.  The coach had asked Sunny to drive his wife to the doctor’s office, which she frequented often due to her “depression”.  The underlying yet unspoken background to the story of Ruth is that the coach was not affectionate with his wife and preferred the company of the star athletes of the football team.  Undoubtedly, the sad circumstance left Ruth in a loveless, dark and icy marriage.  

There’s an overwhelming power to the script and the deep-rooted story of The Last Picture Show.  There was an air of nostalgia and critical acclaim for the film that marked a brilliant portrayal of a small West Texas dusty town called Anarene.  The period is set in the 1950’s with original music playing in the background by country stars such as Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Phil Harris, Bob Williams And His Texas Playboys, and Lee Morris with his romantic song Blue Velvet, among others.  Hard gushes of wind blow thru the street into the pool hall and thus we’re transported to the stark, black and white scenes of the pain and boredom of the little town that is slowly dying economically and culturally.  

In a way, the blues ballad by Hank Williams, ‘Cold Cold Heart’ that carried scenes in the film mirrors the overall sentiment of Anarene society: A memory from your lonesome past keeps us so far apart, why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart? 

It’s close to Christmastime and the cold wind is only one of the intricately woven elements to the multi faceted-film.  When Sonny drives Mrs. Popper back home from the doctor’s office, he asks her if it’s anything serious, to which she drearily reveals a small sentiment to Sunny of her deep, unspoken depression.   She’s tormented in a sexually abandoned relationship with a man that does not care for her.  It’s at that moment that Ruth discovers she can find solace and comfort in the company of the sad-eyed, seventeen-year-old Sunny. 

Sunny presumably has a home to go to, although distant from his father but his life centers around his old pick-up truck.  After breaking up with his girlfriend, he finds comfort in the fond way Ruth treats him.  In return, Ruth desperately needed someone to talk to and appreciated Sunny’s friendship.  Anyone would have sufficed, even if that meant a dimwitted teenager. 

Ruth Popper is slow and shy and she suffers a long line of marital cruelties.  Before the morning is over, she unveils a tear-filled nervous breakdown in front of Sunny.  Sunny reacts emphatically and his tenderness is appreciated by the lonely and emotionally impoverished Ruth.  From then on, they begin a series of afternoon appointments that complicate Ruth’s sadness and hunger for attention.

In the circumstances of the story, Ruth wants the friendship with Sunny to be healthy, after all, she’s much older than him, but she gives in to his arresting charm while she’s searching for acceptance and understanding of her loneliness. 

Ruth showers Sunny with affection that’s both motherly and at the same time romantic and sexually charged.  Nothing this imbalanced can stand a chance, not in a small town like Anarene where they became the subject of daily gossip.  It was doomed right from the beginning.  

Cloris Leachman & Timothy Bottoms in
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Cloris Leachman’s vital portrayal of Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show is delicately balanced and it opened individual intimate secrets of a small town that are often not talked about.  Everybody knows about them, they gossip about them behind closed doors, at the church suppers or tea gatherings, but no one takes out their dirty laundry to the rest of the world.  Small towns are like that. 

Most of Ruth’s life is lived in her bleak home but things change when Sunny is invited into the bedroom where she transforms into a lovely, elegant woman that can smile for fleeting moments.  At least during Sunny’s visits, she forgets her loneliness and her beauty is full of sunshine.  

Inevitably, what’s doomed is doomed and when Sunny does finally abandon Ruth, she returns to her dark depression dressing in clothes that could be described as mourning dresses.  Sunny leaves Ruth for Jayce, a girl his age played by Cybill Shepherd.  Sunny is just a kid, and when Jayce came along, he behaved as he should.  

Sunny was conned by Jayce into marrying him.  They eloped after she convinced him, but he didn’t understand that Jayce only wanted to be in center stage and to be the subject of the talk of the town.  While driving to Oklahoma, they were stopped by a trooper and returned to Texas.  Thus his marriage to Jayce ended.  A few days later, his friend Billy, the simple-minded boy Sunny took care of was run over by a truck and died.  

Hurt, shocked and nowhere else to turn to, he drives for a visit to the long-suffering Ruth.  It’s been three months since they’ve seen each other.  Ruth is in her bathrobe and is not prepared to see him.  She’s angry, yet starts preparing a cup of coffee for Sunny.       

Cloris Leachman pulled all the right stops in her role as Ruth Popper in one of the most memorable scenes in the film.  The most pivotal scene takes place in the kitchen and it starts with Ruth’s hand trembling.  You can feel something terrible will happen.  She throws the cup of coffee against the wall, shattering it to pieces followed by the pot that drips dark coffee grounds on the refrigerator resembling thick black tears of disappointment. In her defense, she has a right to turn against him for rejecting and discarding her.  She lashes out at him in a strong, explosive voice:

"What am I doing apologizin' to you? Why am I always apologizin' to you, ya little bastard? Three months I be apologizing to you, without you even bein' here. I haven't done anything wrong - why can't I quit apologizin'? You're the one oughta be sorry. I wouldn't still be in my bathrobe if it hadn't been for you. I'da had my clothes on hours ago. You're the one made me quit carin' if I got dressed or not. I guess just because your friend got killed you want me to forget what you did and make it all right. I'm not sorry for you. Youd've left Billy, too, just like you left me. I bet you left him plenty  nights, whenever Jacy whistled. I wouldn't treat a dog that way. I guess you thought I was so old and ugly you didn't owe me any explanation. You didn't need to be careful of me. There wasn't anythin' I could do about you and her - why should you be careful of me? You didn't love me. Look at me. Can't you even look at me? (Sonny slowly turns and glances at her) Y'see? You shouldn't have come here. I'm around that corner now. You've ruined it and it's lost completely. Just your needing me won't make it come back"

With Sunny’s genuine capacity for love, he’s much more sympathetic to Ruth’s fragile loneliness and in a final friendly reconciliation, he reaches to touch Ruth’s hand that’s resting on the table.  No words are spoken, yet deep pain is suffered by both.  Sunny is grieving his friend Billy and Ruth her loneliness.  Each one needing the human touch.  

Even though Sunny touches Ruth’s hand, it’s a moment that eerily marks the end of their ill-fated friendship setting a distancing effect for the inevitable finish.     

Ruth Popper ends it all while taking Sunny’s hand to her face and saying, “Never you mind, honey, never you mind”.

For director Peter Bogdonavich, this was an extraordinary cinematic achievement.  The film is based on the novel written by Larry McMurtry and each scene was treated carefully so that it captured the alienation, the sense of revolt and the atmosphere of the period.  Long takes with a tracking camera encompass the slowness and emptiness of the town and the characters themselves.    
Cloris Leachman Academy Award (1972)
Best Supporting Actress - The Last Picture Show

“Doesn’t that tell you who you are immediately?  Ruth Popper…  You have to overcome a name like that, or live with it or suffer it if you think about what the kids must have done to her in school… With nicknames, I know what they did with my name in real life.”   “It really is amazing how you become your character, it was hard.”  - Cloris Leachman

The Last Picture Show remains Peter Bogdanovich’s most accessible and most popular film.  Cloris Leachman’s Ruth Popper showed her capacity to carry a scene with strength, naturalness, and bitter beauty.  The Academy of Motion Pictures awarded her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress of 1972.  This April 30th marks Mrs. Leachman’s ninetieth birthday.  Here’s to Mrs. Leachman and a celebration of her ninety golden years!  

Written By Leticia Alaniz © 2016