Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bee's Knees - The Frank Meier Gin & Lavender Cocktail

Bee's Knees - Gin & Lavender Cocktail original by Frank Meier
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2017
With all this lemon and lavender you’d think it’s high tea time hour.  But for this drink that dates back to the hard times of the prohibition era, you’ll need a coupe glass, gin, lavender, honey and lots of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

The Bee’s Knees takes us to Paris’ enigmatic Bar Hemingway located in the lobby of the Hotel Ritz where a mysterious bartender named Frank Meier, who served as a spy during the French Resistance when the Germans occupied Paris in the second World War, authored the classic aptly named cocktail.  

Meier trained at the legendary bar in New York’s Hoffman House Hotel and was in the eye of the hurricane during the prohibition of alcohol.  Lots of underground gin was being served, yet it was of inferior quality.  To mask the strong odor of the less than ideal gin, Meier added citrus and honey resulting in a cocktail that became “suave” or “the best”, thus the slang for the Bee’s Knees name among the jazz clubs.  With his bartending training underway, he returned to Paris to become the Hotel Ritz’ first head bartender in 1921 when it’s Cafe Parisian opened its doors.

Meier’s talent for creating delicious cocktails combined with his sense of hospitality to the glitzy and the Lost Generation of intellectuals made him famous.  It was the Golden Age at the Ritz and some of Meier’s clientele included the King of Spain, the Prince of Wales, the Russian Grand Dukes and one of his best friends, American author Ernest Hemingway.  

Meier was Austrian born and part Jewish, yet he continued to run his bar even when the Germans occupied Paris.  It was a risk he was willing to take.  He survived the war, avoided deportation and actively engaged in the resistance by assisting many Jewish residents to obtain fake documents and passports that allowed them to hide from the Gestapo’s concentration-camp round-ups.  

Frank Meier cocktail mixologist at the Hotel Ritz, Paris
Because Meier helped the French resistance and British spies, he was constantly under Gestapo surveillance.  He also passed notes for Hans Speidel and Carl Stülpnagel to assist them in planning the assassination attempt of Adolph Hitler which failled.  He was essentially running a mailbox with other Ritz staff members passing coded troop movements to the French Resistance via Switzerland.  

There’s no telling how many people benefited in avoiding death at the hands of the Nazis from the help of Frank Meier, but what is known is that a couple of years after the war in 1947, the mysterious anti-Nazi spy disappeared into the night but not before leaving his treasured recipes in a small book, The Artistry of Mixing Drinks.  Its publication was circulating since 1939 but included only 1300 copies and they’re sought after at auction to the highest bidder.  

One of the popular recipes in the book is the Knee’s Bees cocktail.  In Meier’s recipe it doesn’t include lavender, but for this version, in honor of France and its lavender fields  the cocktail includes an infusion of lavender syrup which you'll surely enjoy.  

Here’s a toast to the many lives saved by Frank Meier and to Meier himself, raise your glass with a Bee’s Knees.

Bee’s Knees with Lavender

Granulated sugar *
2 ounces (60 mL) Gin
3/4 ounce Lavender syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Fresh lavender (for garnish)

Rim a chilled coupe with sugar and set aside.  Combine the gin, lavender syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake well.  Strain into the sugar-rimmed coupe and serve garnished with fresh lavender.  Makes one cocktail.    

*Dried lavender can be added to the granulated sugar for garnish.  

Lavender Syrup

1 Cup of water
1 Tablespoon of dried lavender flowers
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
1/2 Cup of honey

In a saucepan, bring the water and lavender flowers to a boil.  Add the sugar and honey and bring to a second boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Strain, discarding the lavender flowers, and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  

Written by Leticia Alaniz © 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jonathan Ramirez - Portraits, Magic & Surrealism

Jonathan Ramirez
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2017
You paint portraits, you make sculptures, you create drawings, and you compose original rock n' roll full of imagery and messages, yet you don't consider yourself an artist?

"I don't consider myself an artist but yeah I always wanted to create something artistic all my life, from paintings or sculptures… I guess I'm not an artist but a person that's inspired to create things." 

Jonathan Ramirez may be humble in accepting the reality that he's on his way to superstardom in the art scene; yet he's already garnered countless art recognitions and has been invited to showcase his art in solo exhibitions in Europe, USA, and Latin America.  His pieces have been acquired by top galleries and collectors.  As a whole, his body of work is recognized for its complexity and depth and for encompassing cultural and political commentary in highly detailed portraits in a renaissance style mixed with modern art that includes surreal depictions in mixed media.  To describe Jonathan's art would be difficult to place it in one single style.  His portraits alone are prophetically sensitive, and they're suffused with a theatrical air.  They're images that reveal an enormous power of feeling and observation.  His underlying theme is the sentimentality and expressiveness of the deep gaze of the eyes in each of his portraits.  It's a gaze that may sense tragedy or the brevity of the moment in which we live in.  Elusive brushstrokes follow the gaze and in some portraits, drips of color roll down towards the bottom of the canvas, almost as if the beginning of life rolls down towards the end of life reminding us that life is a perfect delicate balance which must come to an end.    

I remember the event where I first met Jonathan at a Battle of the Bands concert where he was playing with his band called Moon Fluid.  The music of Moon Fluid was a progressive style of rock n' roll with a blending of blues, post-punk, ska, jazz, gothic rock and even latin influences.  He was playing chords on his guitar and naturally, his music stood out and it was loud.  I was there to photograph the concert and I wanted to know what Moon Fluid was all about.  Soon after, I was photographing covers for his singles and band portraits. 

Jonathan was born in Monterrey, Mexico and the famous neighborhood, Barrio Antiguo, famously known for its art scene, poets, writers, and intellectuals may have been the right place to shape his artistic persona.

In his words: 

"My childhood was very strange… I was a quiet kid, always drawing USSR war propaganda posters… I was very interested in war propaganda since I was a kid.  I used to copy and create my art-war drawings in mixed media with popular Disney characters interwoven.  I think that's why my current paintings resemble my childhood art.  I grew up in a poor neighborhood in a middle-class family.  I'm very proud of my heritage, of my background, and where I came from. "

LA - Does your heritage have a place in your art?

Ramirez - Yes, in fact, I started my first collection inspired by my Mayan culture with a touch of a modern perspective.  I love to combine some of my roots and cultures in most of my paintings.  Even if I'm finished doing the Mayan collection, I try to apply my Hispanic heritage to my artwork.  

Portrait of Rasputin by Jonathan Ramirez
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2017
LA - What kind of subjects do you mostly paint?

Ramirez - I love to paint portraits but I also like to do detailed work and there are a few times that I paint surreal subjects in different mediums.  I'm known for painting using the natural stain from wine, coffee, spices and of course traditional oils, acrylics, and charcoal.  Fire makes it on my canvases quite often and it's quite a spectacle when I paint.  It's like a rock concert.  My art, in general, is emotional and colorful.  It's magical and dark with a flair of gothic.

LA - Your art seems to speak its own language that transcends time.  It has a sense of universality.  Are you a storyteller through your art?

Ramirez - I think each of my pieces has a story to tell so I'm definitely a visual storyteller.  I let my art speak for me.  I'm a very shy person so everything you see in my work is related to something I might say or a personal story.  

LA - Do you think your art reflects your ideas and opinions on the world we live in?

Ramirez - Yes, my art reflects the modern world we live in because the world I live in inspires me to create so it's a balance.

LA - How do you view social issues of the world today?  Do negative social issues portrayed in the media bother you?

Ramirez - I don't get angry, the world is already angry with each other, so instead I get inspired to create what I do.  For everything I see in social media, I create something that will have an impact.  I mean, you have to be a creator to not fall into those games.  I keep myself distracted from all of that.  If I see a subject I like and If think I can project that into art I make that happen.  I believe art can make a difference.  In the world we live in, I can't step away or blind myself to current social issues so I just find a way to express myself thru art and let the world see my point of view thru my art.     

Jonathan Ramirez
Photo Leticia Alaniz © 2017
LA - Are you spiritual or what do you believe in?

Ramirez - I would say the older I become the more I become non-religious.  But I would say I'm spiritual and I'm really trying to look for the answers of existence, you know… is there life after death?  Or what's next?  Things like that… I'm not sure if you call that spiritual but yeah I really love peace.  And on the subject of philosophy, I love Plato. 

LA - I think Plato was the philosopher that argued the issue of "being alive" and "being dead", two opposite states, and "dying" and "coming-to-life" must balance out dying… so it's interesting to wonder about what comes next.

LA - Do you question anything in life, for example, what our purpose is and the existentialism of life itself?  

Ramirez - Yes, I do all the time.  Before I go to sleep and close my eyes I think deep.  There are so many questions and not enough answers.  It's very difficult for me to go to bed thinking what there might be after this life and how I can apply that to my next painting.  Waking up and having those six hours face to face with a canvas and trying to apply my feelings and emotions raises a lot of questions.  Existentialism definitely has a place in my paintings.  

LA - How do you prepare yourself mentally when you begin a new canvas?  What's your studio setup like?

Ramirez - My studio is a mess, but that's how it should be.  It's the only place I feel secure and happy.  I try not to think before I start painting, then I play music depending on the mood.  Then, of course, I drink wine or something to get a little high on emotions if you know what I mean!  

LA - What bands do you listen to?  

Ramirez - I love Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Smashing Pumpkins… in fact, I'm working on a collection inspired by one of their albums: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.  You can also find Tool and A Perfect Circle on my playlist.  They really inspire me in my creative process.

LA - Music is a very big driving force that keeps us going.  What else has had an influence on your work?

Ramirez - In the past four years, my art is influenced by my personal experiences.  My love life especially, my heart has been getting hurt a lot.  So in a way, my loneliness drives me to keep painting or the fact that I don't feel like going out much and meet people.  It's a strange thing to say, I'm not very social so I project myself into my paintings.  My love life has been very disappointing.  Past relationships, lost love, death and of course, music is what keep me going.  

2016 Collection by Jonathan Ramirez
LA - Are you happy with your life?

Ramirez - Death is a surprise party that may come at any moment.  I'm very happy now but who knows tomorrow?  I live every minute of my life as if it was the last one.  I enjoy the moment and never look back or look into the future.  For now, I feel proud of my art, my work, everything I do and create. 

LA - Life is full of pain and death.  It's an indisputable truth and in between, we can find happiness among ourselves.  Your paintings certainly speak of life and death and their vibrant colors seem to seek authenticity and they convey the message that we can get more out of life. 

LA - What are your artistic dreams for the future?

Ramirez - As far as workflow, I would like to keep creating every day, even if it's a small sketch which I may never share with people.  I see myself today and my future alone, creating art, making crazy and dark paintings and sculptures.  I would love to display my new collection and share it with the world for sure.  I would like to experiment with new mediums and I would like to explore my brain and be more active with art.  And as for my music, it's a little bit harder to accomplish because I have to depend on others so that I can play a gig.  I love my band Moon Fluid but I need the other musicians and many times they're not available.  So painting is more of a solo activity and it has actually possessed me more strongly, so I'll just keep creating solo.    

LA - What has been a highlight of your career?

Ramirez - I guess I consider it a major highlight when I exhibit my work.  It gives me great satisfaction when people see my work in person and see the time and work that I have put into the art.  It makes me feel that I have something good going for me.  Exhibits keep me going because it's the drive that I need to inspire me.  I'm not always dependent on a public, but it does give me a great boost.  

LA - Where was your first exhibit and when?

Ramirez - It was in London I believe in 2011 at Debut Contemporary.  After that show, it seems Dallas started paying more attention to my art so I started to do more exhibits in my base city of Dallas, but I still keep traveling to Europe to display my art.

LA - Is there a city in the world that you think is more suited for you?  

Ramirez - I think a lot of artists might choose New York or Los Angeles but I feel better suited for London.  I think the art scene is growing so much in London and I think it's also so beautiful and inspiring for me.  I react to the city and it's like a strong energy from which I draw inspiration.  

LA - What has criticism on your art been like, whether positive or negative?

Ramirez - Because its art there will always be a lot of different opinions and I have received both negative and positive critiques.  What I do is just listen and I try to see their point of view.  Does it affect me?  Not at all, I respect peoples' opinion all the time and I love to get feedback. 

LA -  How do you view the artistic scene in Dallas?

Ramirez - I usually check the art scene, I go to exhibits.  I mean it seems to me everyone is famous nowadays, you see a new model, photographer or a painter coming on social media every day.  So I think art has a place on social media and it's a great platform to get the word out.  All the cool people come out on social media, so I'm just gonna ride the same train.   

LA - Do you have your family's support and approval?

Ramirez - My family is very supportive.  I'm lucky that I came from a family that always embraced the arts.  For example, my father was a musician and my mother sang in a choir.  So music and the arts have always been a part of our lives.  It just came naturally to me.  At first, they were a little bit shocked or scared when they saw my paintings, especially the darker ones with dark themes, but now they understand me and support me all the way.  They do wonder why I paint so many portraits, but they're cool, portraits are my passion so they love them now.

LA - Your portraits assertively embrace the renaissance art movement, especially the way light glances along the flesh of the faces which is hard to accomplish.  And speaking of the renaissance, is there an artist of that period or other periods that you would have liked to meet if you could?

Ramirez - I would have really like to meet Leonardo, Michelangelo or Dali.  All the people that I have dreamt of meeting left a legacy behind either in art or music.  Their legacy makes me happy and that's why we're here, to experience that.  I like to live in the moment but I wish I could meet a couple of those guys.  I have learned a lot from studying their works.  I only aspire for my work to make a mark somewhere, to leave its legacy and to perhaps make an impression on a person for the better.  It really makes me happy when people enjoy my art which I create with my heart.

"Great art takes all that we've got to put into it.  And when we're gone, all that remains is art." - Jonathan Ramirez
Mayan Prophesy by Jonathan Ramirez © 2016

Friday, January 13, 2017

Iñaki Oñate: A Modern Auteur Filmmaker

Photo © Natalia Sabatino
Iñaki Oñate is an auteur filmmaker and visual artist.  I first heard his name thru his father Iván Oñate whom is a well known, respected poet and narrator in Latin America.  In a chance meeting at a book festival in Houston, Texas, the poet, Iñaki’s father, proudly talked to me about his son and gave me a DVD of one of his films.  The film is titled El Fin De La Película (The End Of The Film).  At the time, I was working on other projects so I left the film on my desk for at least a month before I sat down to watch it.

Good things that come my way deserve attention and what I found in Oñate’s film is precisely the kind of art that intrigues and fascinates.  It was a film that I would consider auteur cinema.  The kind that brought to mind the films that were being made in Paris in the late 1950s and 1960s termed New Wave Cinema by François Truffaut.  There was a sense of subjective and objective realism, and the narrative carried itself in a verité manner.  Subjects were photographed in artful black and white in natural settings, with natural dialogue.

Films are only one part of Oñate’s repertoire, he’s also a well established visual artist, illustrator, musician and sound designer.  His art is provocative and in a way his pieces convey messages of ecstatic truth.  They move the audience to think about the reality or absurdity of the world and social issues in which we live in.  

El Fin De La Película (The End Of The Film)
by Film Director Iñaki Oñate
Iñaki Oñate was born in Quito, Ecuador on November 7th, 1988.  He grew up in a home that in his words was, “Synonymous with freedom, but a freedom that carries a high degree of responsibility.”   His art education and discipline may have began at home, but his final formative years in cinematic studies were spent at the Universidad Del Cine (FUC), in Buenos Aires, Argentina and aptly among the avant garde society which surrounded him.   

LA - What was it like growing up in Ecuador with a famous author as your father, it must have been fascinating.  Did you have a happy childhood?

Oñate -  My home has always been my refuge, my source of wisdom.  It’s here where I cultivated my aesthetic and ethical identity.  I think a good childhood is not only a happy childhood, but a childhood that teaches you to be strong.  My upbringing basically consisted of the process of brutally colliding with reality and resisting with the help of the force cultivated in my home.  

LA -  Did you have the support you needed to become an artist?

Oñate - I have been very blessed to have family, people, friends, and colleagues who have demonstrated their appreciation, their respect for the things I do and at the same time they have helped me grow with constructive criticism and utmost sincerity with their opinions on my work.

LA - In growing as artists it’s extremely valuable to be surrounded by people who are willing to express sincere opinions.

LA - Since when did you have an inclination towards art?

Oñate - I think I must have been drawing tirelessly since the age of two.  As a child, I would put sounds and dialogue to the images that I drew on paper.  I was unconsciously drawing frames of imaginary movies.  I do remember one of my very early pieces.  It consisted of a series of pen drawings based on impressions I had on the film Samson And Delilah by Cecil B. De Mille.  I must have been around five years old, but at a very young age, cinema caused in me a hypnotic effect.  In those days, it was very common to see biblical films on TV like the one mentioned or The Ten Commandments.  They were part of the regular programming.  There was something in the sacrifice of the main characters, their renunciation of themselves in pursuit of something beyond superior that clicked with my metaphysical being.  Of course, as a child I did not rationalize this, I just let the film carry me away by intuition and the emotions that those movies and stories generated.  

LA - What do you remember most from your childhood and youth years that play an important role in your art today?

El Paso de la Vida by Iñaki Oñate © 2015
Oñate - Art was always my sanctuary.  It was the place where I was free.  There was no better ecstasy than returning home after school and throwing myself to the ground surrounded by drawing paper and then proceed to draw for hours.  Eventually, the same would happen with the piano, the guitar and finally cinema.  The cynicism of the world around me was always a source of frustration and at the same time inspiration.  But there was also an element of the strange and ghostly that was ingrained as a result of having had an encounter with an angel when I was a child.  I saw it in my house and I felt its energy was good.  It had feathers but it was grotesque and deformed.  Nevertheless I sensed that it was an angel or something close to an angel.  

LA - That type of imagery stays with us for a long time.  It reminds me of the movie Birdman with its satirical black comedy and drama.  

LA - In what way did your parents influence you?

Oñate - My parents gave me their love and ethics.  They taught me valuable lessons and that one must be consistent with oneself.  One must be loyal to one’s principles, and above all one’s art.  I learned that I had to be loyal to one’s aesthetic discourse that goes beyond the work.  My art must be incarnated in life itself.  There is no middle ground in the true artist.  You must give everything to create your work and create something that truly speaks to another human being.

LA - What is your concept of art and what style do you mainly prefer?

Oñate - Art is an excuse to express emotions or ideals.  Its the only truth that exposes our essence: that of animals stricken by fear and desire looking fiercely for someone who will love us or at least give us a warm illusion.  As for styles and mediums, I must say that drawing, music and film are all of equal importance to me.  I think cinema encapsulates all the disciplines I explore.  Its the hybrid par excellence.  

LA - What art movement or artist in history has had an influence in your work?

Oñate - If I must choose an art movement or artists that have strongly influenced me, I must say that the 16th century School of Art in Quito has had a great impression on me.  Also, the renaissance philosopher Francis Bacon, film directors Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch, and the music of Pink Floyd. 

LA - Do you draw inspiration from politics and current social events?

Oñate - I'm inspired by everything.  I do draw inspiration from certain events recounted by the mass media but also and above all I look for stories and events that happen near me, in the faces and the backs of everyday life.  That’s where I believe the real human epics are. 

LA - I couldn’t agree with you more.  And I also believe every artist paints their own reality and in their own language and they portray life according to their imagination.  What are some themes you paint?

Oñate - I think I’m essentially an existentialist, since I was a boy until today.  The theme that defines me most is the being and its dialogue with nothingness. 

LA - Are you spiritual?  What do you believe in?  

Oñate - I’m a spiritual person by nature.  No one ever made me believe in anything.  Yet I feel God in the rain, in the wind, in the leaves, in the bliss of love, and in the truth of art.  

LA - What period in history do you think you would have liked to live in?

Oñate - I think I share the morality of Woody Allen’s movie: Midnight in Paris.  While we may find fascinating previous periods of time, there is nothing better than finding beauty in the here and now.  I think it’s the duty of every artist to find the identity of his time.  

LA - We all have an important role in society.  Do you think your work has an influence of those around you?

Oñate - I want to believe that yes, and sometimes people that I don't know at all have expressed their admiration and appreciation for the messages or the things I say thru my art.  Art must be a threat, a threat to reality, for what is established as absolute.  Art must teach us that there is no such thing, that everything can be modified.

LA -  Have you had any challenges in exhibiting your art and what has the criticism been like whether positive or negative?

Oñate - From a very young age I had a deep respect for my things.  For me, to make art meant that art itself had to deal with healing my own problems.  With my paintings I try to overcome the demons of my past or my present and I also try to pay homage to the angels who have passed thru me.  Some already in another dimension, while others are deformed from the brutality of life.  When I was 15 I made my first short film.  It was a school project and it was only me with my Handy camera and the collaboration of two friends.  Seeing the good reception I had at my school, I dared to submit the film to an international film festival in Montreal, Canada.  It was my very first exhibit.  The festival was called Festival Du Films Du Monde and my short film was titled Faces of Time.  They showed my film just before a feature film by the son of Juan Rulfo.  After the exhibition many people expressed their pleasure towards my short and a TV channel asked me for an interview.  It was a small baptism of fire and blood.  My film was selected and since then I started to produce more films and have been lucky at international festivals.  From then I began to show my work at universities in the film circuits where I felt to some extent that my films were conveying an important message to completely unknowns.  That gave me the incentive at a young age that I could seriously take the idea of filmmaking as a profession and dedicate my life to the art.  I was determined to set a universal message for others through my cinema, my music and my drawings.  

LA - What role does Argentine culture play in your art?  Are there political or social messages intertwined in your art?

Oñate - Argentina has been fundamental not only for my art but for my life.  It has been the place that has seen me grow form a teenager and become an adult.  Argentina has given me the friendships, the muses, and the vital learning curve that every artist needs for his art to be true, to have emotions, to have drive.  It’s where I learned to make art that was more human.     

LA - Life itself makes us evolve and the place we live in shapes us… What has your evolution as an artist been like?

Oñate - I have always felt and perceived my art as my own language, a personal and intimate way of shouting in an aesthetic and harmonious way everything that happens in my heart and mind.  My evolution as an artist has been based on perfecting techniques and finding new resources, inquiring other artists and learning, but also in not letting the voice of the inner child to be lost and maintaining the violence and the game I’ve had since I was very young.  

LA - What is your studio like?

Oñate - I don’t have a studio.  I work in the small mono environment where I live in Buenos Aires,  I have the necessary basics, but I tried to decorate the place a little with posters of movies or movie stars as well as with clay sculptures that I make for my animations.  More than a studio, I would say it looks like a lunatic’s lab.  I don’t have preferential schedules to work.  I simply act based on the strength of an idea or a sketch of the moment.  Sometimes, something can take me minutes and other times it can take days.  I drink apple cider when I work, I think it’s good fuel for my ideas.

LA - Do you cook?  Is cooking part of your repertoire?

Oñate - I love to cook for myself and for my friends.  I like to make macaroni and cheese with tuna.

LA - Cooking is one of my major life forces too.  How do you feed your mind?  What books do you read, who are your favorite authors, and what films do you watch?

Oñate - I like to read novels and poetry: Boris Vian, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Charles Bukowski, and Joe Sacco comics.  The work of my own father Iván Oñate has been fundamental for the construction of my aesthetics.  In the film arena I like Blue Velvet, Pink Floyd The Wall, Amadeus, The Godfather Trilogy, El Silencio, and La Hora Del Lobo just to name a few.  Everything I’ve seen has been influential on my work directly or indirectly, but the films mentioned have been crucial and are films I have seen at least two or three times.  

LA - How do you recharge energy?

Oñate - Usually what awakens my libido to create something is either a song that I like, a good movie or even the smile of an inspirational muse.

LA - Music sounds like a great way to relax and create.  What music do you listen to?

Oñate - It may vary, I’m essentially a rocker: Pink Floyd and Stone Temple Pilots.  But on the other hand the classical music of Schoenberg (The Night Transfigured Concretely) to the music of Chopin have been my companions when I create.  These days I listen to a lot of sound tracks from movies.  

LA - What are your dreams and plans for the future?

Oñate - I want my parents, my bothers, my nephews, and my friends to be proud of me.  I want to fall completely in love again.  I want my work to be seen all over the world and for my work to express sincerity to any inhabitant of this universal human village.  I think over the years I can discern what may have been wrong in my life or what errors I have made.  What I can say is that thanks to positive things that happened, they have impacted me enough to build the strength to process the negative and transform it into life lessons and new material for my work.

LA - What do you feel most proud of?

Oñate - My family.  Of my family values.  Of the honesty and the struggle of my parents for a better world. 

LA - Are you a romantic?

Oñate - I think every artist should be a romantic.  We’re driven by ideals and feelings and we must have the courage to be like this in a cynical and cruel world.  

LA - What moves you more whether to inspire or to provoke negatively?
Souvenir by Iñaki Oñate 

Oñate - Negatively, I’m bothered by the hypocrisy and corruption of politics and by people who blindly follow false leaders with such fanaticism that causes brothers and sisters to be murdered among them.  It causes me despair to see that people don’t realize how they can have the power but instead they allow the manipulation and deceit of just a small circle of bastards.  We have the last word and our own ideas, not those that govern us based on lies and cheap fables.

LA - I agree bad governments are the ills of our societies.  

LA - What philosopher or philosophy inspires you?

Oñate - As a teenager I used to follow Nietzsche and Camus.  Now I like the desperate and poetic rhetoric of Émil Cioran.

LA - Those are amazing philosophies to read.  I’ll keep in mind to read essays by Émil Cioran.  I know they’re deep and raise important questions of humanity and pessimism.  Have you applied any of your favorite thoughts on philosophy to your works?  Which art pieces or films do you feel most proud of?

Oñate - I feel a special affection for a trilogy of short films that I produced when I was a teenager that consist of: The Machine, Lord God of the Insect and God is in the Mirror.  They narrate the passage of the child to the adolescent and the adolescent to the adult who must fight for his soul and for his ideas. 

LA - Your’e a master at what you do but also a master thinker.  This has been a very good moment and in cinema we would call this a sequence.  I’m very glad and honored that you shared a sequence of your life here.  Thank you for your generous time and for your honesty. 

Iñaki Oñate produces his films thru Undergofilms Productions.  His artwork and photography are displayed in select galleries and published in Europe, USA and Latin America.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dawn in Dolores de Hidalgo

Madrugada en Dolores de Hidalgo
©  2001 Leticia Alaniz Cano
Oil on Canvas
Dolores de Hidalgo, or simply known as Dolores is an important city in Mexico with an important history.  Its in the north-central part of Guanajuato.  It is here where the cry for independence or the Grito de Dolores- the thundering for insurecction was heard for the first time in the early hours of September in 1810.  It was at the parish church Nuestra Señora de Dolores where Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla uttered his famous words and demanded the voice to be heard all the way to Spain.  Independence was imminent and Spain officially recognized Mexico’s independence after the Treaty of Córdoba was signed in 1821.  In honor of the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the citizens renamed the city to Dolores de Hidalgo.

I read about the famous battle and the history of Mexico’s independence as a child since elementary school and growing up I heard stories about the beautiful art, ceramics and culture.  The art itself is what attracted me to visit the historical city several years ago.  To say that it’s fascinating and mystic falls short because there’s an aura of wonder everywhere and in everything.  

The city was an Otomí settlement long before the arrival of the Spaniards and their essence can be found in the ambience, the mood, and especially the food.  There’s a distinct aroma in the air of wood burning, chiles roasting, fresh fruit, flowers from the countryside, and tamales steaming that’s ridiculously and intoxicatingly beautiful.  This is the real Mexico, it’s in the heart of the country and it’s where travelers can experience the colors, the vibrancy and ancient history with a jarrito de atole or a clay pot of atole in the dawn hours of the morning (atole is a traditional pre-hispanic Mexican porridge).  

From their carts, vendors sell hot atoles along with tamales in the madrugada just before daybreak.  Atoles and tamales are the traditional Mexican breakfast and vendors sing their marvelous offerings in poetic rhyming sounds that give life to the city: “Pasen a comer tamales, todos los que van pasando, tamalitos calientitos, aqui vamos preparando, pasen a tomar atole su atolito y champurrado, panza y corazón contento hacen fuerte al ciudadano.” 

A loose translation would be something like this: “Come on by and eat tamales, everyone that passes by, come eat hot tamales that we’re making here, come on by and drink your atole, your warm atole champurrado, be it known that a happy heart and a happy belly, makes a person strong.” 

At the earliest hours one morning, while the dew was cool and a blanket of light fog enveloped the city, I went out for a taste of atole and tamales.  The church bell rings every hour and it can be heard from a long distance so I followed the sound to the main plaza.  The chatter was vibrant and the tune of the vendors is a calling for a good meal.  Before the morning sun rays even made their appearance, I managed to sketch an elderly couple walking down the steps of the main church at the plaza which later I finished in oils in my studio.  I recorded a vivid picture of the colors they were wearing and the way the light spread its color cast.  It was around 5:00am and I knew that was the moment in time for my chance to live such a beautiful morning in the heart of Mexico.    

Written by Leticia Alaniz ©2016 

Madrugada en Dolores de Hidalgo
Oil on Canvas ©2001 Leticia Alaniz