Tag Archives: calacas

Loteria Number Twenty-Eight: El Bolidor

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Now, that was a hell of a thing.

This time of year is seldom merciful to me and mine, as the combination of Halloween (practically a religious undertaking in this household) and dia de los muertos makes for flaming pu-pu platter of creative breakdowns, headcolds, and a metric crap-ton of other grandiose, art-related suffering. This year didn’t disappoint, and was exacerbated in particularly masochistic fashion by my decision to—in the middle of the mess—pry up my roots and head on down to Los Angeles for observations, ofrendas, and some too-short quality time with friends and loved ones.

I’m planning some sort of “maybe this will work and not come off like a thumbheaded moron trying to make magic happen with his smartphone’s video function”-type recap that I’m hoping to have put together by the weekend, but—barring that—it seems almost mildly blasphemous to let this occasion pass without at least ONE bit of calaca-related bloggadoccio.

So, the subject of today’s overwrought ranting is: 28.

28 happens to be  the age that I decided to go back to college. It’s sometimes the number of days in February. It’s a multiple of seven, which I think everybody can agree is a pretty damn cool number. It also happens to be the number of years that I’ve known the recipient of today’s featured sculpture, which I’ve opted to overreachingly entitle “El Bolidor.”

 

BA BOOM BOOM VA-ROOM

The piece represents Capital D, who I’ve known since I was about six years old. CD’s somebody who I’ve been blessed to grow up and around with, who’s always been a bonafide, true-blooded bud in every sense of the word. We came up on a steady diet of weird movies, video games, bleary-eyed sleepovers and were hardcore car-culture mutts well before we even got anywhere near our learner’s permits, which was where the genesis of this particular piece came from.

 

A little of that, a little of this, a little from here…

Occasional visitors of this bloghole might recall “Sibling Revelry,” from a few months ago: it’s an essential homage to a consistent theme of weird, go-kart related fascination that probably started with Mario Kart and has carried itself steadily through the decades that followed. Initially, I thought it would be awesome to somehow incorporate Bolidor into that diorama, somehow—a concept that likely stemmed from those old die-cast Kenner Star Wars deals that locked together to form awesome little playscapes  of Bespin and Hoth—but the realization that this would require us somehow all converging on a predetermined meeting spot with our calacas in hand was…. somehow offensively sobering.  It also resulted in Bolidor’s kart getting bigger. And bigger. And BIGGER. And somewhere in the mix, turning from a simple road-beast into some bizarre smash-up of Big Daddy Roth and the 1955 Chevy that D and I used to burn rubber around Pasadena in, during our misspent youth.

 

bolidor, con (badaduhduhduhduhdubbaduhduh) base.

Sharp and nerdy eyes will probably note the fact that the fender detailing resembles a Bullet Bill, and—rather randomly—the engine (and the artist’s complete lack of insight into what the hell one actually looks like, aside from when he’s filling up his wiper fluid) has somehow wound up incorporating pieces of the Ghostbuster’s proto-packs.

 

fwoosh.

You KNOW something’s on point when your geekish tendencies are on autopilot. Fortunately, Bolidor survived the trip to California and was presented lovingly during an ofrenda celebration for a mutual and dearly departed pal of ours, which somehow split the clouds of a frantic weekend and put a dovetail on the stresses surrounding the holiday. There was also a lot to love at The Folk Tree’s magnificent celebracion’ (Adios, El Organillero and La Revolucionaria: you’ve sold, and I couldn’t wish you better in your new home!), as well as during our daytrip to Olvera Street, which I hope to spill some virtual ink on in a future post.

In the interim—and while I’m shrugging off this migraine—here’s some assorted ephemera from the building process for this piece. A couple of folks have asked (both at the show and via FB) how I put these things together, to which I reply: “CAREFULLY AND OFTEN INCORRECTLY.”

 

to the side, to the side.

 

the goggles: a good excuse to try and use the rest of my Testor’s window-building epoxy.

 

also, a fine case in point: the first sculpt of this guy’s head somehow made him look like a tiki mask, once the goggles and hat were in place. I have NO idea how the hell I messed this up so poorly, but I’m also embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even notice until the arms and primer were on.
“Wait a second…”

 

q: what do colonel sanders and comrade have in common?
a: we’re both working on an eighteen-piece bucket.
(ohhhhwuh)

 

 

 

 

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The Bonesmith’s Union: Jtnee’s Ode to Django Reinhardt

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Jody Travous Nee–or Jtnee, as her Etsy faithful know her as–has been one of my favorite artisans for a while and a half, now. Aside from the endlessly quirky creations that she’s constantly milling out (Seriously; her work output–and the quality that she somehow maintains while doing so–puts even the heartiest and hardcore craftsfolks to shame), the fact that she specializes in sculpture that’s truly palm-size is something that I’m constantly amazed by. And while she doesn’t exclusively deal in dia de los muertes fare, she nevertheless rocks the genre with her occasional pieces which feature one of her token characters–“Mr. Muerte”–in a number of poses and purposes. In the link below, he’s channeling the late gypsy guitar maestro, Django Reinhardt:

Heeere’s Django. Or a 1/20th version of him, anywho.

Jody’s cavalcade of half-pint masterbits can be enjoyed at her Etsy headquarters, here. Definitely worth a look for anybody who loves them some calacaliciousness, or just well-crafted fare for decorating one’s desk.

Loteria Number One: La Revolucionaria (The Revolutionary)

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When it comes to cobbling together calaca-related inspiration, I pretty much take on the countenance of some creepy-ass character from an old “Hammer Studios” horror flick. I’m constantly marauding around in the shadows of pop culture, traditional bonesmithery and anything I happen to stagger into on a day-to-day basis; whether fantastic or fundamental, the sparks for a new piece can be struck off of pretty much anything, as long as the light’s right.

Of course, that isn’t always the case. In regards to my first loteria piece—La Revolucionaria—the visual was pretty much spoon-fed straight off of the page, courtesy of a book on Mesoamerican culture that I happened to get a hold of during a visit to (yup) The Folk Tree. The picture depicted a Chiapan woman brandishing a club in one hand and leading her toddler around with the other, both sporting the “neckerchief/balaclava” trappings of the EZLN group. It was a striking photograph, and I immediately started putting it together in my head for a sculpt, but—when it came time to start laying down clay—I actually found myself moderately conflicted about the depiction, itself.

(Author’s note: the editorial gibbering about said conflict will be explained below, but—out of awareness that you might not find that kind of gringo-centric ranting and raving to be the least bit interesting—I’ll spare the intrigue and just provide the pictures of Mama Zapatista below, for your enjoyment. More text, after the snaps.)

The Revolutionary, front-on.

The Revolutionary, straight-up.

The Revolutionary, back-aways. This was my first time using a new “sculpted pleat” technique for the dress, which turned out to be an interesting experiment.

Anyway, the heart of the second-guessing relates to a fundamental issue, and one that I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in an ongoing discussion with, over at the Dead Deco blog. Put in brass-tacks terms, there’s a certain degree of what feels like lame-ass exploitation in trying to iconize the EZLN’s culture war; it’s easy to slap Comandante Marcos on a t-shirt or drape your Che flag over that pot-leaf flag you’ve got on your dorm room wall, but few people—and myself included, objectively speaking—have the slightest inkling what the hell the finer points of that conflict involve, or could even find Chiapas on a map of the Americas.  To just take the most surface aspect of that revolutionary movement—the raw visual—and slap-dash it onto a Hot Topic keychain irks me not so much on some level of overly-concerned consumer activism, but rather just from a position of piss-poor taste.

So. Not to gut a good diatribe-in-the-making, I eventually settled on making the piece, albeit from an interpretive standpoint. It was originally going to have the EZLN’s “red star logo” on its base, but after some thought, I figured that it would be better to strip down the symbolism to something simple: revolutionary, not as a regional concept, but in its barest essence. It’s a piece that speaks to the badass qualities of women everywhere, the didactic of a mother and a warrior woman, and the notion that anybody can rise up against the evils that they’re beset by, even if doing so means strapping your kid to one hip and brandishing a Kalashnikov in the other.

… like so.

(Author’s note: La Revolucionaria is currently part of The Folk Tree’s dia de los muertos exhibition, which will be running from tomorrow through November 4th. For those of you in the greater Los Angeles area, I would give this a five-star, A+, getcha-there endorsement for a stopover, if you’re interested and able.)

Sibling Revelry (2011)

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If there’s one lesson that I’ve really taken to the chin in the last two years, it’s that the actual process of creation is only one minor, finite aspect of the whole artistic identity. That isn’t to imply deep and profound realizations on the soul of expression or even some sense of newly-minted creative confidence, but—in giving myself at least a spoonful of credit—I have to say that I’ve become more at peace with the ups and downs that this craft brings with it in recent months than I have… hell, maybe ever. A lot of that has to do with being blessed by great support from the usual suspects, but a lot of it also has to do with the ongoing process of making these things for loved ones.

There’s a decided similarity between struggling towards consistent, artistic credibility and having your creative Id repeatedly donkey-punched, as I’ve found. One month, you can’t do anything wrong: you make the right pieces, you sell the lights out, and you make those deeply-rooted connections with your local community that only a really resonant art show can bring.

Then, two weeks later, you find yourself with cluttered shelves and a serious case of doubt in not only your abilities, but also your judgment. You glare warily at the crap you’ve put together, and wonder what the hell compelled you to believe that anybody in their right mind would ever cough up a nickel for something like that. You hem and haw and swear that you’re done with trying to impress your imaginary constituency (Much like Homer Simpson shaking his fist at “the people who don’t live there!”), and then—like clockwork—you trip over your principles and find yourself furiously winding the whole thing up again, slashing up clay and twisting wires at 3AM on some Tuesday morning.

But it’s those bounce-back times that always wind up being a good excuse to knock out a personal piece. The unsolicited, unexpected expression of appreciation for a friend or family member; that shot in the eyeballs that one needs to get out of the muck, and back onto the ol’ bone-horse.

In the case of today’s throwback—from about a year ago—the means really did dress the ends nicely. Exhausted from work, finding absolutely no joy in the usual creative outlets, I wound up finally cashing in on that one calaca that I’d been saving for a rainy day: the inevitable diorama that I’d been promising my sister for months.

… gloriously goofy as it may be.

As probably goes without saying, this piece went from being a relatively manageable calaca-built-for-one to the monster wall-hanging seen here. The base is about 10”x7” with a custom (and badly) scrolled piece of pine serving as the backdrop; additional to that was the insidiously detailed assembly required for each “kart.” As you can likely guess, each piece was inspired by those long and forever-lost hours of hitting each other with SNES controllers while playing endless Mario Kart tourneys among friends.

Kart One: The “Silverfire 6000.” Front view.

Kart One: The “Silverfire 6000.” Rear-view.

Kart Two: The “Cannibal Twin-8.” Front View.

Kart Two: The “Cannibal Twin-8.” Rear view.

It should also confirm that despite that being twenty years ago, my sister and I are apparently the same self-referential, ridiculous knobs that we’ve always been. For a relationship that’s defined the better part of my life, nothing short of total excess would do, and—looking back—the resulting creative high that came with actually succeeding at building this thing was enough to fuel my absurdist pursuits for another full year. Even divided by miles and decades, making somebody you care about happy is one of the most potent weapons at a person’s disposal… whether it’s the art of expression, or just the ol’ art of being alive and kicking.

If you gotta say it, say it with a mush-slap and a Bob-omb.

Loteria Number Three: La Pitonisa (The Fortune Teller)

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With the completion of El Organillero, I officially had four of my five pieces set, and just needed to settle on a design for the last sculpt. I’d been kicking around a couple of lucha-inspired throw-ins, as well as some more Victorian-inspired fare; however, with nine days left, that need to once again kick and punch at the edges of my previous design experience started doing their thing.

And this, of course, led to a series of increasingly ambitious (see: dumb) decisions that culminated with the creation of Loteria Number Three: La Pitonisa.

It should be noted here that I am not—and let me repeat that, with a gratuitous degree of italic emphasis: not—anything resembling a woodworker. I can barely cut a straight line with a jigsaw, and the previous cabinet and wall-mounted creations that I’ve dabbled in have consisted of more pine putty than actual plank-age. So the fact that I apparently figured that a ridiculously intricate wood-and-glass-housed calaca was something that REALLY needed to happen is, in sad admission, totally par for course.

Miraculously, however, the design actually worked. It consisted of a ton of basswood strips and half-finished sections being laid out, cussed at and then re-worked, but—with just two days to go until shipping time—I was actually in damn fine shape. Painting took another day and a half (Again, my hands are limited in terms of what they can do with a brush… and of course, my day job opted to become absolutely savage over the course of that 48 hours), and I was still curing the glue when it came time to start packing the pieces up in their little cardboard shipping coffins, but I had done it. I’d accomplished something that was, in acknowledgment of my limited skills, really flippin’ cool.

YES. COOL.

And then, of course, it happened.

I looked up from filling a box with packing peanuts, just in time to catch a single, solitary bead of what appeared to be Gorilla Glue lazily teasing a slide down the inside of the center plexiglass pane. I made a sound sort of like an ostrich chick (presumably) and lunged for the piece, fumbling for my Goo-Gone and a clean paper towel. The top of the casing needed to be cut loose, but—by Godfrey—I managed to get the glue before it hardened. Sagging with relief, I replaced the lid portion and re-fixed it, before touching up a few cracks and chips with a new coat of paint.

And then, of course, it happened. Again. I glanced up and realized that for some reason that I can only assume was chemical or karmic in nature, the Goo-Gone had somehow dried onto the glass in a single, hideous smear.  It had only lifted the glue itself, but had apparently fused with the rest, which resulted in this:

Q-bert: @#&?!

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” I muttered. “I can still do this.”

And so I carried on. I made it about halfway to the post office before abruptly kicking myself in the ass, the recognition coming on in fast and loose fashion that the Folk Tree merited nothing less than THE best. Smear or not, the piece was flawed; consequently, it found itself completely gutted from the waist up, new glass and wood fashioned to fit the design, and—a day later than I’d hoped for—snatched up by our friendly neighborhood PO-folks and shuttled on its way.

If nothing else, this entire debacle was a great indication of how my artistic mentality has changed in the last year, or so. Time was that a splatter of paint or a hairline crack were worth a quick patch-up with glue and an assumption that whoever received the sculpt would know better than to tug on its head too hard… but now and again, I’ve proudly taken that possibility to the chest, and treat every potential flaw as something to be considered and bested during the design phase.

… pay no attention to that dope in the reflection.

It’s not worthy of being called a brand yet, but it feels like it’s getting closer and closer by the day.

Loteria Number Four: El Organillero (The Organ Grinder)

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So, after about a year of being outward bound and completely consumed by an ongoing junkie-trip with work, I find myself not only slowly reeled back towards the bedrock of artistic expression, but—bim, bam, zap—also, this blog. There’s a lot of water to tread in going through the wheres and whats of the last fourteen months, but rather than commit an undue amount of text to yammering on about such, I think I’ll just nip straight to the nines and share a bit about what’s currently cluttering up my workshop display shelves and the too-cramped interior of my skull.

First and foremost is the matter of The Folk Tree. For those of you who aren’t privy to the cultural hotspots of my one-time hometown—Pasadena, California—The Folk Tree is an imports and folk art shop located just a few blocks removed from the ol’ Route 66 arterial of Colorado Boulevard.

Actually, let me amend that: it’s not “an” import store. Rather, it’s the import store. If there exists a shrine to the greatest of the Oaxacan arts that rivals this particular shop, then I’ve never seen it; it’s an unequaled emporium for the lover of the Mexican folk arts, which—in an area which is stewed in the glory of said culture—is really saying quite a bit. The Folk Tree’s annual dia de los muertos exhibition is as close to a Super Bowl/Pimms Cup/Video Armageddon as exists in this artistic sub-set, and so I was mildly shocked when they responded favorably to including my work with that of fifty other blank-shot brilliant creative talents. I wanted to buckle down and make a serious go at expanding my profile and bettering my work, but I didn’t expect to start at the contextual nose-end of Mount Crumpit in terms of making that happen.

In any case, this brought out the defining question of the last two weeks: what makes the proverbial cut, when it comes to the five works that I’d be contributing? I just rolled out the Loterias label a month or so ago—a more traditional brand of sculpture, having decided to get over geekery commissions for the time being; they maintain an excellent profile in terms of notice but do gash-all when it comes to actually selling—but this show requires more than simply shrugging off existing inventory. It demands something ambitious, something that captures that suitably smack-dab line between the creepy and comedic, and something which will stand out in an exhibition absolutely sagging with the crema de la crema.

So I thinks to myself: how about something relating to an organ grinder? That’s culture-ready, speaks to the kitschy Victorian and the essentially Latin (being that Mexico City is one of the few locales on the face of the planet where this particular street-show fare is still a viable trade).

Then I suddenly get an odd, dull spark of recollection, which brings me to this…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/claylindo/5538741265/in/photostream

Tamra, Tamra, Tamra. If there’s a standard of brilliance for this form, then you’ve met its equal at the link above; she was one of the most supportive voices in encouraging my own commercial work, and—in a genre which is littered with sub-par crap, undersculpted junk and plenty of “hey, put some skull paint on that thing, and it’ll be DAY OF THE DEAD-Y!”—she commands a level of respect that’s absolutely unparalleled.

She also apparently has the same malformed sense of humor that I do, since we wind up skidding around in the same circles in terms of our subject matter. Circus freaks? Yes. Creepy clowns frightening children? Yep. Organ grinders? Oh, f’sho.

In any case, I would sooner chop off a toe than replicate anything that was done by Clay Lindo (and done perfectly, it might be added), so I went back to the drawing board. Which, in this case, apparently just involved standing on my head and turning things around in a very slight creative clockwise direction…

 

Ta-da. Professor Lurio and his partner in panhandling, Mono Joe.

 

The idea of a giant organ-grinder monkey was admittedly not some stroke of random inspiration, but actually owes itself to last year’s Halloween celebration; that would be me on the left, and—in a giant Day of the Dead monkey costume—my younger sister.

But in any case, this does well in demonstrating how those creative cogs can click and clack, resulting in a deluxe Loteria entry that turned out to be surprisingly easy to sculpt… unlike the OTHER mondo piece that wound up being created for The Folk Tree show.

Which I will be happy to gripe about in over-verbose fashion in very short order.

From the Working Table: Dobre den!

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It’s with much ado about nothing in particular that this blog officially goes live; for those of you who have happened upon this dusty little tchotchke shop, it’s going to serve as something of a “storefront” for my recreational artistic activities. I specialize in making Mexican “dia de los muertos” figurines and statuettes–fondly referred to as “calaveras” or “calacas” in the appropriate circles–and have been selling my wares through various channels for the last two years.

I’m hoping to establish a bit of a one-sided rapport in regards to the methods and madness behind the art form, both as a means to archive the ongoing development of my craft, as well as a way to hold myself accountable in maintaining a steady work schedule. I’ve noticed that the implication of having an audience (Even if one doesn’t really exist; or it just happens to be a collective of friends, well-wishers and family members) is a great source of motivation, when it comes to knuckling down and getting pieces done.

Comments, questions and whatever else are more than welcome. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

-cc.