Figueroa woodworkers

Ramon Nicholas Figueroa Castro with one of his carved doors, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

To have a wood door built and carved by Ramon Figueroa was a big deal.

Ramon Nicholas Figueroa Castro was one of the most respected artists-craftsmen in Alamos. Members of the North American community spoke of him in hushed tones reserved for masters and maestros. Any visitor that asked about local creative talent would learn about Ramon and his growing reputation outside of Alamos. Many locals recognized a Ramon carved door as a collectable piece of art, hard to come by for a variety of reasons: he works slow, he is busy with a growing client waiting list, needed materials were hard to find, he is expensive because of his rising profile and, or… If one managed to purchase a Ramon it became the opening to countless conversations.

The Ramon I met was quiet spoken with a soft smile and simple gestures. It seemed he did what he did because it was what he did, there was a simplicity to his movement. Everything else surrounding his work was what other people did because it was what they did. Ramon hoped they would pay him what they had agreed to pay him and he would be left to his work, after-all, it is what he does.

Figueroa brothers, master wood workers, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Ramon together with his wood working brothers at their shop.

The brothers Figueroa all worked with wood on their family property on Calle de las Delicias.
Manuel, Emir Yonolan, Wilson, Paul, David and Ramon, not in the other of the above photo, shared a sprawling work space both open air and under roof. There were few walls: nature came in and their wood creations went out. Trees provided shade for craftsmen making tables, chairs, windows, doors… On this day Ramon was finishing a beautiful bureau. Its elegant turnings and graceful details stood out in sharp contrast to the dirt floor.

Ramon Figueroa with his work.    Photo by Humberto Enríquez

Ramon Figueroa with his work. Photo by Humberto Enríquez

Humberto Enríquez sent this photo of Ramon Fiqueroa. Ramon stands proud amongst his tools, materials and hand crafted objects. Is he finding comfort in his skills and artistry? Could it be that part of Ramon’s journey was his last work would be one of his best works?
This is a path many artists follow.

©2014 Alamos-Sonora-Mexico, all rights reserved by respective photographers.

Creativity and Smiles

33 … Another day doing what they do, talking about a nice work environment.

two police women, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

There are times Plaza de las Armas needs traffic directors, here are two.

The year is 1992, Lupita Dominguez and Clara Miranda Meza are Alamos traffic police women. On weekends and holidays their beat was the Plaza and their job was keeping traffic moving and trouble away. They could also be seen at most special events around town, anything that created traffic situations. They performed other police functions as needed. These were the days when social etiquette frowned on women wearing shorts in public. By my return shoot in 1996, women were wearing shorts everywhere. Times change, fashion changes, the Plaza remains the same.

Halcon de la Sierra Alamos, music group, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Music group Halcon de Sierra Alamos pose with their namesake behind them. m.

1996, Halcon was led by sax player Manuel Dominquez. He was the father to Luis, keyboards and sax, and Roberto who played a mean bass. Their family home was the old cine in town. One of their sisters was Lupita, the police woman. You can tell the Dominquez family by their million dollar smiles. Seen here, left to right, are Manuel, Luis, Javier Claussen Ramierz – guitar, Roberto, Pedro Tomas Hurtado Valenzuela – drums, and their vocalist Hector Gastelumn Garcia. I went to see them play at a local dance, interesting music to say the least. They played their own intricate compositions that incorporated elements from jazz, funk, rock, middle east, european, mexican pop and traditional music. Most importantly, the packed hall stayed on their feet all night long dancing, viva musica!

young artists sketch on the plaza, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Talented young artists demonstrate their skills in the Plaza.

Alamos is a major mexican tourist destination in the summer. Buses come in from all over the region. The museum is busy with visitors. The plaza is activate with events. These young artists from Navajoa, 34 miles to the west, had giving an art demonstration in the museum and came outside to sketch in the plaza. They drew not only young women of Alamos but a crowd, viva arte!

closeup of a sketch, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

The ability to see and capture a moment is a human thing, a human need.

The young woman pictured here worked in the Alameda. I would often see her outside an office on the south sidewalk. I hope this Daily Journal project helps me find names for these faces. Here is a proud profile from Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, 1996.

wood artist setting up art, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by anders Tomlinson.

Every morning in the summer he would reset his art display in the Plaza.

Julio Horoyoqui Ontiveros displayed his work outside Hotel Los Portales in the Plaza. Every summer morning he was there unpacking his wooden sculptures and displaying them for sale. Others would gather around him and read morning newspapers and comment on world affairs. They knew I was a San Diego Padre fan and kept me informed on a tight 1996 pennant race between my Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Baseball is big in Sonora, birthplace of legendary Fernando Valenzuela. The Padres won on the last day. What would de Anza think of these Californias today?

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Carmen Portillo

63… A little village of potters do as it has been done…

Carmen Portillo at work in her La Colonia de Uvalama studio-home.

Carmen Portillo, matriarch of her Uvalama pottery family, died in 2004. She had been making pots since she was 12. Her grandaughter, Carmen Tomasa Ayala, continues the traditional craft, selling her own creations from the studio and at Uvalama Pottery in Alamos on Calle Obregon and Guerro near La Casa de los Tesoros. Years of taking clumps of clay and creating shape and function has it rewards. Artists know when they have got it right, and this moment of recognition and acceptance, priceless, warms the soul and perpetuates the process. Carmen Portillo had this moment, handfuls of times every day, for each day, each year, each decade and each generation of her life as a potter. And she was one with all those from the past who took clay in their hands and formed balanced objects for reflection and service.

Carmen Portillo making pot in La Colonia de Uvalama near Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Carmen's pottery is the product of water, earth, fire and handed down traditions

The car ride to Carmen’s house, a couple of miles west of Alamos and south a mile off the highway, in La Colonia de Uvalama was a drive back to another era. The Uvalama turnoff, as I am consulting with a Google satellite map, may be Arroyo Encanto. La Colonia de Uvalama was a small community with a house here, a house there, a primary school, countryside and a road that was a wash. When we arrived at her house a younger woman came to greet us. She went back into the house and Carmen, along with several family members, appeared moments later as we all converged at the work table in the front yard.

Carmen Portillo at work, La Colonia de Uvalama near Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.olonia de Uvalama

How many years, and pots, had Carmen worked-created at this table?

The clay Carmen uses is this land, Uvalama clay, these potters live at the source of their material. There is no need for electricity. The clay is hand coiled and shaped. It is then fired for nine hours in a wood oven that can reach 1000 degrees C. So simple. So universal. So true.
Prayers of labor, meditations of perfection: each finished pot joins a long procession of pots as the skills, desire and discipline are passed from one generation to another. It is the Mexico way. It is the human way.

Carmen Portillo family in Uvalama village, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

This is a Portillo family portrait from the new Alamos slide scanning effort

One of the reasons I am writing this journal is to identify what slides will be in the next batch of scanned images, and what stories, of the thousand of stories and photos, will need further illumination and illustration. In this spirit, today, I will look for a couple of family portraits of those who posed for my camera on this day in Uvalama. And above is one of these newly processed images. This is a good example of the Journal being a work towards an end.

©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved

Woodworkers

62… Working in wood is a long standing Alamos tradition …

Martin Rosas in family workshop, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Martin Rosas at work at his families' Carpenteria Rosas.

Martin Servando Rosas was a busy man on a mission. He taught carpentry at the elementary- junior high school. He managed the well-laid-out Carpenteria Rosas, off of Calle Galeana, where his brothers Germain and Carlos worked. Martin was involved with the “Hands across the Border” program which took 20 to 40 kids north for two to four days and a Discovery tour program that involved ten adults at a time. He was running a business, hand crafting wood and sharing his experience-skills with the next generations. Martin expressed his faith in Mexico’s future through his strong belief of the necessary good community service provided. As I was leaving Carpenteria Rosas I turned back and saw Martin focused on a project at hand, there was a production schedule to be met.

Ramon Nicholas Figueroa Castro with one of his carved doors, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

To have a wood door built and carved by Ramon Figueroa was a big deal.

Ramon Nicholas Figueroa Castro was one of the most respected artists-craftsmen in Alamos. Members of the North American community spoke of him in hushed tones reserved for masters and maestros. Any visitor that asked about local creative talent would learn about Ramon and his growing reputation outside of Alamos. Many locals recognized a Ramon carved door as a collectable piece of art, hard to come by for a variety of reasons: he works slow, he is busy with a growing client waiting list, needed materials were hard to find, he is expensive because of his rising profile and, or… If one managed to purchase a Ramon it became the opening to countless conversations.

The Ramon I met was quiet spoken with a soft smile and simple gestures. It seemed he did what he did because it was what he did, there was a simplicity to his movement. Everything else surrounding his work was what other people did because it was what they did. Ramon hoped they would pay him what they had agreed to pay him and he would be left to his work, after-all, it is what he does.

Figueroa brothers, master wood workers, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Ramon together with his wood working brothers at their shop.

The brothers Figueroa all worked with wood on their family property on Calle de las Delicias.
Manuel, Emir Yonolan, Wilson, Paul, David and Ramon, not in the other of the above photo, shared a sprawling work space both open air and under roof. There were few walls: nature came in and their wood creations went out. Trees provided shade for craftsmen making tables, chairs, windows, doors… On this day Ramon was finishing a beautiful bureau. Its elegant turnings and graceful details stood out in sharp contrast to the dirt floor.

Art and music is a family thing in Alamos. Many of those around the Figueroa brothers probably will work in wood themselves. The creative skills are past down from father to son, mother to daughter, uncles and aunts to nephews and nieces. As an example, the Quartet de Alamos performed at Casa de los Tesoros for as long as I had known Alamos. On my last visit the bass player’s son was playing bass for Estudiantina de Alamos. I could imagine the son replacing his father in the Quartet, or playing in his own band, someday, somewhere in Alamos or…

Margo Findlay & James Wilson

24 … Two studios, two artists, two approaches, one town, one world…

http://jamesfwilson.com/index.php

Margo Findlay with her art exhibited in her home - gallery.

This is what one was greeted to as they entered Margo’s home from the street. The space was her work, her moments. Here, Margo had all she needed. The expansive walls and high ceilings of Alamos provide wonderful studio – gallery space for artists.

Margo Findlay painting, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Far removed from the outside the artist goes inside..

Margo Findlay was born in Lewiston, Montana, 1906, and spent her childhood on cowboy ranches in the American old west. At the age of 17 she started to illustrate children books and then across a life that lasted 104 years she traveled, danced, and did what she what she did. After knocking on her door and coming in for a brief visit, and these photographs, I understood her way was not to talk about art, it was to do.

Margo Findlay at her easel, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

She is in control, she paints her world, her imagination, her colors...

I could not find much written about Margo Findlay. In one piece she was described as “expressionist artist”. She came to Alamos in 1964 with her artist husband, Harold Findlay. She never left. She is buried in Alamos, she is part of Alamos. Think of all the hours she spent painting, alone in her thoughts and technique. The artistic life requires self-discipline. A drive to create-make-reflect-share-react. An artistic life is one of being the art. Margo.

James F. Wilson painting in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Here is the office, workspace, and kingdom of a productive artist.

James Fenimore Wilson escaped from the New York art scene to spend six months in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. The year was 1990 and he felt a need to recharge his creative powers. Here he found another life. He met his future wife Lourdes, born and raised in nearby Navajoa, at the Plaza while she was visiting Alamos. They had two children and left Alamos in 2000 for Jim’s college teaching – painting position in Missouri.

James F. Wilson and painting, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Alamos became a part of Jim and Jim became a part of Alamos.

When I visited with Jim during the 90’s he was the most visible of the town’s working artists. His work was seen in homes throughout Alamos. His portraits became integral to the families that commissioned them. Jim’s extensive art background allowed him to talk with in-depth knowledge of art. Over the hundreds of years, Alamos has given refuge and wings to the creative spirit. It is as much a part of the landscape as the mountain.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Sadnah, Chivo, San, Karen and T.J.

57… Music in Alamos is a many rhythmic thing…

Home of painter-musician Sadnah, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Thursday night in Barrio Las Higueras, at Sadnah's home, is drum night.

Every inch of Sadnah’s casa was textured, patterned, colored, imaged and emotionalized. Her paintings were everywhere as were her drums. Barrio Las Higueras – The Trees, was on the southern side of Arroyo Agua Escondida. Sadnah’s casa was on the personal side of human expression, a ride into something ruled by the creative spirit, itself driven by a love of humanity. Call it a hippie house if you wish, but it is “hippie” in the best sense of the word and world – Sadnah was more a creator than a consumer. These drum sessions were spirited and brought folks together from different elements in search of the universal one-and-two-and… much like Alamos itself.

Drum maker Eusevio Cortez, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Many of the drums at Sadnah's were made by Eusevio Cortez.

I met “Chivo”, Eusevio Cortez, near the cemetery in Barrio La Compana on a bright Spring mid-morning to photograph him with a couple of his handmade drums. “Chivo” was highly respected by Sadnah, they were part of the same set of intersecting social groups. Being a drummer myself, one in a hundred people are, I respected what he was producing, the craftsmanship was excellent and the resulting tone strong and true. We were in the northwest corner of La Compana which is higher up a slope from the arroyo. It was as if I was in another land from where I awoke on Calle Comercio. Alamos Centro has an international – Spanish vibe. La Compana was Mexico. An Alamos experience is defined by where one is staying, who they are visiting, who they are related to and the activities-interests they are pursuing. Serendipity occurs if the spirit is willing and if one wants to shut out the outside world they can, it is their call. One barrio is a world separated by arroyos, roads, and hills from other barrios, they are little villages.

Painter-Musician Sans Sanchez, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. photo by Anders Tomlinson.

San Sanchez looks up to the mountain he loves, hikes and paints.

San could reach the top of Mt. Alamos faster than anyone else who accompanied me to the highest of high grounds. He flew across the trails, along with his dog, with the grace of the colorful parrots he admired and painted. It was a thrill to see this majestic birds flying across the canyons, a daring red flash of movement with bright rainbows of shimmering accents that caught any eye’s attention.

San lived with his girlfriend Karen in La Compana, lower and closer to the arroyo and cemetery than where I had met Eusevio Cortez earlier in the day. San was living the Mexican existence, life was hard, one had to maximize all available resources and waste none in a modest home with a couple of rooms in a neighborhood of working class casas. When I visited he was working on a panoramic detailed painting of being atop of Mt. Alamos looking southwest. It was a view that few have seen and there, of course, he had his beloved parrots flying.

San and Karen were also getting ready for a band practice with their bass player, T.J. Cook. T.J. had a long walk to La Compana from the other end of town west of the airport. This was serious business. They had a booked a gig to play at a gringo party. San showed me their playlist of ambitious and challenging tunes. It was if they were getting ready to play at Carnegie Hall and they wanted to let the world know they were at the top of their game. The heat of a late Spring mid-day hit me in the face as I left their darken house, dark to protect and preserve every bit of cool they could, on many levels.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Doug Riseborough

56… Art in Alamos is a many splendor thing…Doug Riseborough in his art studio, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson[/caption]

I was always interested in the progress a space was making one block off the Alameda on my favorite Alamos thoroughfare, Calle Francisco Madero. The narrow gently rising one-way street leading to the plaza has an old world sensibility, all homes are connected rooms sharing a common hallway, the street. And here on a corner was a place that had colorful trompe l’oeil beach murals on its walls. My first thought was these heroic scaled figures were part of Mediterranean scenes, but on lingering examination I realized it was Southern California. I could see through the partially opened wood shutters that the space’s floor was always empty, as if it was waiting for a business to move equipment in and entertain its patrons. Was it going to be an intimate disco-bar? An upper-end beauty salon? A self-help retreat run by transplanted beach gurus? So quiet. So strange. So… well, Alamos where many worlds can be one.

Doug Riseborough at home with his mural, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Doug Riseborough, noted international muralist, relaxing at home.

Sharon Bernard Harrison, aware of my interest in documenting artists of Alamos, arranged a morning coffee meeting with the painter Doug Riseborough. A dapper gentlemen dressed in white greeted me at the door and welcomed me into his home. His art was everywhere, including a large work on canvas over a couch seen in the photo above. The painting style was familiar, I had documented a couple of days earlier a mural at the Palacio by Doug featuring interaction between Conquistadors and Indians. One of Doug’s famous commissions was a mural displayed on the Avenues of Americas for the 1962 World’s Fair, The Ascendance of Stone Age Man to their Present State…. In it Chief Tarire was depicted severing the umbilical cord that connected him to his past. Doug traveled to the small Indian settlement where Chief Tarire had lived as research for the mural.

Doug Riseborough with a friend, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Born in Canada, living in Los Angeles, Doug is at ease in Alamos.

Doug, a small man in stature and a monumental presence with brush, projected an assured confidence. Aware of the camera, he collected his being and created a pose for each shot. I am sure Doug knew his best photographic side. One rule of thumb for an artist is make your money on the road and Doug had done his share of traveling including a four story mural in Hawaii presenting the creation of Maui. Other commissions took him to Rockefeller Center and a Saudia Arabian Prince’s palace.

Doug thought it would be a good idea to photograph him at work in his studio. We left his house and walked down busy streets. And there we were. The mysterious space I mentioned at the start of this story was his paint studio. The only furniture was his easel and a table. His studio, with tall walls, allowed his imagination to soar and his subjects to come alive with each transcendent brush stroke.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Tebeto

strong>43 … Tebeto, the most viewed artist in Alamos …

Tebeto with school kids and his mural, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.

Every playground in Alamos had a Disney-like mural painted by Tebeto

On any given school day more people, kids are people, view Tebeto’s work than any other artist in Alamos. It is safe to say more his work is seen by more than church, museum, gallery or home art. Tebeto’s sister worked as a hospital administrator and was instrumental in getting him the playground art grants. These kids look up to, and at, Tebeto and his work.

tebeto with playground mural and guitar, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Tebeto loved and rocked his passion - American Rock n' Roll.

Viva Musica! Mexico is a musical lifestyle. English says music, Spanish says musica. The language is lyrical. Expressions, emotions, and gestures take on import akin to a music conductor’s energetic direction. Tebeto, a quiet man with a quick smile, expresses himself in many medias and none is more important than song. He knows his way around a guitar. His favorite bands, at the time, were Pink Floyd, Beatles and Rolling Stones. Coming off the mountain late one afternoon we were greeted by three generations of women sitting on their humble porch, first house on the trail to town, no electricity, listening, magically, to Canned Heat. Musica was, and is, everywhere.

Tebeto working on the Baron's mural, Alamos, sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

A patron employed Tebeto year-round to embellish his mansion.

Baron Richard Flach de Flachslanden, born and raised in Minneapolis, was Tebeto’s patron. The house had Tebeto’s work at every turn, wall, nook and cranny. The gregarious, fun-seeking Baron was known around town for his yearly Costume Ball. Tebeto enriched the Baron’s lifestyle, such is art’s nature. Chon, who guided me up the mountains several of times, was Tebeto’s brother. In a future post we will visit Chon as he worked restoring a ruin on Calle Arroyo Barranquita for Tebeto to live in. Their family home, where the brothers lived, was a short distance away.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.