Wednesday, May 23 – Barry and Jacque Sheinberg
We were back at Marco Polo for breakfast. Then Paul and I returned to the hotel (I had Conference work to do) while Sandy and Mayer were dispatched to go to the bank and then shop for wine and cheese for tonight. On their way back, Mayer bought the beautiful tin mirrors at the women’s collective that sold so well at the gallery. They collected Paul and me at the hotel and together we walked to the Huizache collective and the Oaxacan Craft Store where they carry the work of Enrique who makes the wonderful black clay sculptures of skeletons wrestling, sitting on a park bench, playing an instrument, etc. We wish we could continue to carry this work, but last time we met with Enrique, he did not have anything we liked, and the work is expensive.
Our walk took us to the print workshop of Irving Herrera where I found a wonderful small print of an armadillo.
It was time to pile into Paul and Sandy’s small rental car to the home of Barry and Jacque Sheinberg for a light dinner. The GPS got us lost, so we got on the phone with Barry, who guided us to his home, not far at all from our hotel. John and Nora Valliant, who had spent a year in Oaxaca some time ago, encouraged us to contact Barry and Jacque, which we did, and they graciously invited us to dinner.
This was a memorable evening! They have a lovely home filled to very brim with an amazing collection of folk art, paintings, graphics, and photographs that knocked our socks off. They retired and moved to Oaxaca about eighteen years ago and have a burning passion for folk art along with excellent taste. We took a slow, thorough tour of the whole house with explanations of special pieces and many stories to share. The surprise is that we have not crossed paths before as we had all been to the same art shows and collect many of the same artists. Conversation was animated all night long. After the long tour, we enjoyed cucumber sandwiches and other light snacks. We all promised to stay in touch.
Thursday, May 24 – Oaxaca
We did some work in the morning and got a late start but walked the short distance to VIEJA LIRE (Old Money – great name for a restaurant) for breakfast. Clint has been telling us about this restaurant for some time, and we can’t believe we did not try it sooner. It has beautiful interior stone arches, cheese and wine for sale, and a menu with all manner of novel dishes, not just the same ol’ stuff! Mayer and I shared a breakfast pizza with a thin crust filled with egg, sausage, cheese and spices and was fabulously delicious, plus gourmet pastries.
We walked to the store that sells “market pottery,” which turned out to be less than a block from our hotel and enjoyed talking with “Ixchel.” The person Marta Turok had referred us to, “Kitzia” was not there. This is the pottery that Eric Mindling champions and wrote his book about, and it is indeed simple and beautiful.
Next we dropped into one of our favorite places that we discovered by chance several years ago. It looks like a regular tienda selling potato chips and sodas. But one of the racks of junk food rolls away to reveal a door to a secret inner chamber of about five rooms filled with old folk art, pretty much all antiques. The owner, THEODORO SAUL, must have collected all these treasures many years ago, in the 40s and 50s, because many of these items are just not available any more. He must have a warehouse full, because every time we go, we see new and different pieces. He especially has an excellent collection of works by the grand master, Heron Martinez, the “father” of the sculptural works from Acatlan, Puebla. We have a nice collection of them at home already, all purchased from Theodoro in previous years. We again had an exciting time in there. We purchased four large “ladies of the night” by Josefina Aguilar, a whole slew rabbits playing instruments from one of the hill villages where they make the market pots, and a wonderful relief plaque by the blind sculptor, Jose Antonio Garcia, that is an underwater scene with a mermaid, fish, and a buried treasure!
Our next destination was AMATE bookstore to visit Henry and Rosa, the owners. Both Jim Roby, a friend of Paul and Sandy, and we know them from Berkeley, years ago. Alas, the store closes from 2 to 4 for comida, and it was now 3:00. No worries, we’ll go to the antique store and museum and come back later. We walked eight or ten blocks to the antique store and, guess what? It was closed from 2 to 4 for comida! – But the museum was open. It is a small, beautiful museum exhibiting old Taxco jewelry, vintage serapes, colonial furniture, and it kept us busy until the store opened. Sandra was gaga over the old silver jewelry. Mayer found a classic serape. We spent a lot of time and bargained, but in the end, the jewelry was too expensive. Mayer found a black pot that the store had grouped with Mata Ortiz pots, but it said “Santa Clara” and the artist’s name on the bottom. It was way underpriced for a vintage native American pot, and Mayer snatched it up, one of his “they did not know what they had” finds! Fun!
Back at the bookstore, now open, Rosa was not there, but the clerk phoned her and Paul was able to talk make a date to meet with her on Saturday. We enjoyed browsing.
The rooftop restaurant at Casa Oaxaca did not have a table for us (and was pricy anyway), so we went back to wonderful VIEJA LIRA and learned they also had a rooftop! Our perfect table was shaded from the hot sun, which was just receding behind a building. The weather was warm and lovely, and dinner was leisurely with more lively conversation.
Back at the hotel, we awaited the arrival of deliveries of the items we had purchase from Theodoro Saul. Oh dear, the van is getting very full, and we still await deliveries from Tribos Mixe and from José Juan Aguilar. Yikes!
Friday, May 25 — Oaxaca
The Juarez Market was our first destination, so we decided to have breakfast there, at Tortas Gigante, and the tortas were delicious. I also had my requisite tejate drink, the corn-based drink served in jicara cups out of a huge bowl with a foamy top. I found a good belt, Mayer bought his Carrizo rings for under round-bottom pots, and we bought our regular chocolate-covered coffee beans. The market is always an experience with all the hustle and bustle.
Walking back up through the jardin, we found a table and enjoyed morning coffee. That was the perfect moment: gorgeous warm weather beside the huge, beautiful trees, sitting over coffee with friends, watching life go by, fully content.
On to the MUSEUM OF OAXACAN ARTISTS. The general quality of art here is very high! We especially liked the work of Jose Santos and left our card for him to phone us (which he did the next day!).
The TEXTILE MUSEUM was next with a wonderful show by a textile artist. We happened to see the director of the Museum, Hector, who has now become a friend, because we see him every year. One year, he showed us their serape collection and Mayer was able to help them identify a serape whose origin puzzled them. We also had lunch with him one year. We met Hector for the first time on his very first day as Director of the Museum! That was ten years ago. He told us about ERNESTO CERVANTES, “the Franz Mayer of Oaxaca.” They will be doing a show of his collections sometime in the future. Ernesto is the great-uncle of the curator of this museum: Alejandra de Avilar.
We had an appointment with Irving Herrera, the graphic artist whom Mayer represents, and had a field day selecting works to purchase for the gallery. It was a lot of fun to see Sandra salivate and select works for them. She is so smart to buy when she can take advantage of Mayer’s wholesale prices!
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a street booth exhibiting gorgeous hand-woven cotton like nothing we had seen before. I bought a huipile, and Mayer bought two rebozos for the gallery.
After a rest at the hotel, we invited Paul and Sandra to our suite for wine and cheese (which we had purchased to take to the Schienbergs, but which they declined to use because they has already prepared a spread for us). That was a fun, leisurely cocktail hour. Paul and Sandy went out for a slice of pizza afterwards, but we were content.
Saturday, May 26
Today, Golda is moving to our house. We tried to phone her last night, but she was probably staying somewhere else, not at her home.
For breakfast, it was back to VIEJA LIRA. Then, we had an appointment with the “magical realism” painter, FERNANDO OLIVERA. Mayer navigated while Paul drove us in their rental car. His small house is an awful mess, and even smelly. Fernando himself seems like he has not showered or laundered his clothes for a while. He has two sweet dogs, but one of them has a neurological disorder, and they both needed a bath. Two assistants were working on two large paintings. Even though Mayer had given Fernando a year’s notice and had prepaid him, he has zero work ready for us. However, he has promised he will ship the two large paintings in progress to us within a few weeks. He will also send us photos of smaller pieces when they become available. Fernando’s work is quite fabulous, but he can’t seem to get his life or his business together.
Mayer and I went to the gallery inside Santo Domingo church to see a photo show by the French photographer PIERRE VERGER, who photographed in Mexico in the 1930s. We enjoyed some wonderful images. Then we took a taxi to a restaurant in the suburbs called OFELIA, where Paul and Sandy were having comida with ROSA AQUINO, who owns AMATE BOOKSTORE together with her husband, HENRY. We know Rosa and Henry from when they were in Berkeley and had a folk art warehouse there. Rosa was so warm and kind. The owner of the restaurant, OFELIA, had a collection of spectacular old huipiles from Tehuantepec, hand-embroidered beauties, but we did not have time to do anything but glance at them, as we had to get back to the hotel for a delivery from Tribos Mixe. Paul and Sandra stayed with Rosa, who took them to hers and Henry’s bodega/house in town where they still have a lot of folk art stored.
We had a reservation for dinner at ORIGENES, but we had to await the arrival of Jose Juan with all of our pottery. He had trouble finding us, but finally arrived and helped us try to fit all the boxes into the van. By the time we did that, we had to taxi to the restaurant. The dining room at ORIGINES is upstairs and we were seated next to a Juliet balcony with a sweet light breeze. Dinner was elegant, but we agreed we had had much better chicken mole. The best part was the desserts. Paul and Sandy sweetly and generously treated us to our farewell dinner.
The walk back to the hotel on the Andador was perfect. I love the warm evening, the elegant buildings perfectly flood-lighted at night, built of the light green stone that shimmers in the evening glow, some women in gowns obviously coming from wedding celebrations. Oaxaca is a gorgeous city.
One huge impression of this entire trip has been the lack of trash everywhere. In villages and cities the streets are immaculate, and on the highways, not a scrap of trash anywhere. It is so wonderfully refreshing, and so different from trips we recall in earlier years. Mexico is definitely a first world and third world country, parts of each.
Back at the hotel, we were not at all satisfied with the final packing solution, which had left a huge box between us on the front seat, so huge that Mayer could not see out of the right mirror. Paul hugged us both good-bye, and Sandy stayed to help us work out a better solution. In the end, we unpacked two boxes and placed the well-wrapped individual items in cubbies and crevices individually, between boxes. Each item was securely placed and won’t go anywhere.
Sunday, May 27
We are up early to head out. The van is FULL, and Mayer has no more energy to shop. He is finished! We are skipping Olinala, Tamalacatzingo, Acatlan, Izucar de Matamoros, and Puebla – all of which were on our original itinerary. We have still not decided whether to stop near Puebla tonight, or just drive home today, only about eight hours. We have a lot of excitement awaiting us at home: Golda has arrived – to live with us now for good! Our home renovations are well underway including our expanded back deck and our new huge bodega, and unpacking all of our new treasures will be like Christmas on steroids.
I have a large round vintage Coyotepec jar between my feet and two wrapped ceramic sculptures strapped into the seat beside me, but Mayer can now see out of the right hand mirror.
The drive through the mountains north of Oaxaca is breathtakingly beautiful, and building this highway must have been something, with huge section of mountains cut away, awesome bridges over deep canyons, far vistas, mountainsides towering over us with vast forests of dense cactus.
Now we are on the amazing bridge that soars over the city of Puebla for several miles and will put us directly onto the Arco Norte. It’s only 12:30, so we will push on to home. Wow, hard to believe, after a month. We and the dogs will be sooo happy.
An Unforgettable Experience of México