Art does not often speak to me. I can absolutely appreciate the great and refined skill that goes into a beautiful painting, especially when just writing my name looks like the work of a kindergartner (as anyone who knows me can attest.) I often wander the halls of museums and marvel at how people can create fine details with just a paintbrush, but rarely do I feel like I need to have it hanging above my sofa or adorning my dining room. Art obviously means something to the person who created it, but usually does not resonate with my own life or existence.
Since childhood I have always connected more with photography, I prefer documentaries over romantic comedies and sci-fi, and I read books based in history or autobiographies over great works of fiction. My favorite traits in a person are logic and reason. I think this is why I have always liked photography, the capture of a moment in time, something based in reality but from a different perspective. Well, until I came across my new favorite Mexican artist, or just artist period, Luis Selem.
I was walking down the street about two months after my move to Mexico City and saw this hanging in a gallery window...
Now, as with all art, this may not call to you but it caught my attention. "What a great shot" I thought. As the wife of a diplomat I loved the word "Fiesta" on it. This piece is called "We are Party." I decided to go inside and inquire about the price, as I could actually picture this in my new Mexico City loft. This is when I fell hard. I saw more pieces like the ones below.
What I quickly realized after walking in was that these were paintings, not photos. How can he possibly make each wrinkle, crease and shadow look so incredibly real? How did he choose what the newspaper said? Did the newspaper's words add to the meaning of the item or was it random? I was suddenly pondering art like never before. And as it turns out "hyperrealism," I now know, is my favorite form of painting.
Then I read a little of the history of the series as described by the artist. My best translation...
"Painting is my mother tongue, my lifestyle and my passion, it has been this way since we discovered each other. My work is based in experiences lived during childhood, to connect with this child scared and afraid because of his first move. Scared and afraid not for the change, but for the preoccupation that his most precious objects (toys) would suffer some damage in the move. From there my eagerness to wrap, to preserve what I loved most. To wrap with a paper that has no significance to a child, newspaper..."
A tear came to my eye and my jaw dropped. "I get it" I shouted in my head! This had been my second major move where I did the same thing with my precious objects that create a sense of home anywhere I go. And beyond that his words resonated because I had just moved my 5 year old son. Picked him up from his perfect suburban life, all his friends, and everything he had know and moved him to a different country. But he was so good about it, his only preoccupation was that his toys would arrive at his new home. HIS precious items that made him feel like he was surrounded by the familiar. Could there be more perfect art to represent diplomatic life? I feel like all diplomatic families will understand why Luis Selem's art struck a chord in me. I had just seen all my objects wrapped up in this manner and would likely see them like this again, five or six times more, over the course of our diplomatic life. Trying earnestly to preserve all that represented my life. An item or two are lost every time, despite our best efforts. Lost to the arduous journey of life.
And now Luis Selem is at it again, creating a series of portraits representing the various regions of Mexico with their beautiful embroidered clothing and jewelry but with faces obscured by newspaper so that the portrait represents everyone and not any one individual. Again I ask, is there more perfect art for the wife of a Mexican diplomat? What I would give to have these beauties adorning my home. And you can be sure they would be carefully wrapped and protected in each subsequent move. A wrapped precious painting of an item preciously wrapped in newspaper. Deep.
Art that finally speaks to my own life and existence. Now excuse me while I go start a "Go Fund Me" page to be able to afford a piece from this renowned artist. You can follow him on Instagram @luis.selem.
In Love & Tacos
Cheers! For 93 years old, The Queen sure knows how to party! In a previous post I mentioned that the diplomatic cocktail parties everyone associates with diplomatic life only happen a couple times a year. Well, we attended one last night. We were invited to the UK Ambassador's residence to celebrate the Queen's 93rd birthday. This event happens at British Embassies world-wide every year. After a few cocktails someone asked the British diplomats if this was sort of like their national day or independence day. It struck me, the independence days I had become accustomed to all over the Americas probably did not exist in most of Europe. The British diplomat responded with a wink admitting, "Well yeah, most independence days are a country's celebration of their independence from us!" Hahaha. I had never really thought about it from their perspective before. According to Wikipedia, "At present, the Queen's Official Birthday is marked as a de facto national day by British diplomatic missions overseas, but not in the UK itself."
Well anyway it was a bash. I had been expecting an evening garden party with wine, silver platers, clinking glasses, and pleasant hushed conversations. Instead the Ambassador gave a toast and ended her speech with the line from Bohemian Rapsody "Is this the real life..." and within seconds a Queen cover band finished the phrase, took over the stage and rocked (see video). There was Johnnie Walker and Hendrick's Gin alongside mezcal and Don Julio. There were dessert tables, modern art, Triumph motorcycles, photo booths with crazy hats, and someone walking around in a Queen's Guard outfit (fuzzy hat and all). I have to give a shout out to their 2019 plastic reduction campaign and art theme. It was a far cry from what I had expected but I gather the Queen knows how to have a good time, even in her 90's. Plus I got to speak English...God Save the Queen!
In Love & Tacos
People think diplomatic life is all crystal and fine china. What the movies don't show you is that the diplomatic lifestyle can be isolating and lonely. Yes there are cocktail parties but as the spouse of a mid-career diplomat these occasions are only a handful of times a year, if that. I am lucky to be in a posting where I speak the language fairly well but it takes a LOT of mental bandwidth to be social in Spanish. My personality is different in Spanish. I am more shy and less witty. If I really want to relax and connect with people with ease, I have to seek out a few other expats who speak English to really feel like my full social self.
As I have done that by joining expat groups in the city, it has been fascinating to listen to other foreigners perspective on Mexico. They don't want to leave! We have diplomatic friends from the UK who I really wanted to have a nice transition to Mexico. The wife and kids know zero Spanish. We met them the first week they arrived and I checked on them often. A few weeks in I asked how they were feeling living in Mexico and they assured me this monstrous city was a piece of cake compared to their last posting in India. Mexico City was like a lush assignment. Life here was western and much easier than where they had been. They were already off and exploring the city and country and taking Spanish lessons.
Then this week at an English speaking moms coffee I met a women from Barbados and one from Turkey. Their husbands are engineers in Mexico on a project. They were talking about how they didn't want to leave Mexico. They love it here. The mom from Barbados said she never wanted to go back to island living. My jaw dropped. "Why" I asked. I mean I have been bugging my husband about when we can get posted to St. Lucia so I can just hang out beachside all day. She explained that you cannot get all the creature comforts on the island that she had grown accustomed to here in Mexico. She had gone back for a visit and said she was cursing people daily for not having the stuff she wanted available. She was told by store clerks that the next shipment of stuff would arrive in 6 weeks. Also, she insisted the food was bland. All the years in Mexico with salsa, chile, and every delicious sauce one could want had spoiled her tastebuds. She was praying the project would continue for at least 4 more years.
The lovely mom from Turkey was talking about other available projects in Saudi Arabia, Barbados, Paraguay, Thailand, etc. She said she really wished she could stay here forever. That this was better than home (for political reasons) as well as the other available assignments. She mentioned how from Mexico City you can drive an hour or two in any direction and end up in another great place to explore for the weekend.
As these women were speaking it struck me, the irony. All the rhetoric going on in the US about Mexico, all the bad press, the bad hombres, all the travel advisories to reconsider travel to half of the states of Mexico. Foreigners from everywhere else in the world loved it here, and some even thought it was an ideal place to live and raise their kids over their home countries. I guess it is all a matter of perspective depending on where you came from, but it is amazing how hyped up rhetoric about a place can tarnish its reputation to one group of people, while the rest of the world is clamoring to get to stay.
Rants of a Diplomat's Wife
Hola, I am an American married to a Mexican Diplomat. I am on my 3rd post as a trailing spouse. The first two posts I joined were in the US, and in July 2018 we moved to Mexico City. Maybe it was the fact that I was pumping out my diplo-babies, or maybe I didn't think anyone would be interested in diplomatic life at my US posts, but I didn't blog then. Now I am in Mexico, and perhaps you might find it interesting to know what life is like here. This is where I share my adventures and thoughts at my current post.