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
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.