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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Guadalupe Arenas

The Beginning Of A New Portrait

Welcome to 2016, a new year, and the beginning of a new portrait.  This painting is inspired by a chance meeting with a woman who owns two baskets woven by Guadalupe Arenas, and having the opportunity to see several baskets woven by this woman who lived and worked in the Coachella Valley during the late 1800's into the 1900's.  Her work is respected, revered, valued.  It is a wonder to see the intricate, tight, carefully crafted baskets she created which are rich with careful design.

Guadalupe Arenas Snake and Eagle Basket 

Large Storage Basket, circa 1910.
Guadalupe Arenas Snake Basket

After being invited into the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum to conduct research, I was able to come up with three photographs of Guadalupe Arenas which became the inspiration for the face on the canvas.

Guadalupe Arenas

Guadalupe Arenas

Guadalupe Arenas

These three photos seem to be from different time periods, so the challenge is to meld them into one representational, stylized face.  Having already selected my palette, it was a matter of layering on color, shadow, and some definition before moving on to other areas of the canvas.  This face is not complete, but it is a beginning.

Desiring to create a similar composition to my last painting, 'Madame Butterfly' (seen hanging on the wall in the photo above), I sketched onto the canvas with thin pigment various elements Guadalupe Arenas used in her baskets.

It is not my desire to recreate her designs exactly but to use her snakes, eagles and lizards, with my own interpretation.

With these portraits I want to bring focus and attention to the women who lived in harsh conditions creating beautiful vessels under the tutelage of their mothers. Baskets which were originally utilitarian became collector items during the early 20th century disappearing into private collections. Guadalupe Arenas was one of these basket weavers whose baskets are highly valued today. 

 This last photo shows some of the under and back ground painting that has been applied to the canvas.  Work on the portrait continues daily.  Welcome to 2016 and this new portrait.

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