Carmen Aguirre - A Chilean BombshellMonday, October 13, 2014
|Crop of photograph of Carmen Aguirre - a human canvas painting by Nora Patrich|
|Donald Adams, Carmen Aguirre & Ty Olsson in Donna Flor & Her Two Husbands|
Carmen Aguirre That Fourth Musketeer
I call them the Three Musketeers because there are four of them. In the late 90s Jonathon Young, Kevin Kerr, Kim Collier and Carmen Aguirre met while studying drama at Antony Holland’s Studio 58. A perusal of their graduates in the Studio 58 website will indicate how important it has been to the well being of Vancouver and (yes) Canada’s theatre scene.
The Three Musketeers (all four of them) conspired in the year 2000 to bring to the Vancouver stage a play version in English of Brazilian novelist Jorge Amado’s Donna Flor and Her Two Husbands.
Contributing to the adaptation of that novel were also David Hudgins with Bill Dow as Dramaturge and with additional dramaturgy by Glynis Leyshon. The play directed by the Three Musketeers, (only three of them) Kerr, Young and Collier won the prestigious (as in good money) Alcan Performing Arts Award for British Columbia for 2001.
There were two important directions that this play forged for Vancouver theatre (and Canada). The most obvious one is that it launched the Electric Theatre Company as one of the most daring theatrical companies in Canada. Since 2002 the Electrical Theatre Company has been pushing all kinds of boundaries in a city that tends to like its stuff to be comfortably the same.
The second important direction, one that only this Latin would notice is that Donna Flor with the electric presence of actor Ty Olsson (also a graduate of Studio 58) brought an almost normality to the idea that you might go to see a play (but usually at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) in which not only would you be exposed to female nudity (Aguirre took it all off for the latter part of the play) but also to full frontal (and all sides) of the male with all the dangling parts. The crux of Donna Flor is that her lazy husband (great in bed) dies, Donna Flor re-marries a bassoon playing pharmacist (the hilarious and extremely funny Donald Adams). This second husband is boring and not great in bed. First husband appears as ghost (extremely naked) and is only seen by Donna Flor. The result is that from beginning to end this play had Olsson not wearing anything. The play led to the 120 Songs For the Marquis de Sade, 2002 (also an Alcan winner) with nude male simulated sex a mere two feet from my nose in my front seat place and to Chick Snipper’s (Movement department of Studio 58) Slab, 2003, with three dancers who chucked all their clothes within minutes of the beginning.
For me Aguirre’s Blue Box this coming Wednesday at the Arts Club Theatre’s Granville Island Review Stage represents and almost final culmination of that movement of young actors and directors of Studio 58 in the 90s and I only wonder what’s next. One bet I would never lose is that The Three Musketeers (all four of them) will surely be involved.
|Donald Adams & Carmen Aguirre|
July 29, 2006 - Carmen Aguirre & a yet Unborn Santiago
A week before July 29, 2006 I received a phone call from Carmen Aguirre telling me she was in an advanced state of pregnancy and that she wanted me to take some photographs.
I absolutely despise those inevitable and obligatory photographic transitions of our life, our birth, our First Communion, in Argentina being humiliated and having our shirt tie snipped at a stag, that wedding, the cutting of that greasy white cake, and the pregnant shot of a woman holding her big stomach with her hands, in a jutting profile. Worse still are the photographs with the male partner listening avidly for the rustle of limbs within. Ugh! Curiously that end of life ritual, the portrait at death has suffered proliferation between the 19th and the 20th century to our day.
Carmen Aguirre is a modern woman with taste. By taste I mean that she avoids the obvious and the cliché. When she posed for me with the yet unborn Santiago, she never placed her hands over her stomach. These are photographs that will not see the light of day here. She brought a shopping bag with the Virgin of Guadalupe and a fan and I took these pictures. She did lastly pose on my vintage psychiatric couch wearing fishnets on her lovely legs.
The End of the Game - Julio Cortázar & Carmen Aguirre
|Carmen Aguirre & Juan Manuel Sánchez mural|
Theatre and dance are ephemeral particularly if one performance is the only one before an oblivion of memory sets in. This is especially so in our Vancouver.
Consider that in 2002 I went to a Studio 58 performance at Langara. It was an adaptation of a lovely Julio Cortázar short story Final del Juego (the End of the Game) into a play in English by Studio 58 graduate Carmen Aguirre. The only record I have been able to find, and that my memory is not my faulty imagination, is my own blog postings.
The End of the Game is an Argentine Gothic story reminiscent of Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children. As an Argentine I was thrilled to have been witnessing such a play inside a little experimental theatre.
In many ways Carmen Aguirre, as an actress (I am old-fashioned), as a director and as a writer has brought to Vancouver an awareness of the machinations of our large Latino population.
Alas since our city has become so expensive immigration from Latin America has waned and it has been replaced by immigration of affluent cultures. If you want to buy good corn tortillas, chillies for Mexican cooking, Argentine dulce de leche you are more likely to find it all in Bellingham. Our Latino culture seems to be fading.
It is my hope that Aguirre’s Blue Box opening this Wednesday at the Art Club Theatre’s Granville Island Review Stage will help re-discover a heritage in Vancouver that some of us call our own.
Las Meninas - Robson & Granville
|Las Meninas - Robson & Granville|
In the mid 80s my family (wife and two at the time terrible teeny bopper daughters) and I went to England, France in Spain. One of the highlights for me was visiting the Prado Museum in Madrid my grandmother had so often talked to me about. She had told me about a special painting by Diego de Velázquez. It was called Las Meninas. At the Prado they had a special room just for this painting that the Spaniards say is the best painting ever painted by anyone. I was transfixed and then charmed. Only now could I add that in Las Meninas, Diego de Velázquez decided to paint a selfie.
|Las Meninas - Diego de Velázaquez|
Most of my photographic life I have been obsessed with mirrors much as my favourite writer, Jorge Luís Borges was. For years I did my best to never include my image in any mirror. It all stopped in 2005 when Argentine artists Nora Patrich, Juan Manuel Sánchez embarked on a project where they would body paint some of our favourite subjects.
This was not body painting as you know it. I despise body painting. I deplore how body painters paint skirts and bras on nude women or apply flowers. Ugh! Sánchez and Patrich painted Carmen Aguirre and Patrich’s daughter Itzel in the same way they would paint a woman’s figure on a canvas. Sánchez painted Itzel and Patrich painted Aguirre. The project ultimately incorporated two more models and it was all filmed by Argentine video artist Julia Iriarte.
|Las Meninas - Robson & Granville - Carmen Aguirre, Alex (mirror) Nora Patrich, Itzel, Juan Manuel Sánchez & Julia Iriarte|
During the process of the painting I saw something that suddenly made me jump in excitement. I told everybody not to move and I took a colour Polaroid. I looked at it and became even more excited. I then used good transparency and took four shots. You can see the Polaroid and the subsequent Fujichrome film picture here. I have called this picture Las Meninas – Robson & Granville (where my studio once was) since. And since I took this picture I have done my best when taking pictures of people with mirrors to include myself in at least one of them.
In all of the pictures of the painted women, it was Aguirre who in an uncharacteristic sombre mood added to the idea that she was a creation from one of Sánchez’s paintings who had stepped out into my studio. I sometimes forget that Carmen Aguirre is an actress so she can do anything.
Carmen Aguirre - 13th Duchess of Alba
In the year 2000 Juan Manuel Sánchez, Nora Patrich (two Argentine artist friends of mine) and I went to see Carlos Saura’s Goya en Burdeos (Goya in Bordeaux) at the Fifth Avenue Cinema. We thought the film was so terrific that we went to see it again and this time I brought along Rosemary. This film has remained in my top ten since.
Sánchez, Patrich and I were so inspired that we decided in January 2001 (I took this picture on January 5) that in some way we could incorporate something from the film that would get Carmen Aguirre to come into my studio and at the same time shed her clothes.
The idea was to make her into Goya’s patron (and some say lover who posed for Goya for his famous Maja Desnuda) the 13th Duchess of Alba. Patrich brought a large black mantilla from Seville that women in Spain use to go to Mass.
Sánchez and Patrich sketched while I took some photographs. This one is demure but beautiful.
This was the Duchess of Alba’s complete name:
Doña María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Álvarez de Toledo y Silva Bazán, décimo tercera duquesa de Alba de Tormes, décima primera duquesa de Huéscar, sexta duquesa de Montoro, octava condesa-duquesa de Olivares, décimo primera marquesa del Carpio, décimo tercera marquesa de Coria, novena marquesa de Eliche, décimo segunda marquesa de Villanueva del Río, sexta marquesa de Tarazona, marquesa de Flechilla y Jarandilla, décimo primera condesa de Monterrey, décimo cuarta condesa de Lerín, décimo tercera condesa de Oropesa, décimo cuarta Condestablesa de Navarra, décimo segunda condesa de Galve, décimo cuarta condesa de Osorno, de jure duquesa de Galisteo, décimo primera condesa de Ayala, novena condesa de Fuentes de Valdepero, condesa de Alcaudete, condesa de Deleitosa, señora del estado de Valdecorneja, señora de las baronías de Dicastillo, San Martín, Curton y Guissens
A Win by a Nose
|Carmen Aguirre & Isabel Allende|
Friday, November 07, 2008
Tonight Rebecca and I had a feast at Opera Sushi and watched the end of La Traviata on a TV monitor from Convent Garden directed by Sir Georg Solti and sung by Frank Lopardo and Angela Gheorghiu. We picked up our tickets for Cyrano de Bergerac at the Stanley. We were early so we went to a nearby Starbucks. Rebecca had a large cookie which she did not finish. As we entered the Stanley the woman at the door indicated we could not enter with outside food. I convinced her that my 11-year-old granddaughter was going to rapidly finish it inside.
Another woman made the couple who were sitting by our side leave. They were munching on what looked like excellent ham and sprout sandwiches. I explained to Rebecca that running a theatre company is expensive and that the in-house bar could not make ends meet if people brought in food and drink.
I asked the floor manager if we could visit Carmen Aguirre, backstage, after the end of the play. "My granddaughter has a wish to see what it's like back stage," I told him. He answered unequivically that this was impossible and that we should wait at the lobby. This we did. Carmen Aguirre came out and greeted us. Rebecca told her how she had enjoyed the play.
As we left Rebecca said, "Isn't she pretty? Tell me again about Carmen and Isabel Allende and how you asked her to close her eyes when you photographed her with Isabel Allende"
In spite of the cookie police and in spite of a man who simply could not understand how wonderful it would have been for a young girl (the only one there tonight) to meet, backstage, a nun and a man with a long nose, Rebecca told me, "I love the theatre."
¿Qué pasa with la raza, eh?
Sometime in October/November 1998 Argentine artist Juan Manuel Sánchez and I parked on a back alley near Commercial Drive and First Avenue. We were going to our favourite hangout, Café Calabria to disassemble the world of art. As we walked on we heard loud party music. The house on that lane had its back door open. There was a party going on. I saw a beautiful woman with long legs and very short dress. I pointed her out to Sánchez who told me in Spanish, “That’s Carmencita, you know her mother Carmen Aguirre.”
Somehow I had met Carmencita’s mother Carmen Aguirre at Sanchez’s and his wife Nora Patrich’s house. She was a short woman with a big smile who I was told was a poet and a former member of a cell that had attempted for years to undermine the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in her homeland Chile. I was not to find out until 2012 when I read her daughter’s Something Fierce – Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter that General Pinochet would have defined Carmen Aguirre, mother, as a terrorist.
Since I had shown interest in meeting Carmencita, Patrich and Sánchez invited me to a something called The Opus Series – Women, Art & Society which was held on February 19th at the Stanley Theatre. There were two presentations. The first one was by Marcia Tucker, the second by Carmen Aguirre who appeared in a solo performance of Susan Astley and Steve Petch’s Tribute to Frida Kahlo.
My mother, grandmother and I had moved from Buenos Aires to Mexico City in 1954. By then Kahlo had died. My mother and grandmother attended parties of the artistic circles in Mexico because my grandmother was a diplomat in the Filipino Embassy. I did meet a big fat man with a hat, in a white guayabera. I was told he was Diego Rivera. I was 13 so it didn’t register. I was more impressed by a mysterious woman, Nicte-Há who said she was a Mayan princess.
But in the Stanley Theatre, Carmen Aguirre was channelling Frida Kahlo. She looked like her and even though the monologue was in English it was wonderful to hear a perfect Spanish when Spanish words were needed. I have always regretted not to have photographed Aguirre as Kahlo.
By early March 1999 the Georgia Straight dispatched me to the Firehall Theatre to photograph Carmen Aguirre in an advance piece by Colin Tomas on her “Latino” play ¿Qué Pasa With La Raza, eh? I watched part of the rehearsal and I was particularly impressed by a very funny Guatemalan youth called Oparín Ortiz. His performance was so good that it relieved my pressure of having to stare at Aguirre’s beautiful legs or look into that face with those big black eyes and not to mention that when she talks to you she has a perfect diction that commands attention.
As I left, after I had taken my pictures I was overcome by a conflict between my Latin (Argentine) side and my Anglo Saxon (English) side. The latter dictated I should buy a red Miata and experience a mid-life crisis. The former that I should that moment dump my Rosemary. The conflict was instantly resolved by English reasoning and a lessening of my Latin passion. And that was it.
For a while I laughed lots watching and meeting up with Oparín who in my crazy dyslexia I called Odilón and more often that deteriorated (I did not do it willingly) to Orinón (one who pees lots). Aguirre would laugh and her laugh always helped keep me in check.
El espejo & Carmen Aguirre's search of Vision Man
El espejo & Carmen Aguirre's search of Vision Man