Iztaccihuatl - The Sleeping Woman
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Iztaccihuatl, one of the two volcanos that overlooks Mexico City (the other is Popocatepetl) is familiarly caled The Sleeping Lady. When I photographed Ivette Hernández (she hails from León, Guanajuato) it took only one exposure for me to recreate the idea of the lovely volcano that has snow year round.
In the mid 70s, before Rosemary, our two daughters and I came to Vancouver, I attended a posh wedding at the home of a former president of Mexico, Adolfo López Mateos. He had a huge very long living room that could have accomodated with room to spare a luxury yacht. On either side there were smaller rooms, open to the large one that contained paintings of volcanoes by Dr. Atl. Since that time I have been intrigued by the man who was originally called Gerardo Murillo Coronado.
Then a couple of years ago when Rosemary and I went to Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico I found a lovely book about a woman called Nahui Olin. I wrote about her here
The little essay below explains a bit about the relationship Dr. Atl had with Nahui Olin. My friend, Mexican poet Homero Aridjis
was also influenced by Olin. He met up with her in her later years when she was a "cat lady" in the Alameda Park in Mexico City.
The Tumultuous Relationship Between A Painter of Volcanoes
And A Woman In Eruption
by Olympia Villagrán
Nahui Olin was the fourth movement of the sun in the Aztec
calendar, when the cycles of the cosmos would be renewed. It was also the name
that was given to the nineteenth-century Mexican painter and poet, Carmen
Mondragón. Her brutal eroticism –borderline violent– drove men wild with
desire, but also inspired them to make great works of art.
Her intelligence turned her into a woman full of wit and
creativity, muse for novelist Homero Aridjis, poet Tomás Zurián, biographer
Adriana Maldivo, muralist Diego Rivera, photographer Henri Cartier Bresson, and
writer Alain Paul Mallard. The latter wrote a novel recreating the relationship
between this hurricane of a woman and a painter of volcanoes.
Olin was made out of lava, while Gerardo Murillo Coronado,
also known as Dr. Atl, was the man who became obsessed with taming her wild
nature. They fell in love with a passionate craze, but Olin was never truly
convinced. Every man was hers, yet she belonged to no one.
In 1921 both these groundbreaking artists met and began a
torrid affair full of passion and fights. The painter of volcanoes was
mesmerized by the one natural disaster he could not understand. Murillo had
climbed the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, witnessed the birth of the Paricutín
in 1943, but he was never able to fully have the heart of Nahui Olin. When
Edward Weston photographed the writer’s mysterious gaze, Dr. Atl was lost in
her eyes, while Antonio Garduño captured the beauty of her body.
Murillo hated himself for loving a woman like her. Though he
believed there was no woman more divine than her, she found it impossible to
tie herself to just one soul forever.
Mallard’s book proposed several irreconcilable situations
between the couple: temperament, society, art, mood, and even age. Their
relationship was as intense as unstable. Biographies on Olin claim that when
the couple had parties, she would welcome her guests completely naked.
Between pencil sketches, glasses of wine, and music, Murillo
would incite her to drink as well as consume drugs. In her eyes he was the one
who drove her to madness. Her creative mind was suddenly overflowing with
jealousy, her beauty made of rage, and her soul broken into shards.
She wrote him over 200 letters; he painted her dozens of
times. Their love was full of splendor and despair. Their sexual encounters
were as rapturous as their fights. Despite it all, Murillo became a mentor for
Olin’s paintings and poetry. The painter had become enamored of this woman
accused of murdering her own son. During a trip with her husband, Manuel
Rodriguez Lozano, he claimed she had strangled the baby in a fit of madness.
The pairing of Nahui Olin and Dr. Atl was the most eccentric
and absorbing of the many relationships of both artists’ lives. The jealousy,
decadence, madness, infidelity, and other evils led them down a path to
destruction. Murillo seemed to not be able to find any comfort after her. On
the other hand, she found herself in the arms of Eugenio Agacino, a Spanish
Just when it seemed Olin had found stability in this new
partner, Agacino died during one of his travels to Cuba. That was the end of
this fiery woman. Solitude, the haunting memories of her relationship with
Murillo, and her interrupted story with Agacino killed her little by little.
When Murillo died, an older, devastated Olin appeared at his
memorial in the Palace of Fine Arts. The beautiful woman full of mysticism and
artistry was transformed into a shadow of heartbreak. The greatest hate was
born from two souls who loved each other in the most devastating way. This love
consumed them both until their deaths.
by María Suárez
La Chilena en Ushuaia
Friday, December 20, 2019
conscripción en la Armada República Argentina en 1966 en un momento de estúpida
rebeldía rehusé obedecer una orden de un Capitán de Corbeta.
Me dijo, “Sos
un conscripto útil y te necesitamos como traductor. En tiempo de guerra te podría mandar a
fusilar. O podría mandarte a la Antártida en donde las únicas mujeres que
verías serían pingüinas.”
castigo me mandó por una semana a Ushuaía donde pasé largos ratos dificiles a la merced de
un cabo de Infantería de Marina llamado Moraña.
estaba fuera de mi elemento en un pueblo feo, frío y en donde no había ni
pingüinas. El cabo, un día me dijo, “Conscripto te tengo una sorpresa porque te
veo cabizbajo. Voy a llevarte a ver a La Chilena."
Fuimos a un
boliche medio derrumbado llamado El Pingüino Solitario (¡¡!!). Nos sentamos. El
lugar estaba lleno de suboficiales de marina y marineros de civil. El cabo me
compró una cerveza chilena y nos sentamos a esperar el número de la bailarina
denominada La Chilena.
Salío, bailó, se fue y me enamoré - no por la falta
de mujeres o pingüinas. Era una delicia La Chilena. Al salir compré una foto en
la administración. Pedí un autógrafo pero me indicaron que La Chilena nunca
trataba con marineros.
A Kiss - A New Year's Resolution
Thursday, December 19, 2019
Argentine writer Julio Cortázar wrote his novel Rayuela
(Hopscotch) in Paris (he had gone there in the beginning of the 50s on a
self-imposed exile as he did not like Juan Domingo Perón). It was published in
1963. I read it in the conventional manner (from beginning to end and more on
that below) in 1966. My memory has failed me and I have forgotten most of it. But
there is no week that passes by where I don't find and read an excerpt (almost always in
Spanish) from the book.
I have resolved then that there is one New Year’s resolution
that I plan to initiate as soon as I can get my hands on a copy in Spanish.
Of Rayuela Wikipedia has the following:
Hopscotch (Spanish: Rayuela) is a novel by Argentine writer
Julio Cortázar. Written in Paris, it was published in Spanish in 1963 and in
English in 1966. For the first U.S. edition, translator Gregory Rabassa split
the inaugural National Book Award in the translation category.
Hopscotch is a stream-of-consciousness novel which can be
read according to two different sequences of chapters. This novel is often
referred to as a counter-novel, as it was by Cortázar himself. It meant an
exploration with multiple endings, a never ending search through unanswerable
"Table of Instructions" and structure Written in
an episodic, snapshot manner, the novel has 155 chapters, the last 99
designated as "expendable." Some of these "expendable"
chapters fill in gaps that occur in the main storyline, while others add
information about the characters or record the aesthetic or literary
speculations of a writer named Morelli who makes a brief appearance in the
narrative. Some of the "expendable" chapters at first seem like
random musings, but upon closer inspection solve questions that arise during
the reading of the first two parts of the book.
An author's note suggests that the book would best be read
in one of two possible ways, either progressively from chapters 1 to 56 or by
"hopscotching" through the entire set of 155 chapters according to a
"Table of Instructions" designated by the author. Cortázar also
leaves the reader the option of choosing a unique path through the narrative. Several narrative techniques are employed throughout the
book, and frequently overlap, including first person, third person, and a kind
The three portraits have varied connections. The two
Russians, Mitislav Rostropovich and Yevgeny Yevtushenko both kissed me. The
former twice on each cheek, the latter only once. On the other hand the latter
and I both drank vodka from a woman’s black pumps.
The third portrait of Gene Simmons from Kiss is here simply
because of his name. Why my present interest in a kiss? Below I will place in
English and in Spanish a section from Rayuela’s Chapter 7 called The Kiss:
Hopscotch - Chapter 7 -The Kiss
"I touch your mouth. I touch the edge of your mouth
with my finger. I am drawing it as if it were something my hand was sketching,
as if for the first time your mouth opened a little, and all I have to do is
close my eyes to erase it and start all over again, every time I can make the
mouth I want appear, the mouth which my hand chooses and sketches on your face,
and which by some chance that I do not seek to understand coincides exactly
with your mouth which smiles beneath the one my hand is sketching on you.
You look at me, from
close up you look at me, closer and closer and then we play cyclops, we look
closer and closer at one another and our eyes get larger, they come closer,
they merge into one and the two cyclopses look at each other, blending as they
breathe, our mouths touch and struggle in gentle warmth, biting each other with
their lips, barely holding their tongues on their teeth, playing in corners
where a heavy air comes and goes with an old perfume and a silence. Then my
hands go to sink into your hair, to cherish slowly the depth of your hair while
we kiss as if our mouths were filled with flowers or with fish, with lively
movements and dark fragrance. And if we bite each other the pain is sweet, and
if we smother each other in a brief and terrible sucking in together of our
breaths, that momentary death is beautiful. And there is but one saliva and one
flavor of ripe fruit, and I feel you tremble against me like a moon on the
Capítulo 7 – El beso
boca, con un dedo toco el borde de tu boca, voy dibujándola como si saliera de
mi mano, como si por primera vez tu boca se entreabriera, y me basta cerrar los
ojos para deshacerlo todo y recomenzar, hago nacer cada vez la boca que deseo,
la boca que mi mano elige y te dibuja en la cara, una boca elegida entre todas,
con soberana libertad elegida por mí para dibujarla con mi mano por tu cara, y
que por un azar que no busco comprender coincide exactamente con tu boca que
sonríe por debajo de la que mi mano te dibuja.
de cerca me miras, cada vez más de cerca y entonces jugamos al cíclope, nos
miramos cada vez más de cerca y nuestros ojos se agrandan, se acercan entre sí,
se superponen y los cíclopes se miran, respirando confundidos, las bocas se
encuentran y luchan tibiamente, mordiéndose con los labios, apoyando apenas la
lengua en los dientes, jugando en sus recintos donde un aire pesado va y viene
con un perfume viejo y un silencio. Entonces mis manos buscan hundirse en tu pelo,
acariciar lentamente la profundidad de tu pelo mientras nos besamos como si
tuviéramos la boca llena de flores o de peces, de movimientos vivos, de
fragancia oscura. Y si nos mordemos el dolor es dulce, y si nos ahogamos en un
breve y terrible absorber simultáneo del aliento, esa instantánea muerte es
bella. Y hay una sola saliva y un solo sabor a fruta madura, y yo te siento
temblar contra mí como una luna en el agua.
Sturm und Drang - a Corvette & Bruce Allen
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
|John Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare. Oil on canvas, 101.6 × 127 cm. Detroit Institute of Arts|
My Bunny Watson blog gets ever more so from day to day. To
find out what I mean by Bunny Watson look here.
New Today in my Friday York Times I read about the new mid-engine
Chevrolet Corvette. Because I was around and old enough (11) to understand a
bit about cars I knew about it and by the time I was in Mexico City in 1954 I
was able to see the real thing outside the American School in Tacubaya (I was
in the 6th grade) parked by the rich son of some American
Whenever I spot a Corvette in Vancouver I watch for the
license plate. If it says Unruly
it is Bruce Allen’s. There are perhaps two
unchanging obsessions in his life (I am sure he does not swear or shout
anymore). One is his love of Coca-Cola and the other of the Corvette.
|Bruce Allen - August 1983|
The nice essay in the Business Section of the NY Times had
an expression I had never seen.
It doesn’t have the operatic Sturm und Drang of Ferrari or
Lamborghini, but it really is an everyday supercar. “
Eddie Alterman – chief brand officer for Hearst Autos
I looked it up:
Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress [previously urge]) was a
a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music that occurred between
the late 1760s and early 1780s. Artists: Henry Fuseli, Philip James de
Loutherbourg and Claude Vernet. Writer Johan Wolfgang von Goethe and composer Christoph
Willibald Gluck were leaders of the movement.
I noticed a name among the painters that I knew about, Henry
Fuseli. One of my faves is the painting you see here. And looking beyond all
this I found that there is a Sturm und Drang Photography movement.
Orthochromatic Film & The Powder Blues Band
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
|Tom Lavin circa 1981|
Most of the photography magazines these days feature
wildlife pictures, pristine lakes that reflect dramatic skies and mountains or
natives in doorways in Mexico or Afghanistan. Perhaps the reason for this is
that modern digital cameras are designed for photographers who like to shoot on
automatic. Shots of the above if taken RAW are fixable if there are exposure
The ideas of filters (on camera lens) not in a phone or camera
program, is all but forgotten. This for me makes it astounding to find out that
the venerable film company, Ilford is coming out with orthochromatic film.
Most of b+w film that is stil available these days is called
panchromatic. This means that the film is sensitive to the colours of our
spectrum (in whites, blacks and grays). But by now we should know that film
(colour or b+w) video and digital sensors are more sensitive in the ultraviolet
side of the spectrum and less sensitive to what our human eyes notice first,
which are the colours on the yellow, orange and red side of the spectrum. We
notice these colours more and that explain why fire engines are red (I have
been told that in Surrey they are green). This non-human sensitivity to UV is
why many cameras have built-in UV filters and the reason why photographers of
my ilk used to use skylight filters.
The one film that was the exception to the above was Kodak
B+W Infrared Film and their Extended Red Sensitivity Technical Pan (both, alas!
discontinued) which had sensitivity beyond our human red. These films which had
a red sensitivity made the colours red, orange and yellow lighter. They
eliminated freckles and made redheads blondes. Because blue skies feature a
color (blue) on the opposite side of the spectrum, these skies were rendered
dark. Slipping a red filter on his movie cameras is what John Ford did to make
white puffy clouds in jet black skies.
The 1931 film with Frederick March, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
was obviously shot before the special effects revolution of the late 20th
century. In order to transform March from normal to horrific they played with
makeup and used orthochromatic film. This film had sensitivity to blues and
greens and rendered the reds, oranges and yellows very dark. Thus Hyde is
rendered monstrous when filmed with orthochromatic movie film.
In my time as a magazine photographer orthochromatic film
was no longer available except at Kodalith which was used to make high contrast
positives and negatives. When I photographed interesting older men I would slip
a deep green filter when using b+w film. My resulting exposures maximized “manly”
blemishes and resulted in portraits that had that extra “manly” character. No
photographer would have dared use those green filters to photograph women.
I wonder then why Ilford is launching orthochromatic film
which will render blue skies lighter and the same for green vegetation?
The photographs you see here I may have taken around 1981 of
Tom Lavin and his Powder Blues Band. I know for sure that for Lavin’s portrait
I used a deep green filter. The green filter was one of Karsh’s tricks.
I understand that the Powder Blues Band will be performing in 2020. It would be interesting to reprise Mr. Lavin either with b+w film and a deep green filter or to try Ilford's new film.