Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

It’s What’s Inside that Counts, or, Dem Bones

Penned upon the 8th of November, 2009

Hello again from Mexico City! You’ll all be relieved to hear that my hatlessness situation has been resolved. As Day of the Dead approached, decorations and altars appeared everywhere through the city, and we decided it was high time we found something to contribute too. So, Todos Santos saw us exploring an artists’ market in the park, where – as well as both some excellent paintings, photographs and sculptures, and the calaveras we were looking for – we found a wandering sombero peddler, who set me up with a fine dapper panama. Serendipitous, no?

Unfortunately, it was about this point that a bad icecream laid me out solid like a sock to the jaw. A sock… full of icecream. That had me in bed until evening the next day, when I managed to stagger into a frock-suit and, Ms Merah on my arm, visit the Zócalo for the Día de los Muertos celebrations! It’s fascinating how Halloween and los Muertos have merged, without either quite losing its character. Altars to departed ancestors are everywhere, in public and in private, but many include elements of classic horror – vampires and witches and so forth. Mexican kids have taken to trick-or-treating, too, but one of the most popular costume is the classic Catrina – the skellington of a revolutionary-era gentlewoman, from Posada’s hugely influential satires. Also: these kids? ADORABLE. So cute!

After setting out offerings to our departed on the Red Tree House’s altar, we laid the Day of the Dead to rest and tucked ourselves in to prepare for our next big outing: Coyoacán, and the Casa Azul – the home and museum of Frida Kahlo. You might imagine we’d be pretty darn excited about this one… and you’d be absolutely right. Giddy like schoolchildren. The museum begins as a traditional gallery, and segues into preserved rooms – her kitchen, her studio, her bedroom and famous bed. Seeing the works in the gallery in person – especially the sketches and unfinished works, rarely seen elsewhere – drives home what a proficient and talented artist Frida was. The extraordinary sense of shape and line in her work – and the experimentation with the forms of surrealism, cubism, et al. – show her formal expertise certainly matched her soulfulness.

Speaking of the art scene, it’s awesome – in both the classical and modern sense – how admired and influential Frida and Diego were among their peers internationally. Modigliani, Cage, Klee – all appear in the museum working alongside them. There are some lovely artefacts of Diego’s early work in Paris, in his twenties – Cubist paintings very much like Picasso’s and Cezanne’s (who he was probably working alongide,) as well as portraits of him in his black suit and his little chin-beard. Heehee! Frida’s studio was much like artists’ studios everywhere – untidy in a pretty way with every possible container scrounged to hold paints, pots, tubes, brushes, measures and glittery things. The bookshelves were very revealing, though – as well as abundant communist literature, they hold a biography of Lucrezia Borgia (probably the most unfairly treated of the Borgias) and a book of Wilde’s collected novellas – I was rather chuffed to spot that! I must go through Frida’s letters and journals to see if she ever wrote of her thoughts on Oscar. In any case, Casa Azul would have been worth travelling for on its own, but there was still more beauty to see! Though we did pause to purchase a darling little Catrina statue and some local artists’ prints and such before we left.

Oh, do listen to me ramble. Suffice to say, we’ve been hitting a lot of museums and galleries – they’re what make us happy, you know? I’ll bring you up to a couple of days ago – you’ve been awfully patient reading this far! We’ve had some time to take in Condesa itself, and it’s a fun town to just walk around – this side of it is built in rings around Parque Mexico, whose guardian statue you see here. We spent a day just taking it all in, finding the organic shop (which does scrumptious lunches) and watching a dog chase a toy around the waterfall for ages and ages (hilarious!) After that, we visited the Palacio de Bellas Artes – the city’s central opera house, but also hosting a museum of art. Much of it was closed in preparation for a new exhibition, but we were fortunate enough to see, not only the permanent collection of two levels of murals, but a showcase of the work of Pedro Friedeberg. We’d not seen this fellow’s art before, but liked it immediately – formal design statements meet satire meet mysticism. French horns, Kabbalah, hats, moons, Tarot, geometry, ponies. I highly recommend you look through his website and see what I mean. Did I mention the ponies?

We’ve visited a few more museums since, and plan on a few more still, but we’re taking it easy overall – we don’t want to get the dreaded Museum Fatigue. Did you know that literally several people die of Museum Fatigue? The Golden Gate Bridge, the world’s second-largest suspension bridge, is at constant risk of Museum Fatigue. Or… metal fatigue. One of the two. And in reading all of this, you may be at risk of Museum Fatigue by Proxy. Or is that Stockholm Syndrome… or Don Quixote. In any case, ask your physician or general practitioner if leopard oil is right for you (it is.)

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Commentary upon “It’s What’s Inside that Counts, or, Dem Bones”

  1. Melanthios was heard to remark,

    Upon the 8th of November, 2009 at 5:23 pm,

    You look very dapper with your new hat!

    I still think you should spend a day at Disneyland. ♥ Preferably with me, because going with me is more fun.

  2. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 9th of November, 2009 at 12:42 am,

    Thank you kindly! And, We’d be delighted to go to Disneyland with you! I want to see the Haunted Mansion.

  3. Andrew was heard to remark,

    Upon the 17th of November, 2009 at 1:29 am,

    I have to agree about the hat. About Pedro Friedeberg; I like that he is not above using optical illusions and fun spatial stuff in his work. So cool!

  4. Sir Frederick Chook was heard to remark,

    Upon the 25th of November, 2009 at 10:52 pm,

    Isn’t it though? He does so much formal work, reflecting on design methods, spatial perception and all that, and then takes it all in a spiritual and, as you say, fun and joyful direction. It’s wonderful!

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