I'm excited about Sunday.
We're opening a new exhibit at La Casita Mágica Gallery. It's going to be super. We've been working on it for some time, and we'll be bustling and preparing until the last second, I've no doubt: it's what we do. I'm surrounded by lists again, nothing new about that. I've artists to see, items to gather, a big day in Vallarta tomorrow picking up prints and cardboard and food and the ingredients for sangria.
Meanwhile, Craig has been finishing a couple of new paintings, one of which will become a gorgeous San Pancho poster that will be unveiled at the Sunday show, along with another poster we've created in honor of San Pancho's new civic involvement. That's all I'm going to tell you for now about that. He's also scoping out the gallery space, designing the new show to best display our artists.
We have five artists showing, each different from the other. All but one live in San Pancho. A couple of them have experience with gallery shows. One of them showed us her work when she stopped by the gallery on a road trip from Mexico City. One of them is a busy designer/mom who, when she can manage it, finds quiet moments to slip away and paint. And one of them, at nearly seventy years old, has never shown a body of her work in public, ever. Her name is Joaquina Avila.
I couldn't be more thrilled about Joaquina's debut. She's quite the town character, our mailperson for the past eighteen years. A couple of times a week, she takes the bus to La Peñita to pick up the mail which, until recently, she delivered house to house, her payment only the tips she receives. Now she has her own tiny office on main street where she makes piñatas and growls at people who come to pick up their mail.
She's as grumpy as a bear poked with a stick and as bossy as a social studies teacher. The scowl etched into her features could be added to Mt. Rushmore. She's crippled from an old accident with a gun and has been deaf since childhood. She has teeth but doesn't much like wearing them. Most people in town are scared to death of her.
Joaquina's schooling must have been minimal, yet her texts and emails and handwritten notes to me are elegant and expressive, with perfect spelling and formal grammar, long beautiful words and phrases I have to study to translate. You see, Joaquina has a hidden persona. And Joaquina has a secret.
Nearly all the residents of San Pancho, even those who have lived here and known Joaquina all their lives, have no idea that Joaquina is a painter. Long into the wee hours of the morning, beside a dirt road in the miniature block house that is her home, Joaquina, under a fat fluorescent light bulb, dips her skinny brushes into jars of color and paints.
She paints directly onto wood board frames she has made for her by a carpenter down the highway. She paints from old postcards and photographs, and her interpretations are always her own. The first time we talked at her house, she showed me files and stacks of pictures she's found. One time last spring, I took her on a walk/drive through town and she pointed out the buildings and scenes she liked so I could make photo prints for her to paint from. That day, I loved seeing the village through her eyes, hearing about some of its history. I took her photo on the malecón.
Last week, I gave her a questionnaire to fill out. She gave me a mighty frown.
"Yes, I know...homework," I said, and we stared bossily at each other then cracked up. I've had the most lovely laughs with Joaquina, both of us laughing like two little girls. She had the questionnaire all filled out the next day. Full name, where were you born, how long in San Pancho, just some facts, ma'am. But I'd written one request on a hunch.
Please write me a few lines about your painting and what it means to you.
What she wrote is poetry. Glades Castro will read it in Spanish and I will read it in English when we introduce Joaquina and the other artists on the La Casita Mágica patio on Sunday at five in the afternoon.
I'm excited about Sunday.
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