Saturday, November 24, 2007

El Charro now has a blog

Hey gang,
just wanted to let you know that, my alter ego, El Charro de las Calaveras, now has a blog.
You can check it out his latest adventure HERE
(Don't you like his new logo?)

Also yesterday was Fridays Found Object Find as the Artist's Nook check out the new things here.

And while I'm away I will have some art available in the states. Christine at the Artists Nook has some smaller shrine items, as well as some of my new Angels and Demons matchbox necklaces (not finished yet but I will send them to her before I leave).

You can also find my Creative Outlets at
Gallerie Chiz

And larger work at, including whats left of the work from my book, Secrets of Rusty Things.
Artisans on Taylor

El Charro

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Memory Garden

I just completed a commish last week. It was a difficult task, I must admit....most commissions are because you have to balance the needs of the client, all the while standing firm on your personal aesthetic. Last March I was approached by Louis and Donna who wanted me to create a shrine that was a memorial to there departed shih tsu doggies as well as a celebration of the garden and growing and life.

I found a phone nook as the base and I started my process. Lou supplied me with a barometer and a few other items, from there I was on my own. I had the bright idea of using Anubis as the theme. Anubis is the dog headed god in Egyptian it turns out he is also Guarder of the Veil (of the dead). A perfect metaphor.This then led me to the idea of making the piece a piece about transformation. Life, death, rebirth. So the idea of the garden played nicely into the idea.

I created a number of little nooks so that personal items could be places in them. I have a little nook here that has an old rabies tag. It opens to a place to put a dog tag or the like.

Originally I was going to take an actual image of Anubis as the central image, then I thought that I would take a human figurine, slice off the head and and replace it with a Shih tzu head...sort of a personalized Anubis. What I rapidly found out was that when you put a Shih tzu head on a human...presto you have a wookie. So I scrapped that idea. I went to a more restrained approached and photo shopped a Shih tzu head onto a vintage photo. Same idea but a little classier. Don't you think?
I love the final result. Always a relief when the clients like it as much as you do...yes they did give me the thumbs up on the piece. Especially since I kept it a secret until it was done, which I always do. The reason being is that the piece usually changes so much during the process that the client may not recognize it by the end of the journey. So thanks to Lou and Donna...enjoy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How could I forget to mention the concert in Oaxaca
How could I possibly forget to tell you guys about one of the most amazing things about the Oaxaca trip? Colleen arranged for tickets to see Lila Downs, a musician who I have been a fan of. She is of Mixtec decent, her mother Mexican with an American father. She was born in Oaxaca. Well she was doing a benefit concert for Casa de la Mujer, an organization that creates opportunities for women by allowing them to finish school. Not only does the money go to scholarships but also to help the families that may be finacially impacted by the absence of the daughter at the family business, farm, etc.

Here's a link to some of her music: Click Here

What a great show...she is mesmerizing. She is beautiful, elegant, with a style that is her twist on traditional ensembles....both in music and fashion. If you ever have a chance, SEE HER. If you ever have a chance, SEE HER IN OAXACA. It truly set the Oaxaca adventure off on the exact right note.
Here is a little sample of her music:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Friday's Found Object Finds

Well, ever since Christine at the Artists Nook got back from the Oaxaca excursion, she's been been coming up with new ideas for the All Things deMeng Store. She has come up with Friday's Found Object Finds. Every Friday she'll post some nifty little items that either she or I or one of my little minions (everyone need a minion) have come across.

Here are this weeks listings

Ready-Made Voodoo Dude

I would never be able to leave it alone but its beautiful as it is. You really don't have to do doodilly-squat (or should I say Voodoodilly-sqat) to this little totem or talisman.


Down Periscope

B9 miss, G4 hit G5...You sunk my battleship! Run silent and deep with this little find or I suppose you could keep an eye on whatever lurks in your basement...(eerie organ music cuts in).


Greg Brady goes to Hawail Tiki Doll Gear Thing

Remember when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and all the bad stuff started happening. Taratualas and of course, Greg's surfing accident. No wonder Greg couldn't get back to the surface, he had a big piece of cast iron around his neck. Okay, that's a stretch, but this gear looks like a tiki doll to me.


Honkin' Nails

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning, I'd hammer in the evening...I'd keep hammering and hammering and hammering because these suckers are 10 1/2 inches long...jeesh.

Have fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heading South

About two weeks away from seeing my beloved Judy. Cara Mia!

Just wanted to remind everyone down-under about my workshops over there. . I'm looking forward to seeing all my Aussie friends and making some new ones along the way. I also can't wait to say "How ya going". See everyone very soon...yeah mate!

Perth: Dec. 7-10
Fri December 7: VooDoo DooDad Dolls
Sat and Sunday December 8th and 9th: 2 day Assem-Books
Monday Dec. 10th Transparency Collage-ssemblage
Contact Jo at Artistic Journey

Melbourne: Feb 2-3
Sat and Sunday February 2nd and 3rd
Soda Pop Icons and Transparency Collage-semmblage.
contact: Marg Byrne

Sydney: Feb 16 -17
In Narrabeen
Sat. and Sun February 15th - 17th
Stories from the Discarded (Assemblage books)
contact: Janine

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Missoula's Festival of the Dead

About 15 years ago, my friend Bev Glueckert and I started a contemporary version of the Latin Dia de los Muertos in my town of Missoula Montana. It had very humble beginnings and now has expanded to be a huge downtown procession. I have not been involved for the last 4 or so years but it is still going strong.

With my periodic trips to Mexico for Dia de los Muertos as of late I have been unable to experience the Missoula version. Here is a link to a great Slideshow of this years event. I sometimes wish I could be two places at once. Thousands of people take over the Missoula streets for this event...if you're ever in Montana on Nov. 2nd its quite a site. Here's the slide show:

click here for more info on the Festival of the Dead

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oaxaca...a grand adventure

Que Viva Mexico!

Well I'm back from a great south of the border. Mexico was fabulous. The classes and the students were wonderful and I think everyone had an experience they will never forget. This was my fourth Dia de los Muertos excursion to Oaxaca and it never ceases to visually amaze me. It has to be one of the most vibrant festivals on the planet. So I'll give you a brief visual tour. Above is what welcomes visitors in the Mexico City Zocalo (square). It is Diego and a mere two stories tall. Behind them is the main Cathedral.

Here's the city's logo I guess you would call it. The severed head is that of the Zapotec princess Donaji...if you read my book, you'll know all about her. It's a great legend.

It didn't take long for the parades and the costumes to come out. It was at least a week long of festivities. Here is an interesting chap...perhaps it is El Charro de las Calaveras...I never saw him without his mask. Now I know why.

Now why can't we do this kind of stuff in the U.S. We need more fun...we're such fuddy duddies.
By the way that is traditional garb in the following photos, and at night those big balls are illuminated with candles from within.
Giant puppet people. Hooray. Caught this parade by chance. There must have been ten million of these processions the week we were there. A group/neighborhood/school/church get together and they start roaming the streets with bands and giant puppet people.

Or in some cases they show up with a bunch of stilt walkers also in traditional ensembles.

I think every one of my students was hot on the trail of some way cool Dia de los Muertos Poster art. In fact some of the nicest posters were from a political rally (very peaceful). Great skeletal wood cut images. Here's a nice poster I saw plastered all over town.

Here's another nice image if you're into the Mexican wrestler thing. This seem part graffiti part poster...either way, it's pretty nifty.
Aw yes, and who could forget about the sand paintings. They take this stuff seriously here. The day I arrived there were dozens of high school students creating sandpaintings and ofrendas (shrines) for a competition.
As for the ofrendas, these are the coolest things in the world. Pretty much every business, home, school, whatever has one. They are offerings for the deceased. They have a number of traditional items, such as marigolds, and incense but also personal items that relate to the deceased, like there favorite brand of cigarettes or food. You could wander a block without seeing one in a doorway. Here's a nice one for Frida.

One of the things that Colleen (the organizer of this workshop) arranged was a number of trips for the class. She hired the best tour guide ever. I'm not usually into the tour guide thing but this guy was great. He is brilliant. No trite information, but great historical, politcal, cultural, insights. He took the class to various ruins, churches, markets, cemetaries, and artists homes.
We got to see some of the tradition methods of creating various items from wood carvings, to pottery, to weaving. Below is from the weaving village of Teotitlan.
and from the black pottery village of San Bartolo Coyotepec. This woman is Eighty some years old...she was amazing.

One of the tours that Juan took us on was to the ruins of Mitla, an ancient Zapotec city. I had never been. What is most striking about the ruins are the patterns in the stone. The same patterns appear in the weavings. They are highly symbolic and those of you familiar with my art my see some similarity. Did I steal this idea or was it intuitive....I'm not even sure, but as Juan pointed out, these are archetypes that Jung describes and can be seen all over the world. Strange isn't it.

Refreshment anyone? Don't you love the colors and the rust?

Let's hit some cemeteries....
these next images are from the village of Ocotlan. I was wandering around and large group invited me over to there graveside party. The poured me a glass of Mescal (like tequila but better...smokier) and showed me how to properly toast there relatives. Salud.

Here's a couple of images from the city cemetery of Oaxaca. Here's a few things from inside the walls.

Now outside the cemetery walls it's a quite a different experience. might say.

This is one of my favorite shots of the trip. This is a little vampire girl on a merry go round outside the cemetery. These days kids dress up as devils, skeletons, witches or vampires. Heres a little vampiress. (notice her little ghoul brother next to her)

I also had to join the fun outside the gates so I played this cool b b gun game. You shoot the target and and a little scene comes to life. Each lit box is filled with a band scene, rodeo scheme, or skeleton. When the bb hits it's mark the music plays and the figures dance around. Pretty fun actually. That booth was dead until I started making things dance's the crowd that followed.

I did get a little ill on the tail end of the trip (no pun intended)

So I didn't do as much as I would have liked in Mexico City but here's room view
And here's the magnificent Pallacio de Belles Artes opera house.

Well thats it in a nut shell. I'm still decompressing and trying to get caught up with life. Just want to say to everyone that went, what a complete joy is was to spend with you all. I think everything went swimmingly and I hope we can do it again. We'll see what Colleen says about next year. And to're the absolute best....congrats on a job well done. Salud!

if you want to see some more images, here are some links to photos that my students took
Here's Kathy's photos
and KD's
and Amy's

Adios amigos
Michael a.k.a. El Charro