Renaissance Modern: Salvador Baeza
One day, we were walking through Georgia Charuhas' house and were immediately struck by a painting that had been leaned up against a wall in her living room. "Georgia, " we asked, "Did you paint that?". She hadn't of course. She had bought it from another artist who was struggling and whose work she liked very much. She had wanted to help him out and support him, so she bought a painting from him.
The painting had been done by another local artist, Salvador Baeza. Since Georgia has been mentoring him on and off for the past fifteen years and knew him well, we asked her if she would introduce us and take us to his studio. Salvado lives and paints here in Merida where he shares his home with his actress/dancer wife and their daughter. As he puts it, he 'steals' space from them to have his art studio, two rooms with a separate entrance. The studio is a modest space in an old colonial building in downtown Merida, with lovely mosaico floors, some of which have shown up in his recent paintings. The day we visited, he was kind enough to talk a little bit about his life and his art with us, and show us his most recent work.
Salvador was born and raised in Guanajuato, one of our favorite towns. He studied at the Esmerelda School of Art in Mexico City, a famous art school where Frida Kahlo once taught. He has also studied with Per Andersen, a famous lithographer in Xalapa. He has shown his paintings in Guanajuato, Belize and Mexico City... but he hasn't had many shows. He is currently working on a mural for the Universidad de Yucatan (UADY) and of course, he is working on his own personal collection of paintings which are, of course, all for sale.
But this is just background. What is important about Salvador is his work. And his work is stunning. Usually he works on large canvases, painting figures life size or larger. Lately, he has been doing some smaller works also, which are both charming and slightly disturbing. Some of his more recent works have Yucatecan elements in the painting (a hacienda, a Mayan woman sitting on a hammock, even mosaico floor tiles... ). It's impossible to see the detail in these small photos, but the details of a painting like the one to the right are what set it apart and give it a richness and a depth that you just don't see very often these days.
I asked Salvador who his influences are, and he said "Michaelangelo and the masters of the Renaissance". So there is a certain classic quality to his work: the colors, the brush strokes, the moods. But we see also a touch of impressionism and a subject matter that borders on Dali-esque.
There are touches of Van Gogh in his use of color and his brushwork. The work above and to the right is called Sunset in the Studio. When you see the painting in person, the upper torso of the woman looks like translucent glass, growing out of a multicolored lawn, being cooled by a fan made itself of air, all touched by the light of the dying sun. The painting is spectacular, all the more so because it is larger than life-size.
The painting to the left is called Brazeros, the name for the Mexican workers who were once contracted to work in the United States. They were promised compensation for their hard work which was never fully provided. This painting shows them losing parts of their bodies as they tumble into the abyss that is the verdant valleys and mountainous coastline of the southern and western United States.
Here's another one of our favorites. It seems very much after Salvador Dali, with the two figures standing like caryatids on a box of air which portrays the Valle de Mexico the way it used to be. The dark landscape behind them is another view of ancient Mexico City, when it was a city surrounded by a beautiful lake. What are they holding up, just above their heads? Is it a planet, whose shadow is projected down between them?