Mosaic Madness @ Casa Alexandra

Usually when I miss the publishing deadline here it’s because my weekend got a bit out of hand (or once, due to an unscheduled visit to the local correctional spa) but if you’ve been wondering where my little piece of the paper has been over these last couple of weeks, I’m happy to report that I’ve actually been pretty productive. The other day I got a message from Nancy Page, noted local mosaic artist and fellow member of Team Tribune offering the opportunity to facilitate her creative vision over at Casa Alexandra, and because I have tremendous respect for what she does, I not only made myself available for duty, but showed up in the middle of a hurricane and even brought along my assistant Nicté, who has a much more robust sense of applied aesthetics.

Together with a couple of other contributors, we set about the task of preparing the piece for its grand debut as an anchor of the popular Vallarta ArtWalk. (Oct. 16, look out for the half-page feature ad all month! *big smile, thumbs up*)

The Vibes: My experience in helping to transform a crude loose-leaf sketch into a work of art measuring almost 10 meters wide in about that many days was typified on a sunny Saturday, when I stood on the blazing roof of the studio perfectly polishing ceramic tiles one at a time.

With a soundtrack of Lenny Kravitz in the background and ice-cold cerveza in a nearby cooler, the scent of basil and lemongrass permeated the immediate area as I sprayed my small cloth, thankfully masking the vinegar that was the active ingredient in this surprisingly effective (and completely vegan!) cleaning solution.

Of course, that doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world—mostly because it isn’t—but I immersed myself in the process because I knew in my heart that the finished product would be well worth the tedium. It was sort of like what I imagine Michaelangelo’s paint boy felt when he was painting the Sistine Chapel…what, you thought he was coming down from the ceiling every time he needed a clean brush? Be serious.

The Vices: A significant element of the story arc in this, the final season of “Vibes & Vices,” is my lackluster level of skill in the visual arts. Oh, I can paint t-shirts and craft various artifices just fine, but as these pages once recorded, I have also struggled for hours to turn out a single macramé earring.

Despite this, I was entrusted in the actual application of tiles to the work, literally putting my fingerprints all over the ambitious art project. Yes, the high-pressure moment when you have your amateur skill evaluated by a practicing professional is something like Tony Hawk asking you to perform a kickflip on demand, but is balanced out by the corresponding sense of relief that came when I didn’t completely screw it up. In context, “Looks good, keep going” is one of the richer pieces of praise I had ever been given.

The circumstances also pushed my creative capacity in other ways. At some point during the project, I decided the Sun was being a little too aggressive that afternoon and set out to devise a solution. Years of living in a society brimming with imaginative answers to everyday challenges inspired my invention of the umbrelladder, a combination weather shield and multi-level shelf that provided space for supplies such as beer, an electric fan, and my handy dandy notebook, natch.

After more than a week, my time on the site drew to an end, and despite cranking out more manual labor than I had in at least the past year, I was able to take immense pride in the fact that I was able to have a hand in a public project that stands a decent chance at outliving me. Unfortunately, sharing any full pictures of the mosaic before the unveiling party in two weeks is completamente prohibido, but I am permanently part of something truly special and no one can take that away from me.

The Verdict: The Palos Studio at Casa Alexandra has long been the creative domain of internationally recognized sculptor Manuel Palos, but with its addition to the ArtWalk set to take place every Wednesday evening this fall, both his collection of works and Nancy’s mosaic mastery will get the platform they deserve starting with the unveiling ceremony on October 16th. I’ve also developed something of an emotional attachment to the piece for obvious reasons, so this time there’s no maybe about it…surely I’ll catch you there.

Info: Calle Brasil 1039, 5 de Diciembre

Casa Alexandra

AJ Freeman on Email
AJ Freeman
AJ Freeman is an adventurous spirit, serial friendmaker, and general enthusiast. He lives his everyday life hoping to demonstrate the nearly infinite potential for discovery and wonder on this small wet rock orbiting a dim yellow star in the backwoods of the Milky Way.