Drachen Foundation Newsletter: December 2009

Celebrating Gloria Stuart: Photo Essay

Ninety-Nine-year-old Gloria Stuart has finished her project of twenty-five years: Flight of the Butterfly Kites has become a reality. The book features the wide variety of Gloria's artistic talents; painting, silkscreen printing, lithography, collage, typesetting, and poetry. Completion of the book was celebrated at Santa Monica's Buckwild Gallery in a reception sponsored by The Drachen Foundation, Buckwild, and Hiromi Paper International. Over one hundred professional colleagues, friends and family enjoyed the exhibition of the framed pages from the bound book.

Much of Gloria's book is homage to the great artists of the world, so Foundation president contributed to the theme by making butterfly kites in homage to Gloria. These meticulously Edo shaped kites of patchwork design handmade papers and bamboo framing, added to the theme of artful flight.

  

Coordinating the participants for this exhibition was no small task, especially considering it was done long-distance. Ali Fujino of the Foundation deserves kudos for this effort, but could not have worked this magic without the help of board member Jose Sainz and artist Christine Yuenling. Both were instrumental in the framing of the pages and the installation of over fifty butterfly kites that transformed the Buckwild space from urban-street-art-showcase to Gloria's butterfly world.

 

From the Drachen Archives...

 

Among some of my favorite items are those which I consider to reference as "living" archives. In this case it is the recent works of Mexico's artist Francisco Toledo.

Born in Juchitan, Oaxaca in 1940, he spent most of his time in the South of the State of Veracruz. At 12, he returned to Oaxaca, where he started his artistic education at the "Taller of Arturo Garcia Bustos." In just a few years, he traveled to Mexico City and enrolled in the School of Design and Craftsmanship of La Cuidadela. In 1959 he had his first solo exhibit, and subsequently made his debut in a one man show at the Fort Worth Art Center, Texas. The same year, he traveled to Europe where he completed his formal art education and visited the best museums Europe had to offer.

His talent and vision brought him to the forefront of many masters, engraving at the William Hayter Atelier, contracted by Karl Flinker to give his first one man show in Paris. He did what many artists could not afford to do, experimented in various medias: painting, watercolor, sculpture, ceramics and tapestries. During this time, his bodies of works were exhibited in the most prestigious of art galleries.

In 1979, he went to New York where he worked for one year, after which he returned to Mexico; an artist with the breath of work of a master. Continuing his travels through Europe, he returned to Oaxaca in 1988 where he devoted himself to the promotion and diffusion of the culture of the region. A philanthropist of his own city and country, he founded Toledo Editions, the Institute of Graphic Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca, the Alvarez Bravo Photographic Center, the Movie Club El Pochote, the Paper Mill in San Felipe/Etla, and the Botanical Garden of the St. Domingo convent. Stopping for nothing, he created the Pro-Oax association - dedicated to the preservation of archeological and ecological sites such as Monte Alban and the Papaloapan River. Even with a full plate of artful responsibilities, he never forgot the time and energy to work on his own art. Francisco Toledo retains his place in contemporary art to this day.

How Drachen discovered his world of kites...

Many things happen in lives which are based on destiny, and this is the case of our introduction and fascination of Francisco Toledo and his art kites. Sitting in my office one day, I had a quick visit from a former employee who had just returned from Oaxaca and had seen one of Toledo's art kites in the entrance of IAGO (Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca). Not knowing any Spanish, she asked "how much" and an old worker told her 350 pesos or about $35 US dollars. She made her selection and ran for the airport. After a 4 hour flight, she was at my door, "have a present for you, but I have to go." She was on her way to the airport for another flight to Hawaii.

I sat in the office inspecting the gift. It was very unusual, artfully crafted (handmade) paper, with original stencil design, spars of from a split hollow reed, all in the shape of a diamond kite. The design on the front was alluring and thought provoking, what was the purpose of this artful kite? I could tell that being engineered for flight was less important than the print. Turning it over, I read a small sticker on it, which gave me two inches of information...handmade paper from Oaxaca, designed by the artist Francisco Toledo. Francisco Toledo, the Francisco Toledo...? He made kites? He was interested in kites?

One thing lead to another and the encounter of this kite lead to the 300 plus art kite exhibition in Oaxaca of 2008 and the focus on Toledo's kites the following year . As a good collection manager should do, I knew to collect a selection of Toledo's kites to exhibit his growth and development from that point on.

From the first kites I purchased and somehow waddled home in February of 2008, to the Day of the Dead Tour of October that same year, to the opening of 35 Toledo kites in Los Angeles in August 2009, and finally our return to Pachuca, Mexico in October, one can see new design styles and use of materials, new kite shapes and media. In August the kites were signed by Toledo, thus establishing for sure, his images and his work. (In a contemporary gallery in Los Angeles, a Toledo watercolor from the 1940s was retailing for $60,000.00 US dollars.)

Most of us cannot afford to own an original Toledo, (prices for his art work can be staggering, tens of thousands of dollars for a signed piece), but I am happy to report that his signed kites are selling for between $100-300.00 US dollars. Having over 12 of them in our collection, I find the honor not in the value or soon to rise value, but in just having an original Toledo, an international artist who loves kites. It is having a piece of cultural history and an artist's statement of his experiences and life. If you are a kite maker, the ownership is even another level of "wonderful," as it is the universal sharing of an artfully magical wing that flies. I would have never thought I would have anything in common with a man whose art I've visited through the best of art books, an individual whom I have been taught to admire through my art education, but this is what makes the world of kites so special.

 

Judge for yourself. Take a look at this gallery of kites. These kites are illustrating images that Toledo has visited in many of his media, painting, watercolor, printing, drawing, and ceramics. The haunting magic of his Indian heritage, the environment of the Juchican and Oaxaca area, the sophistication of the European art world.
- Alison Fujino, Drachen Foundation Executive Director