“La Sierra Tarahumara: Honoring Our Elders”
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
An art exhibit my angelino artist J. Michael Walker
Opening night is July 18th
The Consul General of Mexico in Los Angeles is pleased to invite you to a reception for the solo exhibition, “La Sierra Tarahumara: Honoring Our Elders,” by local artist J Michael Walker, on Thursday, July 18, 2019, from 6pm – 9pm
J. Michael Walker has created this series of large paintings on paper to celebrate the elders of his adopted village in the Sierra Tarahumara, of northern Mexico. Each portrait in this exhibition depicts a real individual, a muse who is seventy, eighty, even ninety years of age or more, whose face readily reflects what she or he has been through. Although hardship is etched in these faces, there is an innate sweetness and kindness that Walker is able to elicit through his light brushwork, celebrating each gorgeous wrinkle.
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Walker was born during legalized segregation and grew up during the Civil Rights struggle, which left a strong impression on him and made him understand on an elemental level the power of positive and negative images of people, and focused his work on the former.
A chance invitation in 1974, as Walker attended college, took him to a remote village in the Sierra Tarahumara, to illustrate the first textbook in the indigenous language. Although Walker knew no Spanish, he was eager to go; and, as the small one-engine plane that flew low over the verdant trees and wildflower-strewn mountains of la Sierra approached Sisoguichi – a village of colorful adobe houses crowned by a 17th-century carved-stone church and a running stream, set in a wide green valley surrounded by mountains of large white rock and pines and endless blue skies – Walker felt like he was coming home.
The heart of the traditional culture of la Sierra - what captivated our artist - is that of its Tarahumara indigenous community, whose attitudes of self-sufficiency and sharing have been largely adopted by much of the mestizo population.
At a time when news media and political observers bandy about the humanity and merits of the impoverished masses south of our border, these paintings present individual and named faces, inviting engagement with the human experience writ large in noble flesh and presented at grand scale.
As the artist says,
“I’ve created dozens of drawings and paintings inspired by some aspect of Mexican culture, history, music, art, or simply a gloriously beautiful Mexican face. It is my pleasure to offer visitors to the Mexican Center for Culture and Cinematic Arts this opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty and profundity of the people of the Sierra Tarahumara of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Matétera bá (Gracias)."
J Michael Walker has participated in over 120 group exhibitions in the US, Mexico, and South Korea; and has enjoyed solo shows at the Autry Museum; el Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, Mexico City; the Arkansas Arts Center; at Yale and Harvard; and numerous local galleries; and was a participant in Pacific Standard Time LA/LA in 2017. J Michael is recipient of a 2006 COLA Fellowship and a 2011 Sacatar Foundation Fellowship; and numerous grants and residencies from the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles, the California Arts Council, and the California Council for the Humanities. He resides in Los Angeles with his Mexican-born wife, Mimi.