Our Tales From The Road

Our Tales from The Road Blog Has Moved Nov 19th, 2009
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Festival of San Miguel 08 Oct 8th, 2008
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Camino de Santiago, Spain Mar 26th, 2008
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San Miguel Viejo Dec 30th, 2007
Neighborhood Posadas 2007 Dec 18th, 2007
Festival of San Miguel Oct 8th, 2007
Mexico City Markets & Masks Sep 21st, 2007
Let Them Eat Cake! Sep 21st, 2007
Gil, Cartas & Doc Severinsen Sep 21st, 2007
Alfredo Vilchis - Retablo Artist Sep 6th, 2007
The Independencia Aug 30th, 2007
Locos Parade San Miguel Jun 23rd, 2007
Corpus Christi San Miguel Jun 15th, 2007
Festival of Santa Cruz Jun 5th, 2007
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Atotonilco Jan 29th, 2007
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Christmas, Posadas & Markets Dec 27th, 2006
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Amate Papermaking Sep 23rd, 2006
Trees of Life Part II Sep 23rd, 2006
Trees of Life Part 1 Sep 23rd, 2006
Alebrijes Sep 23rd, 2006
San Felipe and Oaxaca Aug 12th, 2006



  Alfredo Vilchis - Retablo Artist
Posted on Sep 6th, 2007

Rincon de los Milagros
Alfredo Vilchis in his studio, Mexico City, 2007

Rincon de los milagros -- corner of miracles, the street & neighborhood that Alfredo lives, where he paints retablos depicting the history of Mexico, people's dreams, wishes, troubles, pain, miracles and stories of great heart.

We entered Alfredo's home through the living room and kitchen downstairs and were brought right in to meet the whole family. We walked up the tiny winding staircase, covered in retablos and ex-votos to the second floor to his bedroom
and studio.

Upon reacing the top of the stairway, we entered a rich blue room, his bedroom, where he sat us down next to him on the bed and told us the stories of his family, his faith, the saints who keep his work alive. Alfredo is a lively man, full of himself, and proud of the work he has been doing for the last 23 years, bringing history and people's stories to painted form while keeping the tradition of retablo and ex-Voto making alive.

The bedroom opens into his studio,
rich in iconography, walls to
ceiling covered with masks, milagros, parts of doll's bodies, pictures, little statues and books - all for inspiration and meaning.

Brushes, old boxes with paint peeling, drawers full of supplies, drawings everywhere you turn, his image painted, looking out at you, the signature of this mustached man, a saint, an angel, a devil.

It is a dream studio full of light, white curtains blowing, simple, yet full of that which occupies his mind.

I asked Alfredo how he worked and he brought out a pencil drawing
of a retablo he had painted to show the basic layout - simple and not very detailed. From this he paints the final piece in oil on sheet metal called lamina.

Alfredo, his son Hugo and myself

Around every corner, behind every shelf are the images that hold his life and his work.

The shelf on the left is a wooden niche full of old rolled up tubes of paint, mixed with milagros and & saints in front of the niche to protect
and bless that which has brought him his livelihood and his fame.

Altars, shrines, mementos

Hugo, Alfredo's eldest son, laying out retablos that they call 'inventos' and are sold in the market, based on stories that they have read about in newspapers and magazines.

Alfredo, self portrait, angle with flowers, below, Alfredo
with death on a bicycle.

Love of Mexico, it's foils and follies and luchadors. This is
one of a series of retablos, commemorating the lucha phenomenom, his family painted in to the bleachers.

Alfredo explaining a shadow box niche that was hung in his show in

While in France at a show of his work, he became enamored with
the work of Velazquez, and has painted a series of the royal family
each one with him as the artist painting

Alfredo in jeans & green shirt & as a saint surrounded by his
paintbrushes, the working altar

Retablo of a bus full of people, the Virgin watching over and
Mexico city & the Volcanos to the south in the distance.

Through his love of bull fights, he has begun a series of retablos depicting bullfighting - the inspiration for another possible book of his work.

Hugo Vilchis - with two of his retablos

Luis Vilchis with recent retablos of gay lovers

Daniele, so serious throughout our visit

The artist desk

Shadow box of milagros and small linear retablo

Wall of milagros in tin, clay, doll parts, wood

Alfredo describing a simple retablo drawn by his grandson Miguel -- the story of the death of his little brother at one month

Artist's view

Alfredo with Manuel holding drawings of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Manuel's drawing is based on the drawing of Alfredo

Alfredo's Virgin on the left, Manuel's, right

Manuel, Alfredo & his grandaughter

Daniel, Alfredo, Hugo & Luis Vilchis

The blue bedroom. On the left is a retablo of all of Alfredo's saints, a
small shelf with miniature figures, paintings & retablos & a cross filled with
drawings and milagros, a photo of his mother beneath it.

Views of retablos on the narrow stairway, filled with retablos that Alfredohas painted over the years, retablos & Ex-votos that are
in his two books.

Rincon de los milagros


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