Melva Medina and her husband Abel Vazquez are artists who live, work and teach in an lovely restored colonial mansion in downtown Merida, Mexico. It serves both as their home and their gallery. Their studio and workshop is just two blocks away. We visited the Nahualli Casa de Artistas on a walking tour organized by the English Library in Merida.
Melva told us about her work which centers on themes of female strength and empowerment.
She also talked about the work of her husband Abel which explores the connection between human beings and nature. Some of Abel and Melva’s pieces reminded me of similar works that are part of the Inuit art collection at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and show people transforming into animals and animals into people. When I mentioned this to Melva she told me that it was exactly that idea that inspired the name of their family’s gallery. On the gallery website she explains that the origin of the word nahualli means unseen, the hidden, what is deep within. She says that many first peoples in North America from the Inuit in the north to the Mayans in the south believe that every person at birth already has the spirit of an animal(nahual) that is responsible to protect and guide them through life and help them accomplish their mission. I was enthralled by Abel’s life- like sculptures of women that graced the pool area of their home. This one reminded me of a piece we have at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Linda by Elizabeth Wyn Wood. The colorful and provocative work of Melva and Abel’s daughter Alma Citalli was also on display. My very favorite piece was near the front door. It was called Pensamiento or Thought. From each angle and at different distances you were captured by yet another aspect of the sculpture’s beauty. Thoughtful or thought provoking would be a great way to describe many of the pieces at the Nahualli Casa de Artistas. In fact on their website they say they hope their House of Art will be charged with energy, inspire deep thought and foster a spiritual experience.
Note: I was so taken with Nahualli Casa de Artistas that my sister and I went back to visit it another day and were privileged to be given a guided tour of Melva and Abel’s studio and learn about a very special exhibit Melva created with her second daughter Aura Meztli Vazquez that addresses the issue of sexual abuse. I will need some time to process that experience and will write about it in a later post.