An evening of Latin American art and inspiration

From the outside, the Museum of Latin American Art has everything one would consider contemporary. Clean, angular lines. Stark yet expressive landscaping. Irregular shapes.

No one would know that the vast expanse of halls that now house the museum once served as a film studio and, later, a skating rink. What greets visitors inside feels like a warm embrace on a cold day, an entirely welcome respite from the busy street fronting the museum.

An orange wall filled with various crosses is the first thing I noticed upon entering the museum. The crosses were not an art installation but rather a display inside the museum store. The earthy orange contrasted nicely with the colorful crosses, made by artisans from throughout Latin America.

I was at the museum for an evening spent with journalists and others who gathered at the museum last weekend for a writers' event hosted by CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California. The organization is one that is near to my heart since a high school journalism workshop sponsored by the group was what first stirred my interest in journalism.

Of course, I immediately headed to the book section to thumb through the offerings there. Specifically, I was looking for books on photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo, one of Mexico's first professional female photographers who rose to prominence around the same time as painter Frida Kahlo. The store did not disappoint and I was able to thumb through a book containing many of her groundbreaking black-and-white photos that documented life throughout the various parts of Mexico.

Items at the store included those handcrafted by inmates in Mexican prisons, where they typically have to pay for their own necessities.

I've long enjoyed the three-dimensional boxed artwork popular in Mexico.

As in many indigenous communities, masks in Latin America are an integral part of many ceremonial dances but they also have become a part of the artistic and cultural landscape, These ceramic masks mimic those commonly seen on "luchadores" (pro wrestlers).

"Day of the Dead" artwork, which I've written about before here, is popular among collectors of Latin American arts and crafts.

By far, however, I would have to say that this contemporary image is what made my evening a memorable one.


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