Dance Like the Wind

This is the second of five submissions I made to the Gallery for the upcoming exhibition.

The backstory follows, in both English and Spanish.

tango feet

Dance Like the Wind

Like a painter, she drew filigrees of ochos in her red shoes. “Close your eyes and dance with me,” he commanded. She obeyed, surrendering to his desire.  With her eyes shut, she listened to his body with her body. Something moved in the space between them.  Then, in a breathtaking flurry of steps, they crossed the floor, swept by music like surfers on a wave.

This is the passion of tango.


Bailar Como El Viento

Como una pintora, ella dibujaba filigranas con sus zapatos rojos. “Cierra tus ojos y baila

conmigo.” Le ordenó él. Ella obedeció, rindiéndose a su deseo. Con los ojos cerrados,

oyó el lenguaje de sus dos cuerpos. Algo se movió en el espacio entre ellos. Luego, en

una asombrosa ráfaga de pasos, cruzaron el piso barridos por la música como surfistas

en una ola.


Esta es la pasión del tango.

Things a Mexican Grandmother Says and What They Mean


1. Your grandma says “¡Ave María Purísima!”
Literal translation: “Hail purest Mary!”

To express surprise or shock about something. She’ll pick a main character for this expression from the whole Catholic saint dynasty, according to her personal preferences and the intensity of the surprise. She’ll usually cross herself during the exclamation to add a touch of drama. Youngsters have substituted this expression with the more profane “Ay güey!”…and they no longer cross themselves.

2. Your grandma says “Condenados marihuanos”
Literal translation: “Damned potheads”

To inform you about a group of youngsters who spend their time loitering around her place and whose sense of fashion clearly disturbs her. Slackers with inappropriate garments, like trousers that seem too tight or too loose, piercings or any visible tattoos, can’t be anything but marihuanos. You might think that your abue doesn’t have a clue about drugs or anything of the sort; however, those strange herbs she keeps in alcohol to cure herself from rheumatic pains are not exactly coriander. Where does she actually get that stuff?


3. Your grandma says “Viejas argüenderas”
Literal translation: “Those old gossipers”

To refer to that group of friends with whom she gathers for gossiping purposes. Of course, her participation in such necessities is merely circumstantial…she is just a victim among those evil doers.


4. Your grandma says “Si dios nos da licencia”
Literal translation: “If God gives us the opportunity”

She loves to use this ominous sentence whenever she talks about future plans. Notice that the phrase is cleverly expressed in plural. Just a reminder that you’re not getting any younger either.

5. Your grandma says “El chiflón”
Literal translation: “The one who whistles”

To refer to any wind current that could cause you some nuisance. For example, leaving the house immediately after having a big meal can crook your mouth if you encounter el chiflón in your way. Sometimes, these evil winds stay inside someone’s body and the only logical solution is to make a cone out of today’s newspaper, put it in the patient’s ear and — of course — set it on fire. Alternative medicine at its best!

6. Your grandma says “¿Ya andas tomando vino?”
Literal translation: “Drinking wine already?”

This is the usual question your abue will use to find out if you’re developing a habit for alcoholic beverages. She doesn’t give a damn about the different types of alcohol. From beer to absynth…everything is the same and will be referred to as wine.

7. Your grandma says “Debe ser por la Canícula”
Literal translation: “Blame it on the dog days”

To explain any kind of disgrace or misfortune that occurs during the hot months of the year. Of course, excessive heat can cause a lot of trouble, but blaming everything on a heat wave is just too much. The pain on her knees, blame it on la Canícula!, and that ugly spider that walked into her house the other day, yep, La Canícula’s fault as well.

8. Your grandma says “Jaletina”
No literal translation for this one…sorry.

Whenever she refers to gelatina (jello). And according to the Royal Spanish Academy…she’s not mistaken!

9. Your grandma says “Ya es la hora de mi comedia”
Literal translation: “Time to watch my comedy”

To inform you her favorite telenovela is about to start and that she doesn’t want to be bothered. If you decide to stay and share the moment with her, she’ll give you a quick briefing of every character and plot twist you need to be aware of in order to understand the current chapter. She’ll also start complaining about how illogical these stories are getting nowadays and she’ll swear that this is the last telenovela she follows in her life. A word of caution: watching the telenovela with your abue once can easily turn into watching the telenovela with your abue forever…and no, this is not the last one she’s gonna follow.

10. Your grandma says “Se te va a derramar la bilis”
Literal translation: “Your bile is gonna spill”

Meaning you should stop your tantrum right away. Calm down hombre!

11. Your grandma says “Ese niño está espantado”
Literal translation: “That boy is frightened”

A scared or frightened child is not the one who just saw a marathon of japanese horror movies on the TV. Being scared means being ill, and grandmas love to cure children from espanto. For such occasions, they keep a drawer full of strange ointments that must be applied in the correct parts of the body while repeating some prayers. The details of the ritual can vary, but children normally go from frightened to full panic due to the process. Wanna convince your abue that there’s no such thing as being scared? Good luck with that!

12. Your grandma says “Ponte unos chiqueadores”
Literal translation: “Put on some chiqueadores

To put on what?!? Chiqueadores are the perfect solution for your bad mood, stress or to get rid of that recurring headache. This strangely named cure consists of pieces of plants — commonly sabila or tobacco — which you must put on your temples. They’re commonly fixed by a bandanna or paliacate, and they really work!

13. Your grandma says “Ya se soltó la tromba”
Literal translation: “The deluge has been unleashed”

So you better stop wasting your time on the internet and go grab the laundry before the rain gets it all soaking wet.

Source: (Matador Network)

At the Intersection of Language, Art and Photography: 67 Words for Color

At the Intersection of Language, Art and Photography: 67 Words for Color

The vast majority of language learners never break through the advanced beginner and lower intermediate levels.  A key characteristic of fluency is vocabulary breadth and depth.  Breadth means knowing the words for eyelash (pestaña) as well as eye (ojo). Depth means many words to describe actions with nuance.  For example, while the beginning language learner knows the word for “tell”, the advanced has in his arsenal juicy words like weave a tale, spin the truth, or divulge a secret.

It´s hard to achieve. Most writers express themselves only in their native tongue.  Yet some writers do learn another language well enough to create.  Nabokov, who was trilingual in Russian, French and English, wrote the first half of his works in Russian and the second half in English.  Lolita, his most acclaimed work, was written in English.  It was not translated into his native Russian until twelve years later, only to be immediately banned in his homeland. Samuel Becket, who said that he preferred France in war to his native Ireland in peace, wrote Waiting for Godot in French.  Jean-Louis (Jack) Kerouac began writing his most well-known novel, On the Road, in French before switching to English to finish it.

I intend to do creative writing in Spanish.  Therefore, like a magpie, I am collecting words and lining my nest with them.

Since I paint, my first task has been to develop a list of colors.  My list contains 67 colors in Spanish.  This is quite short, actually, since most people can distinguish between 150 to 200 colors, and artists learn to identify many more more.

I simply cannot live with a primary-school vocabulary of blue, red, yellow, green, orange and purple.  I need a word to describe the delicate coral of a sleeping baby`s cheek.  I need a word for the sour yellow that makes me pucker and drool.  I need a word for the mystery of the night.  I need words for the colors of tropical parrots.  I need words for the colors of the butterflies in my garden.

I need a thousand words for the colors of the sky.

No, primary-school colors won´t do at all.

With seventy percent of the body`s sense receptors clustering in the eyes, vision is the most powerful of all the senses.  We close our eyes when we smell baking bread or touch a lover because if we kept them open there would be too many visual distractions to savor the sensation.

Language is steeped in visual imagery and words for color are part of it.

Light plays an important role in perceiving color.  The paradox of light and color is that an apple is anything but red.  It seems red because red is the only color it does not absorb.  When an object does not absorb light, it reflects it. The apple looks red because it is reflecting that part of the spectrum.

Languages do not have names for all colors.  The ancient Egyptians and Japanese did not distinguish between blue and green. The color of the sky is referred to as “green” in classical Arabic poetry.   Blue came into use later.  According to the linguists Berlin and Kay, terms for more subtle colors like pink and orange do not emerge in a language until the language has made a distinction between blue and green.

Naming something makes it visible.

Cezanne claimed that we can see the fragrance of objects.  He sgaid that each stroke of the brush must “contain the air, the light, the object, the composition, the character and the style.”

Many colors did not exist in art until metals like chromium were discovered.  Some colors used by Renaissance painters were highly toxic.  Renoir´s reds, oranges and blues contained twice the levels of aluminum, mercury and cobalt found in the paint of later artists like Monet or Degas.

I´ve been thinking a lot about color and photography this week as I climb the steep learning curve that my new Nikon 750 demands.  (It´s kicking my butt.)  Traditionally, photography has not offered the same artistic license with color as other visual media.  While painters learn a lot about color, many photographers avoid it, and the feeling is that serious “art” photography must be in black and white.  I disagree.  Knowledge of color theory is as important for photographers as it is for painters.

Part of the reason that so many photographers avoid color has to do with the technology.  It wasn´t until 1935 that Eastman Kodak introduced Kodachrome, the first color film.  The color was horrible, and the film didn´t archive well.  Black and white, on the other hand, archived extremely well.  Many photographers who were masters of black and white photography, such as Ansel Adams, never mastered color.

So what made the list of 67 colors I am going to memorize in Spanish?

In the blues, I have the Spanish words for cyan, turquoise, sky blue, cerulean, aquamarine, cobalt, navy, sapphire, indigo, Prussian blue and steel.

Which one is your favorite?

In the reds, I have scarlet, cadmium red, cherry red (sometimes called fire engine red), brick, maroon, vermillion and rose.

My favorite is scarlet, the color of passion.

In the yellows, I have the Spanish words for yellow ocher, Tuscany gold, canary, gold, amber, lemon yellow, saffron and honey.

Colors that make your mouth water.

The greens evoke the Carribean (chartreuse), Ireland (kelly green), Brazil (emerald), China (jade) and England (hunter green).

The oranges are exotic (coral and flamenco) and fruity (peach, apricot and mandarin).  Beige is the boring exception, the stuffy uncle at a raucous family reunion.

The purples are a mixed bag.  Some are majestic, like burgundy.  Some are mysterious, almost black, like aubergine . Others are quaint, like amethyst, or old-fashioned, like lavender.  Some are electric, like fuschia and magenta, and should be used with caution.  Others are slightly out-of-date, like mauve.  Some, like peach, are just plain terrible.

Never buy a peach shirt or dress.  It will sit in your closet.

The browns give me comfort.  I need browns in my life, the earthy chestnuts, indulgent chocolates, steaming mugs of coffee and buttered toast, cinnamon apple pie, piles of copper autumn leaves, geraniums in terracotta pots, marmalade cats sleeping in the sun.

Colors are more than words.  They are smells, memories, emotions, melodies and textures.  As Kahlil Gibran tells us, we must bathe our souls in color.  To live fully we must swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.

And for that, my friends, we need more than a paltry handful of words.

In any language.

Her Secret Was Hidden in the Painting. Su Secreto Estaba Escondido en la Pintura.

(Scroll down for English version.)

La Familia Gozzadini, (1584) Lavinia Fontana

Lavinia Fontana (1552 – 1614) fue la primera mujer que trabajó como artista fuera de una corte o convento en Europa-  Fontana era más prolífica que cualquiera artista femenina del Renacimiento, pintando cientos de obras durante su vida.

Fontana tuvo 11 niños. Ganaba más dinero que su marido, Paolo Zappi, que era un pintor menor. Zappi se encargó de la casa y los niños y sirvió como asistente de pintura para su esposa. Pequeños detalles en las pinturas de Fontana  frecuentemente son pintados por Zappi.  Por ejemplo, en esta pintura, es probable que pintara la mesa, el fondo y el perro.

Fontana era muy popular entre las mujeres de clase alta de Bolonia, donde vivía. Sus pinturas estaban comisionados para marcar eventos importantes en sus vidas. La habilidad de Fontana para hacer prendas suntuosas y joyas la convirtieron en una de las favoritas entre el “jet set” antes de que los jets existieran.

Una de sus obras más famosas, La Familia Gozzadini, fue comisionada como un acto de venganza. A primera vista, la obra parece un retrato de la rica y poderosa familia Gozzadini. La figura en el centro es Ulisse, el patriarca de la familia. Está sentado en una mesa. Sus hijas están sentadas a ambos lados de él. Sus maridos están de pie detrás de sus esposas.

La historia detrás de la pintura es muy fea.

Ulisse era un manipulador.

Prometió toda su fortuna a la primera hija que le dio un hijo, iniciando una cruel carrera de fertilidad.

Ginevra, la hija a la izquierda, ganó la fortuna.  Tuvo seis niños, cuatro de los cuales eran varones  En la pintura, su padre está sosteniendo su mano.

Sin embargo, el ganador verdadero fue el marido de Ginevra  porque ella murió cuando tenía solamente 28 años.

Laudomia, a la derecha en la pintura, prefiere acariciar a su perro que tocar a su padre.  Laudomia no dio a luz a un solo niño. Su marido la culpó por perder la fortuna.

La pintura cuenta del punto de vista de la historia de Laudomia.

En la pintura, Gineva está representada como el extremo feo. Laudomia, por otro lado, es muy bonita.

Ambas hermanas llevan broches. Cada broche representa un desnudo masculino. El desnudo de Ginevra tiene una erección enorme. El miembro del desnudo de Laudomia está flácido. En otras palabras, no es la culpa de Laudomia que no haya tenido hijos – su marido era impotente.

Laudomia no era estéril. Su secreto estaba escondido en la pintura.

English Version

Her Secret Was In the Painting

La Familia Gozzadini, (1584) Lavinia Fontana

Lavinia Fontana (1552 – 1614) was the first female artist working outside a convent or a royal court.  She was the most prolific female painter in Europe during the Renaissance, finishing hundreds of paintings in her lifetime.

Fontana had 11 children.  She was married to Paolo Zappi, a minor painter.  Fontana was the primary breadwinner in the family.  Zappi ran the house and took care of their children.  He also assisted his wife in their studio, painting minor elements in paintings such as drapery and other details.  For example, in the La Familia Gozzadini it is likely that he painted the table, the dog, and the background.

Fontana was very popular among wealthy women in Bologna who commissioned her to depict important events in their lives such as weddings.  The ability of Fontana to paint sumptuous fabrics, furs and jewelry made her a favorite among the “jet set” before jets existed.

La Familia Gozzadini is one of Fontana’s most famous paintings. On the surface, the work depicts one of the most wealthy and powerful families in Italy.

In reality, the work was commissioned as an act of vengeance.

The figure in the center is Ulysses, the patriarche of the family.  Seated at the table with him are his two daughters, Ginevra on the left and Laudomia on the right.  Standing behind them are their spouses.

It´s an ugly story.

Ulysses was a cruel and manipulative man who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted.

He wanted an heir, and quickly.

Ulysses promised his fortune to the first daughter who produced a son. The sisters were pitted against each other in a race of fertility.

Ginevra won the race.  She gave birth to six children, four of whom were male.  In the painting, her father is holding her hand affectionately.

However, the real winner was Ginevra´s husband. Ginevra died in childbirth at the age of 28.

In Fontana´s painting, Ginevra is fat and ugly.  Laudomia, on the other hand, is a beauty.

Each sister is wearing a broach with miniature paintings.  On each broach is an image of a nude male.  The male on Ginevra´s broach sports an enormous erection.

The male on Laudomia´s broach has a flaccid penis.

In other words, it wasn´t Laudomia´s fault she had no children.  Her husband was impotent.

Her secret was hidden in the painting.




This poem, written today, was inspired by the video below of Sara Baras performing NIÑA DEL FUEGO.  The study in oil, Castañuelas, was done in 2014. In the poem, the sounds move from the first line, to the second, to the third and finally to the fourth line.


TAK taka TAK, TAK taka TAK.
The heels of the gypsy speak
To the man in the corner watching.

Taka taka tak. (Shhh.)
Saying what must not be spoken.

Coiled like a snake beneath the surface.

Her compás burns red-hot
Like her dress.

Like her tears.
Like the broken places
That cut her like glass.
TAK. Takatakatak. TAK.


TAK taka TAK, TAK taka TAK
Los talones del gitana hablan
Al hombre en la esquina viendo

Taka taka tak. (Shhh.)
Diciendo lo que no se debe decir.

Enrollado como un serpiente bajo la superficie.

Su compás queman rojo vivo
Como su vestido.
Tak. TaTak.

Como sus lágrimas
Como los lugares que la cortan
Como vidrios rotos.
TAK. Takatakatak. TAK.