There’s something about Oaxaca, something hard to define, hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there. Oaxaca is one of those places—I’ve been to a few—where, no matter how long it’s been since your last visit, you want to go back. I’ve only been once, too long ago now, and I’ve just seen a marvelous little exhibit of photographs that reminds me that I want to go back.
Oaxaca is one of the most diverse states in Mexico, with rugged terrains, the seacoast, and ancient cultures. Textiles, ceramics, the distinctive brightly painted wood carvings, and numerous other arts and crafts make it a paradise for aesthetes like me. The food…! Don’t get me started. (Molé sauces to die for!)
Ah, but the people…. It is the beautiful Oaxacan people that Milwaukee photographer Claire Ruzicka focuses on, quite literally. Her carefully composed and exquisitely printed black and white images show the people at ease amid the bustle and patterned backgrounds of daily life. Reading from the accompanying text, I found it remarkable to learn that she had been there but a short while. The comfort that her subjects display in front of her camera usually requires the kind of bond that doesn’t happen quickly.
I happened across this exhibit at Gallery H2O in Milwaukee’s Third Ward (221 N. Water St.) when I stopped in for some of Mary’s excellent soup—the gallery’s alter ego is Soup’s On. It’s always fun to stop in and see the eclectic variety of work on the walls there. Make sure you try the homemade soup while you’re there, too! And say hi to Mary for me. Tell her Eddee sent you.
P.S. Ruzicka's photos will be on display through Oct. 8, so there's plenty of time to stop by.
They are wonderful images and Claire was able to portray that spirit of the people of Oaxaca in her photographs. She was a student in one of my classes at Stritch a few years ago. I am not surprised at the beauty of her images. Kim and I have spent every October in Oaxaca during Dia de los Muertos over the past 10 years. You need to get back there some day. Thanks for posting your thoughts on the exhibit.