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Rufino Tamayo Taught Me A Lesson

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Rufino Tamayo's work

One of my favorite painters has always been Rufino Tamayo. As a student at Parsons The New School For Design, I emulated his color sensibilities, textural work, and seemingly simple, but sophisticated compositions.

Rufino Tamayo Watermelons

I remember the first time I came face-to-face with a large canvas in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York. It was a thrilling experience. Even the best publishers of art books cannot duplicate the nuances of Tamayo’s work in their pages. The vibrancy of his color palette gives life to the abstracted subjects in the paintings. Many artists have tried to use bold color, but the results are crude and decorative. Tamayo’s color mastery maintains sophistication while adding playfulness and tension to the paintings. The textures are coarse and velvety at the same time.

Rufino Tamayo Musician Painting

I wanted to travel to Mexico to meet Tamayo. An opportunity presented itself in January 1991. Two of my cousins were getting married near Tamayo’s town that July. Instead of going in January, I decided to visit in July to attend the weddings and see Tamayo in the same trip.

Rufino Tamayo died on June 24, 1991. Who knows what wisdom and advice he may have given. Would my life have taken a different direction based on his words?  I learned a lesson. Never expect tomorrow will be the same as today. I decided then not to delay the things that are most important to me.

Rufino Tamayo

Twenty years later, to my detriment, the lesson had faded. I am working on a photographic series involving aging in America. My neighbor is 100 years old. I want to photography him in his favorite chair in the sunroom of his home. My calendar was marked to take his portrait as soon as two important projects I had going were finished. A large exhibit I curated called Wide Angle View, and my Artist-In-Residence project, called Economy Portraits. The exhibit ended on March 28, and the Residency on April 9th, 2011.

On May 5, 2011, I knocked on his door, prepared to ask when I could set up a portrait session. His son answered. He informed me his father had died three weeks earlier. He almost made it to 101. It was a peaceful and painless transition. Once again, I missed out on talking to a man with a century of information to learn from.

As I am writing, it occurred to me to photograph this man’s empty chair. It will be a testament to those who have lived a fulfilling life. I will make a print and place it over my desk. It will be a gentle reminder to keep my priorities in order.

Please excuse me. I must sign off to call the son and ask to photograph the sunroom. Tomorrow his chair may not be there.


About Gina Genis

Hi Friends, I'm a photographer and artist who lives in Washington DC. I have two blogs. The Gina Genis Blog is about art and photography. My new blog, DC Discoveries is dedicated to showing you everything from fashion to art, food to entertainment in all sections of the District. I hope you will take the journey with me. I exhibit my work in museums and galleries across the U.S. I'm included in the permanent collections of the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, the Otto G. Richter Library Special Collections Division of the University of Miami, Hard Rock Casino, Orange County Transit District, IBM, and the Sarah and Adam Markman Collection among others. My series "Window Peeping" was included in OsCene 2010 at the Laguna Art Museum, Truman State University, Fellows of Contemporary Art, Biola University, and solo shows at Gallery 825 and Cypress College. The "June Gloom" series was exhibited in a solo show at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The "Kala" series has been exhibited at MPLS Photo Center, Cypress College, and Gallery 825. "Economy Portraits" was created as an Artist In Residence project at the Huntington Beach Art Center, and was awarded "Best Art Show of 2011" by the OC Weekly. I curated Wide Angle View, an exhibit of 16 international, award-winning photo and multi-media journalists at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art to much critical acclaim. Recent reviews of my work have appeared in the Huffington Post, Art Scene, OC Weekly, Orange County Register, New University, Riviera Magazine, Coast Magazine, Huntington Beach Independent, and appeared on CNN, NBC, ABC, and more. I lead the Gina Genis Photo Workshops where I show beginning and intermediate photographers how to jump to the next level with their work. I also teach online photography courses through The Compelling Image.

One response »

  1. I just posted about Rufino Tamayo, and thought nobody knows
    who he is but then I stumble to this post, very good story and true
    we should not wait


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