“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
Evelyne Pouget was always artistic, even as a small girl growing up in France, but she didn’t become an artist until she fully accepted the words of her Spiritual Master, Baba Muktananda, when she was 41. For many years, Baba had referred to Evelyne as “The Painter,” – a phenomenon that Evelyne interpreted as her teacher mistaking her for someone else. Because she had no identity as an artist, his words never landed for her. Until they did one fine Spring day in 1994. That’s when she took her favorite photograph of her teacher and sat down in her living room to paint his portrait. What happened next astounded her – three hours of what seemed like “lost time.” Somehow, she had entered a realm where time did not exist. When she looked up, what she saw in front of her was a portrait of Baba that evoked the very essence of who he was – and this from a woman who had never picked up a paintbrush before.
It was at that moment that Evelyne knew she had a gift and she had to make the effort to open it.
The first 22 years as an artist found Evelyne working as a landscape and portrait painter in Woodstock NY, moved as she was breathtaking vistas of the Hudson Valley and the people who lived there. Oils and oil pastels were her preferred medium. Toggling back and forth between motherhood, painting, and a wide variety of humanitarian projects, her life was full.
Upon visiting San Miguel, for the first time, in 2003, she soon noticed that the subjects of her paintings began to shift. Moved by the culture and people of Mexico, she began focusing on the colorful street life – the flower vendors, musicians, and abuelas. Evelyne may have continued in this vein for decades, were it not for the sudden appearance of a profound new influence in her life – the Concheros – the indigenous street dancers of San Miguel and the surrounding area.
The first time she saw the Concheros, dancing up Umaran to the Jardin, she was stunned. She had never seen anything like this before – 500 people adorned with feathers, beads, body paint, and headdresses moving together to the beat of the drum like a tide. There was something about the way they moved, with so much nobility, power, and purpose, that was archetypal for her. Whatever power was calling the Concheros to take their ancient mysteries to the street was also calling Evelyne to play a much deeper kind of attention – a classic kind of call and response.
Each year Evelyne returned to San Miguel, it was only matter of time before she heard the Concheros drums calling her. That’s when she would grab her camera, her heart beating faster, and follow the sound. She took thousands of photographs, content, for a while, to have captured a bit of their essence. But the more she photographed, surrounded by tourists with their iPhones poised, she couldn't help but notice there was kind of superficial gawking mentality on the street. For Evelyne, the words of Thoreau came to mind. “Its not what you look at. It’s what you see.” And what she was seeing, she knew, needed to be celebrated in a way that a simple photograph did not seem capable of – a way to contextualize the spirit and sacredness of the Conchero dances.
Entranced , Evelyne began researching the history and traditions of the Concheros. She met with local elders and wisdom keepers. She searched the internet for whatever she could find to further tune in to what she intuitively knew was at the heart of the Conchero’s dancing – a physical expression of a metaphysical reality deeply connected to Mother Earth and indigenous wisdom.
Not unlike the Concheros, she entered a kind of trance state as she explored this new art form, spending hours at her computer – experimenting and discovering, fascinated by the “happy accidents” that were being revealed to her. In time, she also began applying the technique she discovered to feature the beautiful architecture of San Miguel.
note: Her digital art making is not done with Photoshop. She just stumbled on a technique that worked.
See Evelyne's Website
Mitch Ditkoff, the co-founder and president, of Idea Champions, divides his time between San Miguel and Woodstock, N.Y. He has written six books, his most recent one published last month is Storytelling for the Revolution.
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