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The Art of the Move
Jan. 15, 2023

by Alejandro Anaya, text, photos, art

From a very young age, I imagined as my own the life of an artist: hanging out with other artists in little cafes, holding deep, passionate conversations in canteens with other intellectuals, painting at ease in the morning, without major worries, sipping a strong cup of espresso and smoking a cigarette, thinking about what would be my next masterpiece.

Now, in my fourth year living in San Miguel as a visual artist, I have been rudely awakened from this vision of the artist's glamorous life. I am in the middle of my fourth move, my fourth change of residence, in the city, and my mind is lost between boxes, containers, dishes, glasses, the sofa and when the hell are we going to have the internet installed. My art seems like a distant memory entangled between the lines of ink with which I draw my faces. I carry my fountain pens up and down the three flights to our new apartment, all the while knowing that I won't really be able to use them until we've transported and arranged everything.

At times I get inspirations, but these flashes quickly vanish when I realize that my watercolors are packed together with my pants, or when I see the mountain of household items piled on top of my notebooks and pads of paper.

The maestro José Luis Cuevas said that he did not believe in inspiration, only in work. But how does an artist balance his creative work, the sometimes painfully slow artistic process, with the demands of day-to-day living, and the chaos of such a disruptive moment? How do you capture expression and feeling in a painting, when the back part of your brain is screaming, “Come on. We have to patch up the walls to turn over the old apartment at 2:00 in the afternoon?"

I think of van Gogh, believing I understand how he resolved this dilemma. He focused on painting the things that were in front of him, that which was within his reach. The "theme" took a backseat, and the "how" became much more relevant. A chair or some shoes became the work. The common, ordinary things that surrounded him were transformed into rare, beautiful paintings thanks to his way of processing the images and capturing them on the canvas with extraordinary contrasts and brushstrokes.

I am very far from being van Gogh, but this idea came to me while I was climbing the stairs for the fiftieth time. In my desperation I began to draw, making use of the spare time that a move rarely gives you. Doing the exercise of using disruption as a propelling force of creation, I begin to see in the boxes, in the chaos of all my "junk" in the trunk of the car, elements that can make up a sketch; the beginning of ideas that can lead to something.

I go up to the terrace of the new apartment (one of the advantages of the new place), and I remember why I decided to move to this city. Beauty is in its daily life, in its architecture, in the people who wander the streets and also in the imperfection, imperfection that does not appear in the polished, filtered Instagram posts that millions of people publish when they visit San Miguel.

One of the most important things I've learned in my time here is to find beauty anywhere. In a strange face, in a stray dog, in the corn stall or in an abandoned house.

Finally, I was able to escape to a little cafe on Stirling Dickinson. There I met two good friends, one a musician and the other a visual artist. It was a real pleasure to see them and to be able to talk about something other than the hated boxes, bags, electricity or water bills.

Finally, I came to understand that all of this ordinary upheaval is also part of my artistic process, and of life itself. The romantic part of the artist's life is a frequent oasis. I just have to keep in mind that the art we make is born also and more from all that chaos, not just from the little cafes.

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Alejandro Anaya is a visual artist and writer, originally from Torreon who, for almost four years, has lived and actively participated in the San Miguel community. His collaboration with Lokkal is part of his philosophy as a storyteller, and his commitment to share his discoveries and reflections on this beautiful part of Mexico, with all who seek to live a unique experience in our magical town.

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