Blessings of the Butterflies

"Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?" Frida Kahlo, 1953

I have just completed an installation in the entryway of Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo in Chicago. As many of you know, I have travelled for the past 12 years with award winning chef Rick Bayless and his wonderful staff to Mexico to become more familiar the culinary and cultural riches of each state. Every year I come back with photographs and mount a show from a particular region.

The idea for the current work was born on top of a pyramid at Teotihuacan just outside Mexico City. It was noon as I reached the peak of the Pyramid of the Sun. The quiet and gentle breezes were caressing my overheated body under the blazing sun. Much to my surprise and delight, I spotted many butterflies flittering about. The guide explained that the butterflies always appear at noon. The ancients believed the butterflies were reincarniated manifestations of the holy priests. It was a magical moment.

We also went to the village of Tepoztlan in which there was a audible collective sigh from everyone as we stepped off the bus into the gardens. It is a serene, low-key spiritual town nestled between craggy cliffs in the state of Morelos.

The transformative gardens of Tepotzlan

While in transit I was reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (another Ragdale Fellow), a book filled with images of magical realism. We also visited Mexican painter Frida Kahlo's home (known as La Casa Azul, The Blue House), adding to my deeper understanding her life and work.

All of these experiences contributed to my wish to communicate a certain feeling I have about Mexico. Having conceived of this work was a bit like jumping off a cliff. I have not done anything like it before and yet it seemed, in my head at least, to convey the magic of the places we visited. An unanticipated surprise for me was to experience the flutter of the butterflies as the door swings open, ushering in the cool Chicago breeze. I have included some installation shots but encourage you, if possible, to experience the work in person. You are sure to also have a culinary experience extraordinaire!