Marie Cecile Thijs

As you may know, I was in the Netherlands this past September. I loved the country and the people I met. I was just sent a link (thank you to Deann and Frances) of Marie Cecile Thijs's work. The portraits are so well seen and remind me of the best Dutch European  paintings. The subtly and light....extraordinary!
 "Marie Cecile Thijs  specializes in staged photography (portraiture and autonomous photography). In her photographs she strives for intensity and stillness. She mingles contemporary style with classical references. "

Marie Cecile Thijs initially had a career as a lawyer, but more than fifteen years ago she rediscovered her earlier love for the camera, and decided to become a photographer. 

Baja California ~ A Revelation

I just returned from the annual Frontera Grill Staff trip to Baja California. This was a first for me and I had no idea what to expect. Rick Bayless, the amazing, awesome and inspirational chef extraordinaire, has spent a lot of time exploring the area for his PBS show, One Plate At A Time. It was a fantastic trip. Here are a FEW of the highlights. I only wish I could recreate a tasting of the wines and foods for you!
Rick was presented a gift from the Baja wine growers

Adobe Guadalupe Vineyard

This area has many vineyards and each has its own character. We had many wine tastings and learned how the soil and the preparation of the wine influences the final product. There is so much to learn and so little time!


Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero's grilling pit...this meal was the best lamb I have ever tasted in my entire life!

The bottomless tequila container soaking with 50 year old snake 


Mercado El Popo

Local fishermen catching oysters, mussels and clams in sustainable aquaculture

 Eriza / Sea Urchin and Barnacles
Culinary Art School in Tijuana

Casa Piedra where all the buildings are made of recycled materials

back from New Orleans

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold") is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective state, conscious or unconscious, of being on the "threshold" of or between two different existential planes (from Wikipedia). That is what it is like to be in New Orleans. There is just something about that city that is like no other. I felt like Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole into another world of reality. For me it is a city unparalleled in its music, food, art and soul.

(all photos taken with my iphone)

Treme Creole Gumbo Festival featuring the actors from the HBO Treme show

Friday night on Frenchmen Street at Snug Harbor with Ellis Marsalis

3-6pm half price oysters everyday at Luke

John Boutte at d.b.a., the composer of the Treme theme song...he doesn't sing the song, he is the song!

The Contemporary Arts Center had some wonderful work...including

Kyle Bravo, 2011 Self Portrait, "Reaching"

Club S & S (Stephen Paul Day & Sibylle Peretti), suicide notes, 2011; Mixed Media on napkins

PhotoNola had many offerings for the weekend including a photogravure demonstration at Josephine Sacabo's studio and a Tintype exhibit at HomeSpace Gallery, which included a wet plate demonstration.
Josephine Sacabo giving photogravure demonstration

S. Gayle Stevens speaking about her work at HomeSpace Gallery

Bruce Schultz giving a wet plate demonstration

and I happily went home with a tintype portrait

Dia de los Muertos Celebration

12: 05 AM

It is two hours since the last guest left. We just had a fund raiser/salon for Ragdale . It felt like a performance art piece that touched all the senses. Art/food/ and friends gathering to celebrate and support the arts.

As I cut each marigold blossom from my yard in preparation for assembling the altar, I was thinking how extravagant it felt to have so many flowers adorning my home in addition to the 50 votive candles transported from Oaxaca. Flowers and candles are just the best along with the very colorful tissue cutout flags. My home was my pallet and when the sun went down and all the candles were lit, it felt like the entire house was floating on air!

The altar was dedicated to the Shaw family who founded The Ragdale Foundation which provides residencies for artists of all disciplines. I loved setting up my home to reflect the generous spirit of both the Shaw family and Dia de los Muertos, a life affirming remembrance of the departed thru celebration. The food was exquisite (as in transformative thanks to Howard and Kevin) and was followed by a fabulous talk by Chicago Chef Rick Bayless on the significance of food in memory, celebration and the creative process.

Every time I passed the altar I kept wanting to photograph it...just couldn't help myself!

The chocolate skulls were made by Nicole's Homemade Treats...and they were yummy! The mescal, Fidencio, was so smooth and from a distillery we visited this past summer in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca.

Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead!

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!

Frontera Farmer Foundation Auction this Weekend

"Great food, like all art, enhances and reflects a community’s vitality, growth and solidarity. Yet history bears witness that great cuisines spring only from healthy local agriculture."
—Rick Bayless, Proprietor of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo

This Sunday is the annual Frontera Farmer Foundation Fund Raiser

Farmers Market Fiesta: 12PM to 3PM
$45 per person in advance, $50 at the door
($20 for Children under 12).
Reservations: 312.661.1434

Dinner Like No Other: 6PM

© 2008 Hearts and Crosses, 12" x 16" mixed media from San Miguel de Allende staff trip.

Top Chef Master winner, Rick Bayless, has been my most prolific collector. His new Chicago restaurant, Xoco, has it's walls peppered with many of my photographs created during Rick's annual staff trips to Mexico. The piece, Hearts and Cross, is up for auction...if interested, contact me for bidding details.

The Frontera Farmer Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting small, sustainable farms serving the Chicago area by providing them with capital development grants. The Foundation envisions a year-round interchange between sustainable farmers and consumers, including farmers’market patrons and chefs, in which seasonal local agriculture provides the foundation for sustainable regional cuisine. As of this year, 67 grants have been awarded, totaling almost $750,000.

The Transformative Power of Art ~ Rick Bayless at the White House

Just in case you didn't know, Rick Bayless is cooking for a state dinner tonight at the White House. What does this have to do with me? Well, he has been an important person in my life in the last 14 years. I have had the privilege of traveling to different regions in Mexico each summer as he infuses his staff with his enthuasium and knowledge. (earlier blog)

© Jane Fulton Alt, The Pour

Rick is incredibly intelligent, charismatic, creative, kind hearted and hard working. I have learned much from him and am in awe of the impact he has had on my life and the lives of so many others. The country is peppered with chefs who have worked under him, as he mentors many.

Which brings me to the transformative power of art. There is nothing more wonderful that being deeply moved by a work of art, literature, music or a gourmet meal. Having been the happy recipient of many wonderful dinners prepared by Rick, I wish I could be a fly on the wall tonight, and watch as the White House guests are transformed into a state of bliss. What I imagine is a scene out of Babette's Feast or Like Water for Chocolate. If you haven't seen those movies, please do. They are memorable.

© Jane Fulton Alt, Mexico City Crosses

Better yet, just go have dinner at one of his restaurants here, in Chicago!

Justine Reyes' Vanitas

Justine Reyes was the Juror's Choice in Center's 2010 Project Competition. Her work is elegant and compelling. Her vision, composition and lighting is extraordinary.

In her words...

"Taking inspiration from Dutch Vanitas paintings, these photographs incorporate personal artifacts within the traditional construct of still life. Pairing objects that belonged to my grandmother with my own possessions speaks to the concept of memory, familial legacy and the passage of time. The incorporation of modern elements such as the Saran wrap, plastic, sugar packages etc, as well as the use of photography itself add an additional layer of nostalgia and irony when viewed within the historical framework of Vanitas painting.

Both the decomposition of the natural (rotting fruit and wilting flowers) and the break down of the man-made objects, reference the physical body, life's impermanence and the inevitability of death.

My work examines identity, mortality and the longing to hold on to things that are ephemeral and transitory in nature."

Fat Tuesday and Louisiana

Sacred Heart ©1997
taken after visit to slaughter house

Today is Fat Tuesday and I am not in New Orleans or Breau Bridge.

In thinking about all the celebrations tonight, I find myself reminising about when I met Debbie Flemming Caffery in Louisiana for one of her workshops. It was the first time in my "creative" life that I left home and concentrated only on my art for a full week. It was transformative. There is something very powerful about being able to shed all responsibilites and flow with the muses. I highly recommend it.

Smoking Cotton Gin, a precurser to The Burn series

I will be marking the day with a Sazerac cocktail accompanied with great cajun and zydeco music.

Back from San Miguel de Allende

Just returned from a FABULOUS annual staff trip to Mexico with Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill. It was four days filled with incredible beauty, exquisite food and laughter to last a life time! The early morning light over the mountains surrounding Mexico City was breathtaking.

We stayed at a wonderful hotel called Casa Luna in San Miguel de Allende and then went out to the Quinta Casa Luna property with 3 kitchens!The staff was challenged with going to the local markets and cooking a dinner extraordinaire. Watching it all unfold was one of those peak life experiences...right out of Babette's Feast (if you haven't seen the movie, it is a must).

I find myself coming up short in describing the incredible allure of the region. We also spent a day at the Hacienda Las Trancas in Dolores Hidalgo going horseback riding and having another wonderful meal.

A few other food highlights of the region are El Comal de Dona Meche, Conservas Santa Rosa, and the zocalo in Dolores Hidalgo for "nieves" or ices.
The Conservas Santa Rosa is a woman's cooperative where they make jams, candies, liquors and the like. We also learned of another woman's cooperative while dining at Nicos in Gueretaro where they are raising rabbit in a very arid region.
It seems likes woman's cooperatives are popping up all over. I went to a Care conference in Washington DC last month and most of their efforts are geared toward woman and children...and successfully.

Just a reminder about the photographic workshop, "Refining Your Creative Vision," that I will be teaching in January in a small village called
Zacoalco de Torres, just an hour from Guadalajara. You can learn more about it here.