That’s me standing at my kitchen table.” That’s what I told myself when I first encountered Mujer con una Mesa (Woman with a Table), by Rufino Tamayo, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in January 2020. The woodblock print is an early work, made by Tamayo in the late 1920s in Mexico, long before he relocated to the United States. At the time, he was interested in depicting Indigenous people from Mexico in muted colors, stylized, in intimate settings. It was a rejection of the detailed, brightly colored art being sold to tourists that depicted folkloric scenes of Indigenous people working and dancing.
This article appears in the Fall 2021 issue of Alta Journal.
The woman in the print stands alone with her hand placed firmly on a table. She appears to be grounding herself in place, connecting her body and soul to the natural element of the wooden structure. In my perspective, there is a burst of energy that radiates from the tips of her fingers onto the table. And as a woman who spends a lot of time alone, I relate to these moments of grounding and the transfer of this energy between home and body. Those are the things that allow me to find my center and push forward.
I’m drawn to the starkness of this image. The carving marks from the woodblock are rough and tell its story through the direction of the lines. There’s very little detail in the piece beyond the woman’s focused face. It’s the kind of image that, as the kids say, IYKYK. It may not have much meaning at first glance, but if you understand the kind of moment that’s being shared, then you resonate with the work. If you know, you know.
I’m inspired by how the simplicity of a rough woodblock carving of a woman standing alone at her kitchen table jump-started a lifetime of work for Tamayo. These simple moments in life are worth celebrating, illustrating, and distributing and are a major element in my work as well. Tamayo’s early pieces exploring life’s mundane moments and their connections between the body, energy, and place inspire me to keep asking questions through art while embracing the little things in daily life.•