Conversations with artists

By Margaret Paul

On Tuesday, February 25 at Casa de la Noche, 19 Órganos, a crowd will gather to celebrate 17 artists who have lived and worked in San Miguel for much of their lives. Three of the artists will be there in spirit only, but all will be honored as contributors to a new book by M.B. Paul, who interviewed some of this city’s most notable artists and recorded their thoughts and reminiscences in Conversations with Artists in San Miguel de Allende, with photographs by Mariah Sirius.

Book presentation
Conversations with Artists in
San Miguel de Allende
By Margaret Paul
Tue, Feb 25, 5pm
Casa de la Noche
Órganos 19


Margaret Paul began this project some years ago. “I had no expectations. It was an idea, a whim really, to produce an inventory of the artists living in San Miguel, where I had been living off and on since 2001. It surprised me that no one had attempted such a thing before and because I was recently retired and needed something to do, I thought why not. I did very little more about it until a few months later when purely by chance, I met an artist in India, a woman named Laumuq, who was also traveling alone and miraculously happened to live in San Miguel. She encouraged me to forge ahead with my scheme and even gave me the name of a contact, Carmen Gutiérrez at Casa Diana, who eventually paved the way for me to meet some of the most important artists in the city. One artist recommended me to another and soon I was well beyond making a list. I was learning what being an artist means and what being an artist in San Miguel has meant to many of the artists who have lived here for fifty years or more. But most of all, I was learning about art itself, what it is and why it is such a force in the human narrative. Not all the artists I interviewed are senior citizens but all are aging, and three of them have died since I first spoke with them. These individuals took with them a living account of the past. I was extremely fortunate to have met them and to have had the opportunity to talk with all the maestros whose experiences and reflections are set down in the book. I interviewed twenty-two artists but selected seventeen for the final manuscript because I felt each of the conversations in the final collection had its own point of view, its own theme that revealed particular aspects of life in San Miguel. I tried very hard to find the heart of the men and women I interviewed and I think I got better at doing that as I went along. If I did succeed in capturing their voices, it was because I fell in love with every one, and I hope that my affection and respect was evident in my questions and in my attention to their responses. I want everyone who reads the book to learn a little more about art, about artists, and about San Miguel de Allende, a place that has always been extraordinary. We will be doing a book signing and copies of the book will be on sale, but more importantly, I want this evening to be a tribute to these very talented artists and to all artists who do, I believe, make the world a better place.”

One of the artists included in Conversation with Artists is the much-loved Peter Leventhal, who lives in San Miguel but grew up in New York at a time when that city was in its cultural prime. He remembers his encounters with art at a young age, and he tells how he became seduced by beauty and about his subsequent lifelong search for truth.

Another artist, Mai Onno, recounts the circumstances of her early traumatic immigration to Canada and later her pilgrimage to San Miguel to study art as a young woman and, ultimately, how she fell in love and stayed. Erv Kaczmarek remembers arriving in San Miguel when he was twenty-two. In twenty minutes he had decided to make it his home and is still quietly, brilliantly painting in his seventies. Tom Dickson and his wife Donna provide a personal glimpse into the world of plein air painting, its joys as well as its pitfalls. Tim Hazell reveals something of his fascination with the Mexican and Pre-Hispanic cultures, and Mary Rapp remembers her youthful encounter with Jack Kerouac and other infamous members of the Beats. Santiago Corral compares himself to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and Mary Breneman proves she is a dancer when she paints.

Edgar Soberón, a gifted painter who stills life, tells of his exile from Cuba and his love of the Frick. Toller Cranston shares his knowledge of art history and explains how he came to buy a jungle property beside a park. Keith Miller proves to be a gentleman of remarkable talent, and Pedro Friedeberg, another talented gentleman, is captivating as a very funny, famous man. Stephen Eaker and Bea Aaronson add a further dash of color as they discuss their love for art and for San Miguel. One of three missing artists, Marion Perlet traveled a long way and endured many hardships to get to San Miguel. She embarked on a longer voyage a short while ago, as did Leonard Brooks, who at age 99, had seen much of the world but still gained daily pleasure from his art.

Before his death, Ed Osman spoke passionately about the language of color and the happiness his life as an artist had given him. Conversations with Artists in San Miguel de Allende explores the relationship between the city and the artists but above all, it is an illustration of how each artist brings his own brush to the canvas. Perhaps Christina Sol summed it up best when she concluded, “I’ve come to realize, we paint what we are.” Many of the artists will be present on February 25 at Casa de la Noche at 19 Órganos where they will be displaying examples of their work.
The celebration gets underway at 5pm.


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