Story by Alfonso Garrido.
As a creative and visual person, I have always wanted to surround myself with creative processes and projects. When I went to Tulum and discovered that beautiful place to meditate and be in touch with nature, I realized that there was no artist scene in Tulum. I was living where I wanted to live but not doing what I wanted to do. So I decided to bring some creative souls to Tulum. And this is how art residence "Residencia Gorilla" was born almost 10 years ago. Looking back, I understand that I did this because I needed creative energy to accompany my personal journey of changing my life and aligning it more to who I really am. It was beautiful - the mornings with sunrises at the beach, all the beautiful environmental and social art projects we did, the countless art dinners and all the beautiful people I met. But at the same time, I was kind of in a crisis in my life, looking where to head to. And you know - you attract the same things, all the people that arise. We all worked together: "Let's create, let's heal each other, let's do whatever it takes to make the process happen." And I'm very happy about everything that we did, especially the human connections we all made there. It taught me a lot about personal relationships and how we are no longer used to living as a community in the cities and our daily lives. The biggest problems were the most basic ones. That was actually the most significant learning from everything, like the human side of it.
After Gorilla, it was a time to grow because we had the art and the artists, but not really a space where to show it all. That led to the opening of the Tulum Art Club. That project opened the doors to many amazing projects like the Holistika jungle art walk, which I consider my first art piece because, in the end, it's a significant artistic experience composed of different murals nestled In the Jungle. This is my kind of art, the art I was always doing kind of behind the scenes, like bringing up the concepts and putting teams together to make it happen. And that was, for me, the most fun part.
Celeste Byers & Aaron Glasson
In 2018 I curated some part of the Art with Me festival program and invited artists from different tribes around Mexico. It was fascinating to see when they all sat around the table and started talking and sharing. They live in the same country, but they don't know anything about each other and how others create art. And just seeing them exchanging knowledge and culture was pretty inspiring for me. In that evening, around that table, I felt a click inside of me, a calling that this is something that I should care more about. None of these artists have Academical education, but they are still amazing artists. They know it all because they have an amazing connection with nature; they are great observers. They see the stars, the trees and the relationship in nature; they see the geometry. I'm interested in exploring all these techniques and forms of art from our ancestors because the wisdom is there. There's no need to go to the Academy, and there's no need to have a degree to create art. That really changed my perspective of art. I also feel the calling to help these local artists see themselves as artists and sell themselves as artists.
Celeste Byers & Aaron Glasson
I've always been interested in offering artist residencies where we offer new experiences and help artists explore new sides of themselves and their art. I am currently working with a family, who are the last Mayan Potters that hold an ancient formula and work with the clay in a traditional way, a Ceremonial way. It's a ritual, how they talk to the wind. How they protect the pieces when they are drying so they don't break, and how they make fire. And for me, Don Emilio is like a shaman who manipulates the elements perfectly. He just doesn't see himself like that. I have been working with them for the last three years, helping them tell their story in an artistic way. The energy in these pictures is something that even the locals don't remember about themselves, about their culture. So when they see them, they start to believe in themselves. And we already have two other local communities – beekeepers and woodworkers, who want us to help them artistically tell their story.
For me, clay is one of the first forms of alchemy. It was almost invented together with fire because it literally is the physical representation of alchemy. You need to use the perfect balance of earth, water, and fire to make it happen. And the fire is the one that actually transforms everything into one, even at a molecular level. And that is intriguing for me. Think about the process and the thousands and thousands of years of knowledge passed to have cups and plates. So, the fifth element is the ether or spirit, which gives the movement and creation of the piece.
I wouldn't have this understanding and approach without meeting the family and observing how they work.
I've been creating art ideas for many years through some other people's hands. Now I'm finally spending my time studying and learning all the stuff that I always wanted to learn, reading all the books that I never read, and dedicating myself to creating art. I'm painting and doing hybrid photography. I'm interested in exploring natural materials, digital art, and mixed media. I'm interested in how nature has inspired me all these years. This is what I'm trying to communicate through my art and my personal process.
I think I'm very blessed by being able to choose the work I love and live the life I love. I'm very proud of that. I have always chosen the most important things for me: be close to nature and surrounded by creative expression in every single form. And it's something that I'm still exploring, nature and creativity!