By Judy Mam
Whenever we can, we like to meet the artists that draw on DADA in person. Beatriz has had two of these reunions with some of our artists in Latin America and she always comes back telling me that there is nothing like it.
I traveled to my hometown, Mexico City, for a family gathering and I was able to meet two of our long-time artists: Moxarra Gonzalez and Adriana Lopez, aka Odrisea.
I met Moxarra at a cantina in La Condesa neighborhood the day after I arrived. Even though I had never seen him in person, only once in a video conference, I felt that somehow I knew him. I knew his sense of humor and his fineness.
We had a wonderful lunch and he gave some of his drawings on paper as presents for the DADA team.
The generosity of our artists moves me to tears, and it’s not only because of gifts like these. It’s because there is generosity in every drawing that they make on DADA. Bea says that every reply to a drawing is a gift. Seeing Mox’s drawings in real life made me realize how utterly privileged we are to have him. We are blessed to have all these artists from all over the world feel at home in the home we have built for them.
The second time I saw Mox, Odrisea joined us. Her mom drove her from far away for our taco outing. I told her mom that Adriana is a wonderful artist. Again, even though I had never seen her before I felt that I kind of knew her. I asked her if she had any academic training as an artist. Her answer: DADA is my teacher.
We went to an exhibition of a famous Mexican political cartoonist and I learned some wonderful things. Mox told Adriana that shadows are never made with black, but with other colors. I learned that if you draw someone you can put the drawing in front of a mirror and you will see exactly what the mistakes are.
Of all the works she saw, Adriana was most taken by some Don Quijote engravings by Gustave Doré.
Then we finally sat down at a cafeteria to draw. The kind of place where they refill your coffee ad infinitum and let you be. I am not an artist, so for a good while I was chatting and watching them draw. Mox brought all kinds of supplies: paper, pencils, markers, watercolors, acrylics, brushes... Watching their drawings come alive in front of my eyes was also a magical experience. Adriana had us sit very still as she drew us.
I decided to join in the drawing that they were making together. It turned out to be one of those experiences that you don't know how it really feels until you do it.
Three people sitting quietly or chatting calmly as we doodle away. There is a sense of peace and bliss and connection that I’ve only felt once before in my life, when I spent a day at an elephant preserve in Thailand. Watching the elephants flap their ears, walk about, play, feed them and splash them with water was like a meditation. Time seemed to stop. I felt I was floating in suspended calm. It was like a trance where time became soft and dense like a feathered pillow.
Drawing with Mox and Adri felt like that. A sense of deep, yet light connection, of creating together in bliss.
The final product is beautiful regardless of what it looks like. It is joy on paper.
We took photos, we schmoozed, Adriana bought herself and me a fake mustache, and then we parted ways.
The next day, as I was in the cab on my way to the airport, listening to nostalgic pop songs like Time After Time and Forever Young, I was overcome with emotion by our encounter the day before. I cried all the way to the airport.
I realized that we have planted a garden full of blossoms that keep blooming. The words I need to describe these feelings all sound worn: gratitude, love, communion, joy, peace, connection. But they are an imprecise and pale approximation of the bonds that we create through art. I realized that DADA is the greatest gift I have ever received.