The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, January 25, 2018, Page 19, Image 18

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    JANUARY 25, 2018 // 19
Mexican artists and revolution
Coming together in com-
mon cause to express values
and concerns can provide
a formidable impetus for
social reform.
This was brought home
to me in an uncanny way
this week as, juxtaposed
with the widespread polit-
ical actions that have been
taking place throughout the
U.S. right now — marches!
rallies! hearings! tweets!
— I was transported 100
years back while reading a
cultural history on political
unrest in our neighboring
country to the south.
“Picturing the Proletar-
iat” examines how artists
and labor tried to impact
change in Mexico in the
tumultuous first half of the
20th century. The author of
this meaty study, John Lear,
is a professor of history
and Latin American studies
at the University of Puget
Sound in Tacoma.
Certainly “los tres
grandes” — José Clemente
Orozco, Diego Rivera and
David Siqueiros — the
Mexican artists who gar-
nered international acclaim
as muralists, are given
their due in this carefully
researched work. But Lear
shines a spotlight, too, on
their lesser-known peers
who were also plying their
art as a force for change, if
not outright revolution.
Early on, however,
the author contends that
Mexico’s revolutionary
artists were male, and that
the most talented women
artists in Mexico during that
period, such as Frida Kahlo,
were denied mural com-
missions and so “painted
largely in the shadow of
male artists.” He goes on
to discuss how gender roles
were depicted in the preva-
lent art of that time.
Although Lear makes
a case, not all readers will
accept it. This isn’t the first
time women’s contributions
have been dismissed by
history. Perhaps another
scholar will find this topic
and time period need to
be reexamined through a
feminist lens.
Lear’s introduction is a
bumpy read, but the first
chapter is fascinating. It
focuses on the works of
Saturnino Herrán and José
Guadalupe Posada — both
of whom, prior to the
revolution in 1910, were
pioneering distinctive
approaches to representing
the previously invisible
Mexican worker.
Classically trained,
Herrán painted scenes that
conveyed the physical exer-
tion of labor while adhering
to European conventions of
form and medium.
Posada’s audience was
less rarefied — in his
work for penny presses,
he created rambunctious,
cartoon-like engravings
depicting downtrodden
Anna’s hummingbird
he only bird of its
kind to live year-
round on the Pacific
coast of North America, An-
na’s hummingbird makes its
home from British Columbia
all the way south to Baja
California — a permanent,
all-weather resident on every
section of shoreline, includ-
ing our own.
Considered of medium
size (by hummingbird stan-
dards), this hardy species av-
erages 3 to 4 inches long and
can weigh a whopping four
grams, essentially having the
same relative mass as a ping
pong ball. But be assured:
Whatever Calypte anna
lacks in size, it more than
makes up for in style.
Named to honor Anna
Massena, a 19th century Ital-
ian duchess whose husband
was an avid bird collector,
this tiny flier is covered head
to tail with green and gray
iridescent feathers that shim-
mer and shine with every
turn of the light. In males,
who are almost 20 percent
smaller than females, the
crown and throat feathers
become a deep rose color at
maturity, helping catch the
eye of potential mates.
With the exception of
A flying Anna’s hummingbird ready to feed
insects, hummingbirds have
the highest metabolism
of any animal on Earth,
consuming up to three times
their weight in food per day
just to keep themselves in
From within their long,
thin beaks, a spring-loaded
tongue darts out into a flow-
er, trapping sugary nectar
inside fringed tongue-tubes
that work like a pump to
draw liquid into the bird’s
mouth. Within 30 minutes,
the sugar is converted into
usable energy — just in time
to supply the heart, which
contracts up to 1,200 times
per minute, and the wings,
which beat at a rate of 80
times per second.
Masters of flight, hum-
mers can hover in midair
and fly in all directions,
including backwards and
upside down, maneuvering
at speeds up to 35 mph.
“Picturing the
By John Lear
University of Texas Press
390 pp
With the advent of
revolution and an ensuing
decade of military conflict,
Mexican artists suffered
everything from dislocation,
to the shutdown of tradi-
tional sources of employ-
ment, to shortages of paint.
But Lear demonstrates
that the era also led artists
to discover new subjects
and to become increasingly
politicized. New aesthetics
were emerging and new
techniques were being
employed. Printmaking
emerged as a powerful new
form of expression, as did
photographs, posters and
murals. Artist collectives
became influential.
This book contains more
than 100 illustrations. The
quality of reproductions is
rarely top-grade, but the
content of the images is
While “Picturing the
Proletariat” has limitations,
it is still intriguing to use
art as the portal to learning
more about the historic
struggles that have led to
Mexico’s current identity
and outlook.
The Bookmonger is Bar-
bara Lloyd McMichael, who
writes this weekly column fo-
cusing on the books, authors
and publishers of the Pacific
Northwest. Contact her at
Male Anna’s hummingbirds
are also famous for a special
mating dive, in which they
skyrocket an astounding 130
feet above the ground, then
dramatically spiral down at
speeds exceeding 75 mph,
enduring G-forces that
would render trained human
fighter pilots unconscious.
That flamboyancy is short-
lived, however, as once mat-
ing has occurred, males lose
all interest in domestic life,
leaving matters of parenting
entirely to the female.
Using plant fibers held
together with spider’s silk
and camouflaged with bits
of lichen, mother humming-
birds construct nests roughly
the size of a half-dollar,
and sit for two weeks out
of the year on two eggs that
are slightly smaller than
jellybeans. Once they hatch,
she feeds them at least every
four hours by regurgitating
into their beaks a specialized
formula of partially digested
insects and spiders mixed
with sweet nectar. Guz-
zling down as much of this
delicious concoction as they
can manage, for the first two
weeks of their lives the little
chicks will double in size
each day, and their flexible
nest will expand to accom-
modate them.
A native species of the
New World, humming-
birds are found only in the
Western Hemisphere and
can live up to 12 years in
the wild. Since the 1950s,
Anna’s hummingbirds have
greatly extended their range,
adapting readily to suburban
gardens replete with planted
flowers and hanging feeders.
To attract more of them
to your own yard, especially
during winter when blos-
soms are scarce, the Audu-
bon Society recommends
a make-at-home nectar of
one part sugar to three parts
water, without the addition
of red dye, which is not only
unnecessary but may even
be harmful. CW