Learning Along the Way in Argentina and Mexico

Posted by Susan Stanley on

Necochea Argentina

This winter my youngest daughter, and my sister-in-law joined my wife and I in Necochea Argentina. Our house was finally finished, my daughter had shuffled around her school so she could take a few months off and not fall behind, and my sister-in-law had just graduated high school, and was about to begin her gap year.

It was great showing the girls all we had accomplished, and what life looked for us the other half a year (we split are time between Necochea, Argentina, and Dawson City Yukon) We road tripped around Argentina, heading over to Bariloche, where I had lived previously. Together we were able to explore the house I had built there with my ex wife and still very good friend, hike some of the local trails, eat way too much chocolate, and enjoy the adventures as they came.

Bariloche Argentina

All in front of the stunning backdrop of the Andes Mountains. As we left that side of Argentina and began the drive across the country to the coast where we now live, we took in the wildlife and changing landscapes that Argentina has to offer. We took our time and stopped to hunt for fossils when the mood struck (we didn’t find any, but we did find some great ones to buy).

At home, day to day life was easy going. The girls went to the beach during the day, or helped my wife in the garden and we celebrated birthdays.

(my wife Whitney, with our pooch and two tired out teenagers -gotta love that cake)

And I began experimenting with cement sculptures. This house is the first one I’ve ever built with cement and brick, and since that first moment of actually understanding how everything works, I’ve been fascinated with the potential.

(Casa de Repentigny - my daughter, Rosa and sister-in-law Keeley making everything bright!) 

(a close-up of my cement creation)

 It has been a very educational past few years in regards to cement. As the house went up one layer of brick at a time, I understood what each ingredient meant, how too wet cement would lead the bricks to slide, or if too dry they wouldn’t hold together. Along the way, I’ve made good friends with neighbours more knowledgeable about this than me. One nice aside about Argentina is that everyone can fix a truck, and cook together some cement. Each person I met had a tip or trick to pass along. And perhaps best of all was the time spent sharing meals.

As our time in Argentina, just before Christmas came to an end, I was really getting into the swing of things. My sculptures were improving, and I was learning a different side about cement and its capabilities. I was sad to go, but it was time. All’s well that ends well though! The kids are back in Canada now, and it’s just my wife and I, so we splurged with a night on the town in the big city. 

(date night in Buenos Aires - taking in a tango show)

From Argentina we flew to Mexico and rented an apartment and although I can’t play with cement here,  I have learned so much about how they use it. I find it so freeing to be able to see that quite literally, if I can think and plan it, I can do it. I can’t wait to get back to Argentina and see what comes next.In the meantime the apartment we live in has amazing light and a great terrace I’ve been able to set up as a temporary studio.

(You can see my paintings drying from the rafters)

As usual I’m fascinated with people and the human experience. Everything in Mexico is so loud. The smells are strong, and the colours are shameless and everywhere. It’s a little intoxicating. It’s interesting  living in a city capital rather than the country life I’m used to. The city's exuberant colours, and images are showing up in my paintings. 

Guanajuato is incredible in how it's been built

It’s as though everything has just been piled on top of something else, but somehow it not only works, it’s full of beauty and magic. The callejóns (alleys), twist and meander, and although everything is built upwards and not much light can fall on the alley, houses are painted with joyous, festive colours. A turquoise house is next to an orange one, and above them is a cobalt blue one. There’s no concern for what colours go together, and this is one of the qualities that makes this place incredible. It appeals to me as a painter and it’s something that I find coming through in my paintings these days. The colours are more striking and bold. I’m excited to see the other ways Mexico shows itself in my paintings, but this is only something that will reveal itself in time.

Stay tuned - Halin!

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