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Let us become ants

Tuesday, 08 December 2015 17:06 Written by Angélica Abelleyra

Let us become ants

(Texto leído durante la entrega de la Medalla Bellas Artes a Ángela Gurría, el 14 de noviembre de 2015 en el Palacio de Bellas Artes, ciudad de México)

by Angélica Abelleyra

Do stones sing? Can a tree remember? Is a cloud capable of inhabiting a museum? Can you stop the wind? Are we concerned about the butterfly content flapping? Is a wounded rose a cry for peace against barbarity? 

These questions are born of, by and with the work of Angela Gurría. Her spirals, towers, discs and strips are the clear example of the use of hands, her hands, open roads and make bloom eyes and minds.

Medium and large format, in the living room of a home, in the garden of the museum or in squares and urban walks, her sculptures dialogue with the space and suggest presences, spirits and gods that mix technical skill and emotional scene of joy, curiosity, intuition and play.

Her constructions are vivified in stone, iron, marble, glass and wood, although the latter is less used because Angela would hurt the tree.

She says we must think she’s crazy, but no. Because it’s totally sane feel that everything is alive, that her home speaks, the plants grown in her personal jungle have a reason to be in anarchy, that vermin can move on to the walls of the 300 years clay-made Coyoacan house, where dogs and cats frolic with mermaids and fountains.

She doesn’t know silences. In her mind there is always a pace of their dreams, thoughts turned into lines and sketches to be artwork. Or maybe the pace is the tam-tam of work in stone or iron that accompanies her days. Or is Juan Gabriel’s music which she claps and enjoys beside the tequila. Or is the guitar with which he composed the music for at least four romances written by her father, José María Gurria Urgell, and today are a legacy to our ears when we hear the sorrow of Chavela Vargas in El día que me dijiste (The day you told me).

Or when Angela herself, in an October afternoon, sofly sings part of Romance de las prisioneras (Romance of the prisoners), where the character Don Encarna remembers those four regions in captivity, behind the bars of a flag: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. And regrets the narrow spread of this romance that so well portrays her father as a “come gringos” as much as her love for Mexico, her homeland, so hurt when it lost these territories as now losing so many Mexicans.

Yes, to be with Angela Gurria magic happens. Not only desired by Fernando González Gortázar to become the ant scroll inside the forest in Homenaje al viento or paradises of clouds, ceibas and aguajes inciters to mutate into tiny explorers. And there’s magic in it because that constant pace in her came on an afternoon talk in Coyoacan, where the age-old trumpet of a street musician accompanied in her memory of that very young infatuation to hear, ‘as a celestial music’, the chisel work in the quarry.

So great is the charm that rhythm causes her that Angela has not tasted alone. Peruvian of all, Chabuca Granda, asked the sculptor to take her to that place where she could hear that song synchrony stone. And though the stonemasons stopped the pounding in her presence, Chabuca was so fascinated that she composed Canterurias where voice-source suggests: ‘...why chop stone, stonemason, if it’s asleep...’

Angela herself has raised stones. She does so through the attentive ear and whisper. "When it is ready, the stone tells me, let me, not anymore," confess in secret. And she respects and follows verbatim her teacher’s, Germán Cueto, recommendation: ‘the mud, touch it gentle and lovingly.’ And she caresses, listens, sense and recreates what she touches, she gives butterfly wings before marble; becomes saws in biznagas and cacti; a piece of stone is an aguaje, a watering hole where cattle waters and draws iron sirens which are spirits.

She is tenochca. She was born in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. Saw the Child Jesus in the Host and composed carols played in the masses of La Sagrada Familia, the neighborhood church where no family came. She would have wanted to write plays at UNAM but as Seki Sano told her to act in order to know how actors are, her father ordered her not to go that way and she changed it for that of Spanish letters. She studied, not concluded, got married, had children and with all that, the seed germinated in art passion for the craft of sculpture today.

To achieve her aspirations to make “man” works, she changed her name and sex. She became Alberto Urías, and as such competed in the biennial sculpture in the 1960s and signed her works as XELA. Those were the times of women at home and mother of hers children, but Angela challenged that condition by a need to express herself. So with or without the name of the Dominican priest, a friend of the family, or baptized with those letters and acronyms of a radio station, was the artist that she is.

Two children from the nursery watching mom at work or, what better, slathered in mud; with or without husband, she continued carving tzompantlis and doing tributes to plant and animal nature, the Mayan cosmogony, the pre-Hispanic and popular art forms, to workers who build dams.

The pace that also makes meat in her is poetry. In the writings of her father, in the verses that she inspired in Rubén Bonifaz Nuño or the brushstrokes of Juan O’Gorman, Joy Laville and Carmen Parra to bring the beautiful presence of the sculptor to the canvas; turn a muse, spiral heart.

When her ballad writer father died Angela decided to buy a hand press and continue grasped to poetry, now as an editor. Along with a sister she published books of Carlos Pellicer and other poets in editions of 25 or 50 copies in the 1970’s, with beautiful multiform colophon, according to the meaning of each book of poems.

Next to the publishing task, perky as ceiba, she carried packages and stones. And she was so macho that did not use masks that have protected their lungs of dust that came off from carved marble quarries. She was on a par with her team, led by Don Eliseo. Then a twist of faith as she injured her shoulder and dust decreased her health. Today she remains gallant, and we’re here to applaud her ongoing passion that has not been alone. She joined a line of sculptors of which we should have active memory: María Lagunes, Geles Cabrera, whom she admires in particular, Helen Escobedo, Marysole Wörner Baz, to name a few.

Forty-one years ago Juan O’Gorman welcomed her to enter the Academy of Arts as the first woman. It was 1974 and already had two decades of allying with sculpture. ‘Love, sincerity and purity’, were three qualities that the architect revealed as the themes and basic shapes to create. O’Gorman also spoke of the sensitivity and poetry in an artist who has faith in herself; although at that time she was only ‘the new little classmate’, in the voice of David Alfaro Siqueiros, as Angela recalls it.

Here today, sheltered by the love of her family, colleagues, friends and students, it is more than prevailing all that was celebrated by O’Gorman, so we honor the 61 years in which she began sculpting and found her nirvana.

I doubt that we managed to find our nirvana. But let’s be optimistic and, at least, let us be ants to go through the forests created on earth, air, fire and sea by Angel Gurría. And let’s face to say, yes, stones can sing. A tree can remember. The cloud is able to live in a museum. You cannot stop the wind. We are concerned about the butterfly content fluttering and a rose wound, more than ever, is a cry for peace in the face of barbarism. Both in 1968, from which she created the beautiful stone portrait of a woman with a red flower in her lips, and today, in 2015, against the violent Mexican reality and also from other parts of the world, as we saw yesterday with the terrible attacks in Paris.

Thank you for motivating the desire to be ants and be reconciled a bit among us against barbarism, dear Angela. Thank you all for listening.

(*) Cultural Journalist. The text was read to pay a tribute to Angela Gurría, November 14th, 2015, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.

Read 1539 times Last modified on Wednesday, 09 December 2015 20:41