October 2016

Dear Friends of Diego,

Feliz Cumpleaños, Dra. Guadalupe Rivera y Marin! (today Oct. 23). Diego’s daughter heads the Fundación Diego Rivera and is an Honorary Trustee of San Francisco’s Mexican Museum. She was part of our mural’s International Advisory Committee convocation in 2000 and in May 2006 hosted Julia and me in Mexico City for her Encuentro Internacional de Pintura Mural. I send along Pedro Infante and Las Mañanitas.

It’s now public, the mural has been appraised at $50,000,000.00  What a relief; it turns out that I haven’t wasted the last 20 years of my life.

(FYI: That figure had been Julia’s and my independent guesses prior to the appraisal. Personally I think it’s worth even more.)

Lewis Sykes, who was recently honored at the Foundation of City College’s Basic Skills Luncheon fundraiser, has graciously donated a pristine October 1938 Fortune magazine with a cover by Miguel Covarrubias and an article, illustrated by Diego, about the 1938 Mexican oil expropriation. This was a reminder that although Rivera was in artistic exile from the US from 1934 until he returned to do our mural in 1940, he was not forgotten.

In researching the magazine I came across a troubling 1938 Fortune magazine survey about US popular attitudes on Jewish refugees, among other issues. The data quantifies the atmosphere Rivera found when he arrived in 1940; the atmosphere which shaped our mural.

Looking forward in December to LACMA’s upcoming Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time. Our mural’s image will appear in the show.

Had a nice mural visit from Judi Leff, Director of Arts and Cultural Programs for Congregation Emanu-El. Her parents Bobbie and Henry taught at CCSF, back in the day. Judi was accompanied by Joseph Amster (Emperor Norton) and Rick Shelton (Lola Montez). All 3 are members of the SF Historical Association, which has extended an invitation to me to speak next year.

City College and its Journalism Department hosted a symposium for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists: Bay Area chapter. I participated in an “Art as Journalism” panel. It was great getting the exposure for the mural, since the great complaint is that the mural is so little known. (However, daily visitors from all over the world, seem to know about it! Have some New Zealanders coming in today; I have a soft spot for Kiwis. Looking forward to taking some of the visitors up on their offers; “Come stay with us at our vineyards in Umbria.”)

Our revitalized website, riveramural.org, is progressing. Camille Mai, our web designer, is constructing an attractive framework on which to load all the information we have. Take a peek. The larger, hi-res images are the most important initial improvement. Editing 20 years-worth of writing will be my next year’s work.

As I reported last time, Julia Bergman and I wrote abstracts of the Gladys March papers we found in Canada. Researcher friends immediately responded to this last missive. “Did you find anything on ‘so and so’ in the papers?” One request regarding Albert Bender, a figure in Rivera’s “autobiography”, made me realize that his story hadn’t been in the notes. Embarrassingly, I had been oblivious to the obvious; this was not the whole cache of Gladys March’s notes.

Maureen Bourbin has volunteered to reconcile the abstracts with the chapters in the book to see exactly what is missing. Somewhere out there (hopefully) is another treasure trove of notes for the book. Alas, it took 15 years to find the first batch. Casting a wider net with the website is one hope.

Just got back from a week in the sparsely-populated, high desert (6000’) 40 miles north of Las Vegas. Was hanging out with my best friend Dave Braun (we grew up across the street from each other and went into the USMC on the buddy-plan. You don’t get much tighter.) Went there to get away and work on my “Gershwin in Mexico” play. Got to mix & pour concrete, too. Elk and wild horses routinely passed by my window at night.

Dia de los Muertos is coming up November 1st through 2nd. We remember all those who are no longer corporeally with us. With this commemoration, their spirits never leave us. Let us keep all our loved ones near. (Picture of a Frida Ofrenda, Oaxaca, Mexico, November 2007)



Frida Ofrenda