Exploring a Historic City: Mexico Residency, Part 1

By Garrett Cook (MFA 2014)

Foreign travel is not something I’ve experienced alone before. I’ve been to various locations in Europe with my family and spent three months on an exchange program in France when I was in high school, but this is the first time I’ve ventured to another country by myself.

Friday, May 31, I landed in Mexico City and grabbed a taxi to what has now become my home for the month. As soon as I exited, Bradley Narduzzi (an American artist and my downstairs neighbor) greeted me with my keys and showed me my new apartment. Before I even got a chance to settle in, he escorted me downstairs to his apartment where I was poured a shot of Mexican moonshine and greeted by his two enormous hairless Mexican dogs, Azteca and Talis. Within minutes we were walking down the street to visit his friend Victor Castellanos (another artist) who lives around the corner. I was in Mexico City for all of two hours, and I already felt welcome.

Bradley with his two dogs in front of one of his paintings.
This has mostly been my diet.

I am staying in the Centro Historico and live just a few blocks away from the Zocalo, a massive town square surrounded by the city cathedral, national palace and recently uncovered Aztec ruins. During the day, walking through the city streets is borderline claustrophobic. Nearly every opening in the walls is a vendor of some sort, and navigating the sidewalks is akin to walking through Times Square. There are traffic lights and crosswalk signs everywhere, but they seem to be more suggestions than obligations.  

This is a side street at 1:00pm on a weekday.
The Zocalo and City Cathedral.
Of course, the beauty of the Centro Historico is that there are museums everywhere. Just in this district alone there are the expansive Aztec ruins known as Templo Mayor with an accompanying museum, The Munal National Art Museum of Mexico City, as well as The Museo de la Cuidad, the City Cathedral, and many, many more.

Templo Mayor
Luckily, the Metro here is easy to navigate and dirt cheap – 3 pesos for a ticket, less than 25 cents in US dollars! – so if the Centro Historico is too much to handle, it's easy to find your way to another district. In fact, just last week I went to the borough of Coyoacán to see Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s house, which has been converted into a museum.

An unfinished work by Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo's kitchen

The museum even had a temporary exhibit showing the braces and supports Kahlo wore to maintain her image despite her childhood polio and late teenage bus accident. 

Bradley was kind enough to lend me an extra bicycle he had, and it has certainly made exploring the city a bit easier--though slightly terrifying at times!

Oh, right, I’m also here to paint! Luckily, inspiration comes in spades here. Not only are there countless museums and sights to see and glorious architecture all around, but just walking along the streets and into nearby shops, I’ve found myself immersed in a completely different culture. Despite the amazing architecture and the awe-inspiring crowds I’m finding myself more drawn to individuals. So many people here are just brimming with character, and it is truly exciting. I don’t have a dedicated studio per se, but I make do:

So far, this trip has been more than fulfilling and I’m not even halfway done! I can’t thank Stephen Henderson and James LaForce enough for this opportunity. Stay tuned, as I will be reporting on my visit to the world famous Anthropology Museum and my journey to the pyramids at Teotihuacan in the coming weeks!

View from my roof
On May 31, Garrett Cook (MFA 2014) arrived in Mexico City for a one month residency made possible by Stephen Henderson and James LaForce. Garrett will be sharing his experiences here throughout the summer! 

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