After driving up to Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the 11th of November (Veteran's Day), I discovered more fresco activity than I expected in my hometown (like the surprise of finding the Maroger Medium experts -- Siegfried Hahn and Harold Wexler -- in Albuquerque a decade before).
I visited with Frederico Vigil, who is painting fresco in the Torreon of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. It is certainly one of the biggest frescoes, surely the largest concave fresco, in the country being painted at the moment. This mural should be finished and open to the public by next fall, 2010.
Frederico Vigil learned the traditional buon fresco method in 1984, from Lucienne Bloch (friend of Frida Kahlo) and Stephen Pope Dimitroff, who were assistants to Diego Rivera. He covers the wall with 5 layers of fresco plaster, which prevents cracking -- 4 under layers, starting with a 30 grit sand mix, to the final intonaco layer, with the finest 70 grit sand. He drew the basic composition out in charcoal on the 3rd layer, the Sinope layer. Afterwards he plasters 2 more coats, in roughly 10 square foot sections a day, to enjoy a 15 hour window of "open painting time," until the lime plaster dries too much to take the pigment. I saw a huge 10 foot fully colored cartoon of a conquistador laying on the floor, which I am sure he perforated with a pounce wheel, to transfer to the wall.
I have previously seen Frederico Vigil's frescoes in the Round House (State Capitol building) and the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, and in the Albuquerque Museum and on campus at the University of New Mexico. He also has a fresco mural in Venice, California -- El Quinto Sol -- in which he experimented with a different kind of sand (barium carbide?), to impede the effects of LA's pollution.
The Torreon at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, where Frederico Vigil is painting a huge fresco inside:
Later in the week I talked to Stephen Bennett, who is painting frescoes in Corrales (just outside Albuquerque), and even teaches buon fresco classes, the most basic of which may start off at $150. Many of his frescoes are hanging in Corrales, both indoors and outdoors, such as in the Indigo Crow Cafe. Stephen Bennett pushes the fresco technique quite a bit, often using wax and linseed oil to enhance his creations:
The following are Stephen Bennett's frescoes, staring with 2 outdoor paintings:
Fresco with relief:
Detail of the red lines, dug into the fresco surface:
Outdoor frescoes enliven the adobe architecture of the Indigo Crow Cafe:
Handsome large fresco outside of Kim Jew Photography in Corrales, hanging on rings from a steel rod, which allows the artwork to swing slightly. I think this monumental painting touch really enhances the adobe architecture:
Warm indoor fresco painting at the Indigo Crow Cafe:
Later I visited the kiva "frescoes" at the Coronado State Monument in Bernalillo, just north of Albuquerque. The images are painted on thin lime washes, prone to peeling, which were removed from the kiva and are now on display at the onsite museum. Apparently the Kuaua Pueblo men painted 16 other layers of thin frescoes beneath those that were removed and salvaged. While the murals can be seen in person, no photographs are allowed, reflecting the wishes of the Pueblo tribes. These murals, and those in Arizona of the Hopi ruin of Awatovi, are examples of a pre-Hispanic fresco tradition in the Southwest United States.
Kuaua Pueblo entrance, at the Coronado State Monument:
Photo of the Kuaua ruins today, excavated in the 1930s:
I understand that the Albuquerque fresco, painted by Ilia Anossva, was done in Albuquerque in 1999. Also there are frescoes in Skip Maisels' store in downtown Albuquerque.
I painted a small fresco at the 3rd Street Drawing Group in downtown Albuquerque, during the life drawing session on November 12th.
The portable fresco materials which I hauled up from Tucson, and from which I prepared square panels on the porch:
I plastered 3 small fresco panels, stored each inside a plastic box, and neatly stacked the 3 boxes inside a bigger plastic one, before driving to the drawing session:
Fresco set-up at the drawing studio:
My painting progress:
Final fresco painting in metal frame:
No one else wanted to paint a fresco, so I let the 2 remaining panels dry. I plan on spraying them down with water at a later date, and plastering another coat of fresco plaster on top. This way the panel would have a damp "browncoat" support layer underneath, which might help keep the top intonaco layer from cracking (which usually happens with the frescoes we have painted so far):
I also stored some lime/sand mix in resealable baggies, one nested inside the other, for future fresco panels:
Around this bagged fresco lime/sand mix, I added pigments ground in distilled water, and a metal frame. I left this kit at the Corrales drawing group, demonstrating the portability of fresco: