Outdoor Art : A Papel Picado Inspired by Mexico

 

We have spent considerable time in the Yucatan, Mexico. In that region almost any celebration results in the hanging of strings of “banderas de papel” called “banderitas” or, if referring to the traditional form of this art form, ”papel picado”, meaning “pecked paper”. I’ve always loved this idea of pecking and it brought to mind the many forms of “making” in birds. The pecking refers to the use of small metal chisels or blades that are struck with hammers to excise the open areas of the flags. The flags are piles in stacked layers and a pattern guide is used to ensure consistency across a large number of banderas. Tap, tap, tap, a flower blooms. Tap, tap, tap, a grinning skull takes shape. In our current times the flags are made of plastic.

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During our time in the #Yucatan Peninsula, #Mexico we could often hear the calls of the Ferruginous Pygmy #Owl. I used oil pastels to create this work on paper, celebrating the indominitable spirit of this small bird which is also, reportedly, an aggressive predator.

 

One day I came across a large rolled vinyl sign in the dumpster of a car dealership – about 5 feet in width and 20 feet long. It wasn’t long before I had this coiled languid tongue slung over my shoulder and, as many artists can relate to, I immediately felt both triumphant and apprehensive. One the one hand I had new art materials obtained at a great price. On the other hand I was wondering – where was I going to store it and what was I going to do with it? I had absolutely no idea. I counted on the fact that of the thousands of ideas constantly flowing through my head, one of them would stumble across a large vinyl log one day and fall face first into “art”. The coiled vinyl sign lay dormant, gathering dust for nearly two years.

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Dan Nuttall, #CACTUS MOB, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48″

 

The finishing of our new back yard this summer was a cause for celebration, we did all the design and implementation work ourselves. I thought of a party with small colourful “banderitas” but was daunted by the thought of finding and stringing a series of suspended lines in the back yard. Since art was always going to a part of our back yard, and space in downtown Toronto is always at a premium, I thought that a single large “papel picado” might suffice. It could occupy the far wall, serve as a focal point and lend an air of celebration and diversity to the setting. I would use the back of the vinyl sign as the front face, providing a thin white surface.

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Process: I created a digital drawing, printing it on letter sized paper (42 separate pages), taped them together and taped the completed image to the back of the repurposed vinyl banner.

It took a month to produce the flag including a week of cutting by hand with a small blade. The flow of memories in the form of plants and garden and insects kept my mind alive: zebra long-wing butterflies, cardboard palms, black-eyed susan vines, night blooming cactus, ginger plants, Plumeria. The content is all farmed from memory. Plants you see in the flag are actual species, done without further research, to the best of my memory as are the two owls called Ferruginous Pygmy Owls which we have often heard while in the greener areas of the city. The butterflies, owls and cactus have all been the subject of separate works of art.

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It took about 40 hours to excise all the tiny section within the papel picado (“pecked paper”). 

And so the “bandera de vinilo gigante ”, the “large vinyl flag”, has now come into being. Retrieved from the landfill, memories extracted, pecked from time. I feel like celebrating. Loteria!!

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The final artwork is 55 x 77″, made from material diverted from landfill, takes up little space and turns our back yard into a gallery. Also weather-proof though not approved for climbing critters!

You can see more of my work here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com

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