Los Cabos romance

Re-creating the dazzling light of a sun-drenched tropical beach, evoking the intense drama of a bullfight or capturing the riotous colours of a bustling Mexican marketplace.

That will be the challenge for no fewer than 18 artists this fall, as they do their best to illustrate the Romance of Los Cabos.

It’s a challenge set before the painters — who hail from Kelowna, Mexico and the Lower Mainland — by Surrey artist Chris MacClure.

The Romance of Los Cabos, an exhibit which opens at Langley’s Westwind Gallery on Oct. 12, is an international show in that it features Canadian artists painting Mexican scenes, explains MacClure, a painter who owns the Golden Cactus Gallery in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.

Cabo is home to about 50,000 people, but to MacClure, who lives most of the year in Mexico and returns to Canada each summer, it feels more like a village.

“Mexicans are great people, they’re fun-loving people,” says the artist, seated on a stool in White Rock’s Oxford Street Gallery, which he once owned and is now the workspace of Montreal-born artist Serge Dube.

MacClure’s love affair with Mexico began the moment he first stepped off a plane there in 1990. 

“I went as a tourist, but it felt like coming home. It’s one of those places.”

This exhibit is MacClure’s attempt to capture some of the passion that drew him to Mexico and its people. And to give patrons here something new to consider.

“It’s nice to have something different to offer. We (Canadian artists) tend to paint northern imagery. It’s nice to have something with a different cultural twist,” he says.

Because this is a first, MacClure isn’t sure what to expect from the artists.

“The talent is there; it will be interesting to see what it (the exhibit) is going to be.

“I’d like to create an annual thing, to bring up Mexican painters.

This year’s featured artist Fernando Tames, an abstract expressionist from Cabo San Lucas, won’t be coming to the opening, but his work will speak for itself, says MacClure.

“In my opinion, Tames is one of the best painters in Mexico.”

He expects to display between 90 and 100 pieces of art inside the 6,000-square foot gallery.

And with so many different artists involved, styles and subject matter will no doubt vary widely. In fact, for MacClure, that was crucial to the success of the project — finding artists with distinctive styles.

“Everyone has their own unique voice. That was fun, getting artists who can paint across the spectrum.”

For his part, MacClure tends to use themes more romantically, he explains.

He refers to the poetry of Elizabeth Browning and her reference to “the authentic gesture.”

“I try to create a moment in time that is authentic — something that people can feel or touch or smell— a moment frozen in time.”

It’s notch above painting the reality of the subject — stopping at the edge of the surreal.

A reviewer once told him he had “the quietest paintings that ever reached out and slapped you in the face.”

The mountains of artwork covering every square centimetre of available wall space in the White Rock gallery are jolting in their own right.

The more than half dozen distinctive styles of painting would seem to indicate that several artists work out of the small space tucked in behind a muffler shop on Marine Drive.

In fact, all of them belong to Dube. 

Most artists go through phases, he says, whereas he has wrapped all his phases into one time.

“I’ve been doing all these styles. Now I’m down to two or three,” says Dube. “I’ll probably end up doing just one.”

Still, he hasn’t yet cut off his ear, he jokes.

Dube has made the trip south a few times. He worked from memory as well as from photos to create the five or six pieces he’ll select for the show.

The exhibit, he says, is the perfect opportunity to add a splash of brilliant colour to the wall to counteract the grey West Coast winter.

Mexican food and music will add a festive feel to the show’s opening night, which is open to everyone.

The Romance of Los Cabos opens Oct. 12 and continues to Oct. 19 at Westwind Gallery, 20460 Fraser Highway, Langley. An opening reception is planned for Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. Phone the gallery at 604-530-4833 for further information.

MacClure has also helped establish Oct. 25 as International Artist Day, a worldwide tribute to artists and the contributions they have made to civilization. Check out http://www.internationalartistday.com


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