I believe it was the Fall of 2005 when I made the trip to the Mayan Riviera of Mexico. On a random afternoon I found myself walking through the marketplace in the downtown of Playa del Carmen when I stumbled across the studio of Jamie Fierro Duran, a complete stranger in every way, or so I thought. Something special was going to happen that day. Little did I know at the time, I had come across one of the world's most revered artists.
Born in the region of Temuco, Chile, in 1945 Jaime arrived in Mexico in 2002. Inés Garcia-Ramirez has best described him and his work,
"Undoubtedly Jaime Fierro´s practice of Plastic Arts inspires an energized painting geared towards a dynamic spectator. Expressionism is an obligated streak of the artist, an ideological stance that also manifests for sake of the parameters of knowledge and experience. Thirst of the idealism that is projected in his painting of action, that arises from the desire to express his world through infinite and visceral emotions, which call the ravages of the human soul of the unprotected into question.
It is from there, that all fundamental structure of forms are marked with a masterful tonality and defined with lines that give strength and character to his work. His characters are illuminated by a faint onslaught of earth-tone layers. His brushstrokes offer space to a succession of forms in constant motion, expressed through a mixture of sensibility, passion and originality, constituting in this way an unmistakable seal of this unmatched artist who offers us his peculiar point of view, expressed in each canvas. With each streak, Jaime Fierro suggests, indicates, marks and punctuates a valid reality that remains pure and unforgettable. "
I doubt anyone could have molded truth regarding Jamie's work into better words.
On a beautiful tropical afternoon, unknowing of what was about to occur, I was escorted by a lovely woman, who I assumed was his wife, to a solitary metal folding chair in a room with a large blank canvas perched upon an easel in the center of a rustic studio. Shortly thereafter, a diminutive gentle man entered the room from a side door, nodded a polite hello and stepped toward the canvas. It was quite obvious, something special was about to go down.
Jamie's craft first develops its delicious nondescript golden rusty base on the canvas and then it grows into an entity reaching out and grabbing you by the throat. There is something wrenching and primitive about his work that is undeniable. His work is striking, moving, impacting and most certainly dimensional. Having never seen a piece of true art develop from a blank canvas and evolve into a final piece that speaks, better yet -- reaches and screams through the pigments toward your soul, was an experience to say the least. Suddenly things started to make sense to me, on several levels. This process seemed remotely possible, I had dreams, perhaps better put -- urges from deep within -- this just seemed remotely possible.
It is my best guess that there is a moment in everyone's life, if one is lucky or perhaps better said, receptive, when something smacks you upside the cranium and makes a proverbial dent in our waking consciousness -- rattling something free that has been stuck like the last aspirin in a pill bottle. For me that very day, spending a few hours in a hard steel chair, sweat trickling down my back, watching a diminutive man lose himself in earth-toned pigments, something awakened. Recalling the frittered experiences I had as a school boy, much of the time secretly doodling in my work-study books, I suddenly felt a deep curiosity and excitement about what happened that warm afternoon. Perhaps, I thought, had I a morsel of this magic in me ? Do we all ? Was this what I was always searching for, that yearning from deep within that had no voice, no face, just a soft persistent prodding at the spirit ? Is this what we all feel at times when we are trying to find our way in life, our deep inner passion, the missing link? Was this a piece of me struggling to be born, scratching through the programming we all undergo while inmates of "the system"? You know what I mean - go to school, follow the rules, goto college, study a solitary career, get a job, get married, have a family, follow more rules, pay your taxes, retire, and then wait for the end to come. Is this perhaps something that is, in fact, in all of us , these things that are never borne for lack of opportunity or suppression ? From that day forward, even until the moment of these typed words, I have seen things in life differently -- people, writing, faces, photos, light, shadows, movement. How can that come from a 2 hour visual experience just observing a process ?
There was not a lick of common verbal language between Jaime and myself that day and I certainly doubt he knew that he had triggered something in me. I did not have the $ 5000 for the piece that his wife propositioned me for, later learning it was probably the deal of the decade had I only known who's presence I was sharing. I had witnessed something special --looking back, it marked a moment, a beginning. I still remember that day like it was yesterday, and when someone will listen, I share that day and that moment. Although I do not have that painting, it has never left me in many ways -- I think about it all the time. That afternoon Jamie, his wife and I shared something, and parted with a smile and handshake. It was a firm handshake that I purposefully let linger, one that I made sure was partnered with a grateful locked gaze, one that for me said thank you deeper than he was ever likely to know. Some moments in life truly mean something more, they leave a mark, a deep beautiful keloidal scar on our brief life. This is the good stuff in life, a deep etching on the soul.
It is because of Jaime that the art I have come to love, the paintings, the sculptures and the photographs, are the ones that I do not quite understand. What I mean is that I do not understand their draw to me, or maybe it is my draw to them. There is a lingering in the eyes, in the mind, these things of beauty that upon our departure make us turn around one final time to capture one more final glance, in the hopes of a more permanent engraving. There is that thing about them that makes them different from the others, that thing that makes one stop, and look harder, longer, stretching out time in the hopes of soaking their goodness deep within us forever more. Personally, I do not know what makes them so, what moves me about a certain piece, but this is part of my journey I suppose, and those are stories for another day.
Thank you Jaime . . . where ever you are my friend, I raise my brush to you in gratitude, one loaded with the finest of royal pigments, unearthed many ages ago and worthy of only the most revered Mayan Gods.
Below are 2 more photos and a link to Jamie Fierro Duran's amazing work. Things far more moving than my amateur photos here. * Start by clicking here.
Albeit unfinished, here is the painting I saw evolve from nothing, on that special day. Me and Jamie. With deep gratitude Sir.