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Understanding Mexican Art with Professor Tom Fast

February 8th, 2023


On Tuesday February 7th, NDSU students had a unique opportunity to visit the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, where the exhibition, Modigliani, the Ecole de Paris and the Mexican Renaissance, was being held. It turns out that Dr. Fast studied Mexican Painting for his Master’s Degree at New York University and used to work in art galleries and museums before moving to Japan! So the students gained invaluable experience in learning about French and Mexican art in English. Read below to find out their impressions. 



In Mexican art, red and other bright colors were used, so I felt dynamic energy from them. I especially liked the works of Jose Guadalupe Posada, because they reminded me of "Remember Me" from Disney. I like them, and I got that impression very much.



I didn’t know Mexican art was influenced by 20th century French art. I was interested in foreign art, so I had a great time. I like Posada’s, Calavera Maderista.  When I saw it for the first time, I thought that the skeleton was something cheerful, because it has a wine bottle. I knew that skeletons are not to be feared in Mexican culture. So I was surprised that the painting was inspired by the Mexican Revolution. This experience made me more interested in Mexican arts and culture. 



I didn't know anything about Mexican art but after hearing Tom's explanation, I found it very interesting to learn about the history of art. I was surprised to learn that the story of the Disney film, “Remember Me,” is about Mexican culture. At first I thought the mask on the right side of the picture, Girl with Death Mask by Frida Kahlo (1938), was scary. However, this is not considered scary in Mexico. I think that knowing about painting leads to learning about the culture of a country.



I didn't know much about Mexican art, so I was really looking forward to this event. The most impressive was Frida Kahlo's Girl with Death Mask. When I first saw it, it was a little creepy, but when I looked at the label and heard Dr. Fast’s explanation, I knew that it was filled with Frida's wishes and thoughts, and it was very interesting to see. I thought this painting was conscious of the ‘Dia de muertos’(死者の日). The view that death is not something far away from living people and it is similar to Obon in Japan. It was exciting for me to learn culture or a painter's background by seeing paintings.



I didn't know about Mexican art at all, but I was surprised by the variety of colors. The first pictures I saw were some monotone art, but it gradually became colorful. I was especially fascinated by the red color unique to Mexico. The red color attracts people visually. Mexican red was the most vivid and fascinating of the red I have known. It was also fun to see the paintings with Dr. Fast's explanations. After knowing the background of the painter, I could see it differently. This tour made me want to visit more museums. I would like to appreciate the paintings while considering the meaning of each one.



I didn't know Mexican art at all, but I was able to learn about it by hearing Tom sensei's explanation. I thought the image of a skull was scary before seeing this exhibition, but the skulls painted in Mexican art are comical and cute. I don't remember the title of the picture that I was interested in, but it was by the artist, Rufino Tamayo. It was of a person burning in flames and showing distress. When I saw the picture before seeing the explanation, I thought it explained the person has stress and the person hurt himself or herself. To me the flames looked like thorns from his or her own stress. Looking at art from different directions, I was able to interpret it in various ways. I thought it was very fun, so I would like to visit some museums and look at art again.


As you can see, the students had a great time at the exhibition and were able to see the paintings, not only as decorative art but as windows into other cultures. If you have some free time this spring, why don’t you go to a museum! Art is a great way to learn about the lives and cultures of others.