Tina's Mexico

The People's Guide To Mexico


Other Graven Images

Tina Rosa in her icon booth at the KPFA Holiday Crafts Market in San Francisco

Steve & I were always fascinated by the profusion of images of the Virgin of Guadalupe we saw all over Latin America- in markets, churches, on walls, in private homes- literally everywhere. And we got in the habit of including a little image of her in the haphazard altar that always accumulated on our dash over the course of a trip. Steve always figured even a hardened criminal, though a lapsed Catholic, might have second thoughts about robbing a van under the protection of the "Virgincita". So there she would ride along with us, nested in a clutter of seashells, rocks and our traditional family collection of wooden snakes from Oaxaca.

A couple of years ago when we were struggling to find another means of livelihood- something a little more creative than continuing with our artesania imports- one of us (we both claimed the credit, of course) came up with the idea of making icons. We were in a market, pawing through the paper piles of pictures of santos in a puesto, unable to resist buying some, though we had no reasonable use for a picture of Saint Michael helping a fisherman land a big one, when the light went on: we could make icons! I'd already been buying pottery miniatures, plastic Barbie shoes, lace, sequins and glitter; now I had a reason to continue on my shopping spree!

And thus Icons & Other Graven Images came to birth.

Sacred Icons: Steve was the keeper of the sacred, when we first got started, turning out boards, painting them, mounting dozens of versions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, that we ferreted out all over Mexico, along with saints, both popular and obscure, and then decorating them. We started out pretty conservative, using gold paint, some glitter. Steve experimented with techniques to "age" them, antiquing the original image with various lacquers and processes. Then our daughter Churpa decorated a few in a more flamboyant manner, using all manner of miniatures, and Steve found that her icons were the first to sell on a trip to Seattle.

¡Viva Mexico! Icons: And then we did the obvious. While rustling around in markets we came across pictures of the heroes of the revolution- or many revolutions- of Mexico- Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa- and they began to take their places in the iconography of our workshop. Soon I was adding photos of Subcomandante Marcos and the EZLN to our collection. After all, the revolution isn't over, is it?

In addition, there were the countless artifacts of Mexican culture just crying out to be used in our Viva Mexico series, including Day of the Dead figures, popular brand icons (like the lighthouse of Faros cigarettes) and on and on.

Popular Icons: Meanwhile, I'd gotten intoxicated with the pure fun of making tributes to some of the icons of my youth- Marilyn, Elvis, the Beatles. These popular images included both the saintly- Gandhi and Mother Teresa- and the profane- but all of them were figures who capture our imagination and inspire feelings of delight or reverence.

Memorial Icons: Our most recent category of icons was foisted upon us by life. When Steve became ill in May of this year, friends organized a fund raiser for our family which included a silent auction of donated items and services. Churpa had taken an excellent photo the past winter of Steve and me dressed as twins for the annual Coco Loco Open, a golf tournament at our favorite beach, with cocos for golf balls and "sleazy lingerie" the dress code. I volunteered to make some up as icons as part of the fund raiser.

Steve was dead six weeks after his diagnosis. During the months of that summer, I found some solace in my workshop, making over twenty versions of that photo into icons for Steve's friends. Thus the new category of Memorial Icons started as tributes to my companero of 24 years.

In spite of how it started, this has become my favorite category of icon to make. There is something so rewarding in memorializing people we love and in creating a fitting tribute for the memory of a friend's beloved friend who has passed on. Cree's friend Bobby Sheehan, bass player for The Blues Traveler, became the subject of seven commissioned icons. I felt like I got to know Bobby in the process.

I hope to continue in this work of helping keep the memories alive for anyone whose loss can be softened somewhat in this way.

Virgin of Guadalupe
© by Tina Rosa, 1999-2002
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Email Tina Rosa at tinar@mexconnect.com

Steve Rogers Memorial

Churpa Rosa Roger
School Days in Mexico