Greeting card sales are going well for artist Adriana Perez, especially now during lakeside’s “peak” season. Ajijic residents may recognize this attractive, energetic Mexican woman dressed in a colorful, flowing skirt, with cascading brown curls and a wide smile, toting a bag of greeting cards.
Perez’s target audience are foreigners and locals seated at the indoor and outdoor restaurants and coffee shops that make up Ajijic’s central village. Every weekend, Perez bustles from table to table with a dogged determination to sell both her greeting cards and miniature magnetic bookmarks – all miniature prints of her playful, abstract paintings. She approaches each table with a friendly “hola” and a curiosity about who she is going to encounter.
“I love meeting all kinds of people,” Perez says. “I’m always asking where they’re from. Most people are warm and welcoming.”
Her potential customers may display a bit of curiosity as to what this sprite, 47-year-old is peddling.
Says Perez, “I’m overjoyed when people show an appreciation for my art. At the same time, I receive valuable feedback about which of my cards they are attracted to.”
Perez got into painting abstracts because she wanted to experience a more free-flowing nature, both in her everyday life and in her artistic expression.
“I used to create tiny landscapes, which I sold while living in Aguascalientes,” she says. “Between raising my three children and selling my paintings, I never seemed to have enough time to create large paintings that would bring me more money, so a friend suggested I make cards.”
Perez has her cards printed in Guadalajara and hires someone to assemble everything, from folding the cards to inserting them, with envelopes, into plastic sleeves.
She says, “I started painting abstracts ten years ago when I was feeling stressed from working and taking care of my children. I wanted to feel less restrained than I was in all of my daily business. Painting abstract images had that freeing effect on me.”
Last year, as part of a group exhibit, Perez showed at Sol Mexicano gallery in Ajijic. Prior to that, she exhibited in Aguascalientes, Puerto Vallarta and in other lakeside galleries.
Says Perez, “My older brother, Rodolfo was an artist and my first source of inspiration. When he was 27, I was 15, the age I began painting. He and and I were very close. I admired him as an artist and a philosopher of life. Sadly, he died at 43.”
Perez’s partner, Luis Valui, is also a professional artist, and worked in Mexico City for six years doing restoration of pre-colonial and colonial art. After spending time in Guadalajara and Oaxaca, he moved to Ajijic 15 years ago when he realized that he didn’t need to live in a big city to produce good art.
Says Valui, “I paint using oil and watercolor, and in a style called ‘figurative expressionism.’”
His work is sold in Galeria Dante in Puerto Vallarta, and he has had numerous exhibits, at galleries in Los Angeles, Pittsburg, Mexico City and elsewhere.
Valui just completed a large oil painting titled “Tenderness,” which will be shown at Galeria Dante in April, with a full exhibit planned for November.
“My whole idea as an artist,” he says, “is to create some kind of magic – an expression of the joy of life and play, using shapes and colors. Painting, for me, is akin to visual poetry, and I create a poem using paint.”
In 1985, Valui was part of a major exhibit in Mexico City, and one of 12 artists invited to partake in a collective show at the Museum of Modern Art. Titled “New Expressions in Mexico,” the exhibit showcased three of his pieces.
“With over 40 years creating art full time, I’m happy to say I’ve created a name for myself, both from the quality of my work and from my collectors.”
A sampling of his celebrity collectors include: actor Talia Shire; film director and screenwriter Ron Shelton; Canadian actor Lolita Davitovitch; and Christy Walton from the Walton family – founders of Walmart.
Valui adds that music and dance are his major influences in creating a painting – “these ancient, joyful expressions found in cultures all over the world.”
Like Valui, Perez’s paintings are infused with her love of music, dance, magic and fantasy.
Three years ago, she took on a playful, whimsical style that she describes as a mix of landscape, abstract and the surreal.
“I follow my inner child and choose to see life as playful and magical, filled with love,” she says. “I’ve come to see that you can find love and magic in practically everything.”
If you don’t catch Perez selling her cards, you can find them at these lakeside locations: Gallery Sol Mexicano, the Pasteleria Francesa Isabelle et Frederic (the French bakery), and Ana Romo Gallery.