Each painting tells a story

Milka Lolo “The Night Dwellers.” (Courtesy of Milka Lolo)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

From the moment Milka Lolo was old enough to hold a pencil, she never stopped drawing.

Born and raised in Mexico City, the artist blends Mesoamerican creation myths tumbled with the portraiture of Frida Kahlo and the decorative patterning of the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. Lolo’s paintings can be seen at Santa Fe’s Keep Contemporary.

Lolo also sells her work at the weekend “el Jardin del Arte,” a well-known Mexico City art fair, drawing more than 400 artists across two parks.

In 2019, Lolo focused on the myths of varied Mesoamerican cultures – Aztec, Mayan, Omec – generating the slogan “The grain must die for the seed to be born.” With that, she penned her own version of the Mesoamerican genesis. With every catastrophe that hits us (the pandemic is an obvious choice), we have the chance to build a better world.

Milka Lolo “Journey to the Promised Land.” (Courtesy of Milka Lolo)

Lolo launched her largely self-taught creative journey at age 13. She later entered Mexico City’s Academia de San Carlos, where she began her formal studies.

“For me, the need for creation has always been something very natural, as much as breathing,” she wrote in an email.

The moment that solidified Lolo’s artistic path arrived in, of all places, a shopping mall.

“I passed by the fast food corridor and I saw a hiring sign that said among the requirements ’25 years old tops’ and I thought, ‘I’m too old for that’!” she stated. “So, getting a part-time job there, if things get too harsh, wasn’t an option any more.”

Now 33, she has been a full-time artist for 12 years.

Storytelling has always been a way to raise entire generations, passing on knowledge and wisdom acquired with age, Lolo wrote.

“I learned not to play with fire because of the stories of witches that I was told when I was a little girl, and this magical thinking made a huge impact on my way to perceive the world as a grown woman,” she explained.

“Each painting tells a story … I try to re-shape them into something more relatable, but still recognizable, so the stories I heard while growing up may still be passed on.”

“The Night Dwellers” depicts a pack of Xolos (hairless dogs) who, according to ancient beliefs, were supposed to guard and guide the souls of the departed through their journey to Mictlan (the land of the dead.)

“The Messengers” addresses Mesoamerican cosmology beliefs naming owls as carriers of the orders of the underworld lords to the land of the living. The character originates in the ancient belief that an owl’s song is an omen of death.

Milka Lolo “Coatlique.” (Courtesy of Milka Lolo)

Lolo based “Journey to the Promised Land” on the pilgrimage the Aztecs made when they left Aztlan to find the land where the gods promised they would found their empire. The characters in the painting represent nahuales, magical beings capable of transforming into animals and communicating with the gods.

Lolo conjured both “Mayahuel” and “Coatlique” from the gods these civilizations worshipped. Both were associated with the cult of water and fertility.

Today, the artist is busy building her website and dabbling with digital arts. Keep Contemporary will host her Sept. 17 show “Dawnfall Gods,” exploring the ways ancient deities have transformed into myths, sayings or stones after the sun movement was born.

“The way that ideas, beliefs and faith have transformed themselves to remain embedded in the collective mind of people has always amazed me,” Lolo said, “Therefore, this will be a recurring subject on my upcoming paintings.”

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