As everything seems to slow down to a virtual hibernation during the last week of the year, there are few things to do, other than movies and taking duplicate gifts back to the shops. If you have ever mourned the lack of time to visit a museum, now is a great time to visit a fascinating exhibit at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica: “MEXICAN CALENDAR GIRLS The Golden Age of Mexican Calendar Art 1930-1960,” an exhibition of more than 30 images from the vibrant popular culture of post-revolutionary Mexico.
“Mexican Calendar Girls” presents examples of Mexican calendar’ art going back to the early 20th century. Talented Mexican artists, despite being treated as workhorses, created the paintings used to decorate the calendars, which in turn were either sold by companies to advertise their products (cigars, beer, soap, etc.) or sold by salesmen to small businesses.
The exhibition, which is drawn from the collection of Angela Villalba and curated by Michael Trotter, covers the main categories of calendar art: classic calendars, national identity, celebrations and customs, macho women and cowgirls, sexy girls and exclusive calendars. Included are images of Aztec maidens, revolutionistas, the Jarabe Tapatío, coy country sweethearts, fiestas, and the classic movie-influenced pinup. Featured artists include Jorge González Camarena, Eduardo Cataño, Armando Drechsler, Antonio Gómez R., Xavier Gómez, and A.X. Peña.
The calendars show beautiful young women, whose complexions and features conform to a light-skinned, European ideal. They do, however, often wear Mexican-style costumes or sport Mexican props. Calendar art from the 1930s and 1940s features calendar girls with bobbed or permanent-waved hair, and makeup that makes them resemble the flappers and movie stars of the nearby U.S.A. Some of the girls even look like famous American actresses.
Much early calendar art drew heavily on the ‘Mexicanidad’ style of art. Under the auspices of the Secretaría de Educación Pública, José Vasconcelos, Minister of Public Education (1920 –1924) funded programs to record the wide range of cultural traditions in Mexico. The resulting collections of artifacts, costumes, and photographic documentation were made available to the public and provided source material not only for the calendar artists, but also for soon-to-be acclaimed muralists Diego Rivera and David Siquieros.
The California Heritage Museum is also featuring an exhibit of art by Milfred Zormes, through January 25. And the Museum, located in a vintage Victorian-style house, is great to visit any time for its décor and architecture.
MEXICAN CALENDAR GIRLS The Golden Age of Mexican Calendar Art 1930-1960 runs through February 1.
California Heritage Museum, 2612 Main Street, Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. General admission is $5, students and seniors $3, children 12 and under enter free. Parking is free and handicapped facilities are available. Public parking is also available in adjacent “quarter metered” parking lots. For further information call 310.392-8537 or visit californiaheritagemuseum.org.