Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - Story and pho­tos by Rosanne Fried­man rosanne.fried­[email protected]­lic­new­son­line.com

The mu­ral at Cuchara restau­rant in Mid­town by Ce­cilia Beaven is fun, it’s a car­toon. Easy to take in. Lots to see. It’s fam­ily in the cen­ter around a ta­ble and the city sur­round­ing. Black lines on white can­vas. Small nar­ra­tives. Glimpses. A kiss in the rain, a bus load of peo­ple. Drop into their lives at a glance. It’s quick it’s easy. A per­fect cen­ter­piece for the restau­rant. A per­fect par­al­lel. Here there are ta­bles and at each ta­ble a dif­fer­ent story. All the sto­ries are hap­pen­ing in­de­pen­dently, but right next to each other. The in­te­grat­ing fac­tor is the food- great food, fresh food, Mex­ico City in­spired. This is a fam­ily cen­tered restau­rant. Just like the mu­ral. One sis­ter painted the mu­ral the other sis­ter is the foodie. Mom sits at the counter. Very Friendly. Ev­ery one of your senses is taken into their trust- see­ing, tast­ing, feel­ing, hear­ing-- The mu­sic is tra­di­tional. The mu­si­cians will tell you that they are the Young and the Restless, but re­ally the band is quite name­less, but please hire them! in a cho­rus they in­sist in their call to me. They will come to play for you, too! The oc­to­ge­nar­ian will tell you that he is sin­gle and he has a car so he can get mar­ried. They play like that all day. And the mu­sic is great, too! The old with the young at ev­ery ta­ble. Youth­ful fun en­gag­ing and tak­ing ev­ery­one along. There’s a place for the young and the young at heart-- and the de­sign­ers to dream.

Pop art hap­pened in the six­ties. This is when car­toons be­came high art. Names like Tom Wes­sel­man, James Rosen­quist, Red Grooms, and Warhol took the car­toon form to se­ri­ous places. Low art be­came high art bought up by art col­lec­tors, mu­se­ums and find­ing a chap­ter in art his­tory. En­ter Keith Har­ing and Basquiat. I must men­tion Manga and Street Art graf­fiti rag­ing with fans. Ce­cilia Beaven brings the Aztec mon­ster of Ci­pactili, the story of creation to the mix.

This form of com­pressed nar­ra­tive in line draw­ing does have its roots. All delight in line qual­ity and depth in the nar­ra­tive or the stark sym­bols and metaphors. But this artist, Ce­cilia Beaven, has given the sim­pli­fied draw­ing an im­por­tant con­text here. Nar­ra­tive al­ways has it’s con­text to make it mean­ing­ful-- Fam­ily. Ter­ri­tory. You feel the rich­ness of cul­ture with the light­ness of be­ing. The win­dows wrapped around the room to en­chant space with the light and the re­solved but not fin­ished white pa­per papier mache. White Can­vas and white light em­brace the black lines in play, an­chored by the blue green of a tree or two or three. The crowds of peo­ple sur­round­ing the black pave­ments drawn and placed in per­fect pro­por­tion and com­po­si­tion sings the spirit of Mex­ico City. With another mu­ral an­chored on the ceil­ing call­ing you to look up to a crowd painted there that will look down to cel­e­brate you in the crowd be­low. Shout Salud! And my hus­band was told that they do have the best te­quila in Mex­ico City right there.

Ce­cilia Beaven cre­ated another mu­ral at the bor­der of Mex­ico and the United States.

This mu­ral is about the em­i­gra­tion of those who went through the door from Mex­ico to the US to find a bet­ter life, those who were sent back af­ter find­ing that path to America and those who died along the way. She tells me that she en­gages so­cial prob­lems through a per­sonal lens. Her bor­der is a door that is not avail­able for ev­ery­one, she can go through that door to the US and Mex­ico com­fort­ably and she has em­pa­thy for those who can not. In Mex­ico there is a con­trast be­tween the worlds of poor and rich, she trav­els be­tween those worlds, eas­ily, and rec­og­nizes her per­spec­tive and ex­presses her re­al­ity with the widest fo­cus. The lay­ers of her mu­ral at the restau­rant be­gin at the easy and friendly level-fun for peo­ple of all ages, joy­ful with col­ors and car­toons. There are other lev­els, if we look closely, Mex­ico City as a place to be trapped by chaos and end­less den­sity-- there is a bright and a dark side.

The con­tent of each of her paint­ings goes to the cen­ter of her and comes from the cen­ter of her. In the Ti­juana mu­ral thick lines that make bars and doors are the sig­ni­fiers and the sym­bols. The sim­pli­fied lines are long from sim­pli­fy­ing is­sues that we all, as cit­i­zens of the USA or Mex­ico, must wrap our think­ing around for a hu­mane world.

Each of her paint­ings em­brace an idea, the clar­ity of lines be­comes clar­ity of pur­pose-- be it the cen­ter of fam­ily and the land of Mex­ico City, with mo­ments of lyri­cism and de­lights or the cen­ter that takes on the dif­fi­cul­ties of so­cial is­sues and what is painfully near, she doesn’t flinch. Her art is a cir­cle.

This restau­rant sets up a stan­dard for us all in great design: unity with con­stant vari­a­tion. Art work all around in two di­men­sions and three on the shelves, on the wall and on the ceil­ing—in­side and out­side-- all vi­tal. And lev­els of easy and then more dif­fi­cult. All in­te­grated and whole by the vi­sion of an artist with clear sight.

And as my hus­band said upon leav­ing the first time: this is a place that you want to take your guests. And he didn’t even have the te­quila.

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