Jean-Pierre Formica represents the pyramid at Uxmal as it once was – illuminated like a fiery sun – colorful like the Maya culture today. Chichén Itzá appears feathered, plumed like Kukulkán, a reinvention of the stones’ original colors and textures. A map of Yucatán features paper cuts symbolic of the communities which dot throughout the remote regions, and the Gulf of México remains untouched, solid red – an impenetrable natural border of water.

As a part of his residency at Centro Cultural La Cúpula, the French artist paints the colors of Mérida’s colonial Centro onto thick paper front and back. He pastes layer after layer of the differently shaped papers together, until there’s 10 or 15 layers, which represent memories. Using a cutter, he strategically reveals the layers, forming cultural symbols. This exhibit, titled “Geografía del Alma,” (Geography of the Soul) will hang in the hallowed gallery of La Cúpula until March 24.

La Cúpula embodies the ambitious philosophy of its founder, Leïla Voight. The mother of innumerable international artistic projects, Leïla explains that the mission of La Cúpula is to catalyze the artistic community in Mérida by facilitating cultural exchanges. The cultural center is not a space exclusively for international artists, but rather a place which starts a conversation between international and local artists and audiences.

La Cúpula occupies a long, lavender building, which extends for nearly a block on Calle 54 between 41 and 43 in Centro. A marvel in terms of historical restoration, the gallery space features classic, lofty ceilings and a hodge-podge of pasta tile floors, which are protected as a part of the city’s cultural heritage. In this way, the space stamps the signature of Mérida on every exhibition, reestablishing itself as a cultural center rather than solely a gallery.

Sitting in the first room of the immense space, Leïla switches flirtatiously between Spanish, French, and English. She comments on Jean-Pierre’s exhibit with conclusive authority, “He’s saying that his art will celebrate the Maya culture and bring cultural memories back to life.” The art is timeless, and it occurs to me that both Leïla and Jean-Pierre are doing the work of archaeologists, excavating the layers of time and space that have fallen upon the Maya for millennia, revealing the colorful present.

Centro Cultural La Cúpula
Calle 54 between 41 and 43, Centro
Mérida, Yucatán, México

By Amanda Strickland


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