I went to a few art galleries last night as part of First Friday. Most cities have these, where the art galleries open their doors to the unwashed public, stay open until 8pm or later, serve free refreshments, and allow us to peruse the work they display at our leisure. I used to go periodically in Denver, and always enjoyed it, so I’m not sure why it took me so long here to think about going. Finally last night I went.

It was a lot of fun. The first place I went was a printmaker gallery, and while I have little knowledge of printmaking, I soon found myself fascinated by the variety, and imagining the techniques used. I will probably go back there again. I picked up a guide to the galleries in the area, and mapped out a few more I wanted to go to. One gallery supported work with political, social, and environmental messages, which I thought I’d enjoy. There was also an inuit gallery, which I was interested in perusing. And a photography gallery, which of course I didn’t want to miss.

Things went according to plan at first. The gallery that was supportive of art with a message mostly didn’t seem to have a message at all, and it was incredibly crowded. I fled to the next place, which was to be the inuit gallery. In an odd quirk of fate, for lack of a better word, I ended up going in the wrong door and thus into a gallery that hadn’t been included in the guide, where I was immediately captivated by a photo taken in 1914 of a young boy, who looked to be about 9 years old, dressed up in a fancy uniform, proudly holding his gun and wearing rounds of ammo. “Child Soldier” the photo was titled. Well, yeah. That was clear even without the title!

There was a helpful and detailed information sheet posted above this photo, and I was both fascinated and horrified by what I read. It was about the Mexican Revolution, those 13 or so years during which the Mexican people fought for their independence, and won what could be won of it at the cost of over a million lives. The people who were fighting were largely the poor and uneducated, thus illiterate, and the photographer was one who had turned to photography as way to report to these people, and to reach them and connect with them in a medium that didn’t require literacy. Only 15% of the people were literate in those days.

The loss of life was horrific. The fact that I can’t remember learning about it in history class was stunning. I probably did learn at some point that there was a war in mexico, the dates they were fought, but I can say with complete honesty that the page written above the heartbreaking picture of that young boy taught me more than any history class had.

I never did get past that picture to look at the rest of what was there. And I never did get to the Inuit gallery or the photographic gallery. That picture, and the information posted above it, sparked a conversation with a small group of random people who I ended up spending the rest of the evening with.

Next month I’ll have to pick up where I left off in my gallery visits. In the meantime, I’ll learn a bit more about this war, these people, and the photographer – Augustin Victor Casasola. If anyone has any sources to suggest to me, I’d love to hear of them!

I asked the proprietor if he minded me taking a picture. He was okay with a picture of the information sheet, but not of anything else. Fair enough, I figure. They’re not great quality – truly just snapshots – and a bit blurred because I was handholding without flash, and image-stabilization can only take you so far!

Click here for a larger version:

mexican revolution information sheet 1

Click here for a larger version.

mexican revolution information sheet 2