Lectures and Exhibitions

The following articles are adapted from lectures given by Susan Frost to a variety of audiences. The informational content of these articles is freely given, but it is copyright protected. Please credit the author and website as your source when using these materials.

San José Tiles and Pottery

"San José" is used generically to include several makers of similar-looking art pottery and tiles made in San Antonio. The premier workshop was Mexican Arts and Crafts, which operated downtown on the banks of the San Antonio River from 1931-1941. Its founder, Ethel Wilson Harris, copyrighted a book of designs in 1937 and registered her characteristic "logo" -- a maguey cactus in full bloom. In 1941 the workshop changed its name to Mission Crafts when it moved to within the walls of Mission San José, where gifted artisans created tiles and pottery until 1977. 

Their products are commonly confused with those of the nearby San José Potteries, which operated from 1934 to 1945. SJP executed relatively few designs in large numbers and of varying quality when it operated on its own. Its best work was made when the company was under the supervision of Harris, who became technical supervisor for the Arts and Crafts Division of the WPA projects in San Antonio in 1939.

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Prison Art: Pañuelos

Written by Susan Toomey Frost

Photographs by Al Rendon

Following the murder of 22-year-old Andrew Escobedo in 2003, the San Antonio Express-News reported that "during his jail stays, Andrew Escobedo painted elaborate images on handkerchiefs, including one with hearts and roses that he sent his mother on Mother’s Day." These "pañuelos"—expressions of faith and love using handkerchiefs as canvases—most likely originated in the 1940s among Mexicans incarcerated in Texas prisons. This indigenous art form has flourished among inmates ever since, and it continues to exemplify the artistic domain of Catholic Hispanic males.

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Postcards of Luis Marquez

Written by Susan Toomey Frost

In the mid-1930s, Luis Marquez (1899-1978) colorized his dramatic photographs into postcards that lie between two major periods in Mexican postcard making: black and white real photos and color chromes. Before color film was readily available in Mexico, Marquez' technique made his postcard images appear as if they had been shot in color. (Although KODACHROME slide film was introduced in 1935, AGFACOLOR print film in 1936, and KODACOLOR in 1942, Mexican postcards do not reflect the common use of color film until the 1950s.)

Hand-tinted photographs of Luis Marquez were published in the mid-1930s by Eugenio Fischgrund in a series of 96 postcards. Fischgrund's firm, Editorial de Arte, specialized in artistic postcards and Christmas cards, books on Mexican folklore, and publishing such prominent artists as Miguel Covarrubias, Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo.

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Early Mexican Maximum Cards

Written by Susan Toomey Frost

In the 1930s and 1940s when creating new stamp designs, Mexico's postal authorities occasionally "copied" photographs from the inventories of some of the leading makers of Mexican postcards. The instances are revealed in a study of Mexican maximum cards.

Considered as novelties or specialties, maximum cards have been a pursuit of stamp collectors since at least the 1920s. The creative collector tried to find a postcard that matched the image on a stamp as closely as possible and then placed the stamp on the face of the card. If the postmarking were done in the very town where the photograph was taken, or otherwise tied to the subject that the stamp commemorated, the maximum card was further enhanced. Such cards are fascinating because they bridge stamp and postcard collecting, the two most popular hobbies of their day.

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Guatemalan Postcard Photography

Written by Susan Toomey Frost


"Wish you were here" is a universal greeting on picture postcards -- those little pieces of heavy paper that we send to family and friends so that they can see where we've been.

A lot of information is packed on a postcard, particularly one that was sent a century ago. What is printed or written on a card, or attached to it, adds layers of interest and significance. Who sent it and to whom? What was it like back then? If the card was mailed and the postage stamp is intact, what do the stamp and cancellation tell us? Who took the photograph or drew the picture that appears on the card? Who was the printer or distributor? How and where was it made and sold? How much did it cost? Does the card promote or advertise something? Was it part of a set or series?

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Postcards of Hugo Brehme (Spanish)

Written by Susan Toomey Frost

A previous version of this article appeared in German under the title “Die Postkarten von Hugo Brehme” in the exhibition catalog entitled Hugo Brehme Fotograf/Fotografo: Mexiko zwischen Revolution und Romantik/México entre revolución y romanticismo.

Michael Nungesser, editor. Berlin: Verlag Willmuth Arenhövel, 2004. "Hugo Brehme - Photographer." Martin Gropius Museum in Berlin. Sponsored by the Ibero-American Institute, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Fototeca Nacional del INAH in Pachuca, Mexico, and the Embassy of Mexico in Berlin.

Alrededor de 1906 un joven fotógrafo alemán llamado Hugo Brehme (1882-1954) viajó a México para fotografiar este fascinante y complejo país. A pesar de sus veintitantos años ya manejaba con maestría su costoso equipo fotográfico y además poseía un destacado sentido artístico, desarrollado durante sus estudios de fotografía en Alemania.

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