MOONRISE BY LAUREN NAPOLITANO

I had only just met her but I already knew I liked her.

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That seems to be a very common theme here, instantly connecting with incredibly talented and spirited individuals at Residencia Gorila. It happens a lot in Tulum, but like a carefully curated collection of art, Gorila is always full of instant friends.

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I was excited to be back at my favorite creative’s haven and happy to help with Lauren’s art exhibition, MOONRISE, on my last Friday night in town. Lauren had rushed feverishly to complete the collection, only getting the photography prints on Monday. She showed not only her talent, precision and commitment, but a focus I admire.

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Ananda had done an incredible job all week setting up the exhibition on top of coordinating a residence full of new artists, the vegan kitchen and juice bar, as well as managing hotel guests and staff. Her skills blow me away, as well as Lauren’s, so it was a pleasure to lend whatever support I could to these powerful women.

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When I asked Lauren what her favorite part of the experience has been, she told me it was the collaboration. She collaborated with Gorila residents with the photography, getting the prints, arranging a good work space, the event and even with me, on this article.

 (Lauren & Sunru, photo by Vishal Modha)

(Lauren & Sunru, photo by Vishal Modha)

From the collaboration she learned a lot about acceptance. She described herself as an “alpha creative” but in the last few months she has learned the art of surrender. The art of accepting things the way they are and appreciating an object the way it is. She also spoke about accepting and appreciating other people’s styles, something I could really relate to recently.

 (Resident Artists Hugo & Lauren, photo by Wendi La Fey)

(Resident Artists Hugo & Lauren, photo by Wendi La Fey)

Being an artist isn’t always easy and things don’t always happen in the creative flow, especially on a deadline in the frequently distracting environment.  Lauren seemed to handle it all with the grace and diligence of a true Virgo.

Lauren, Ananda and I spent the day setting up the event space, Batey’s Mojito Bar, paying attention to every detail, like the details of Lauren’s artwork. We scraped old tape off the wood and re-painted walls. After several trips to the hardware store we had everything mounted with precision and Lauren added the final touches of gold moons and stars to the wall.

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I was surprised myself to see such a transformation of the space by that evening. Lauren’s work was so well presented and everyone was so in love with her art. We had several inquiries about purchasing before we had even finished displaying everything.

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She typically uses old portraits, often discovered in basements or thrift stores, giving them new life and restoring them with her own unique style. However, this collection was done especially for the Gorilas and people she met during her time in Tulum.

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 Usinsh, the Residencia Gorila pup

Usinsh, the Residencia Gorila pup

Like her consistent theme of moon phases, we are constantly changing, evolving and entering new phases of our life. While we are sad to see Lauren’s residency at Gorila come to a close, we are excited for her new chapter in San Francisco, curating a learning center and event space as an art installation.

I have no doubt that with her collaboration skills, dedication and attention to detail, it will be an incredible creation.

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Art Club
LUSHLIFE´S INTERVIEW ABOUT HIS WEEK RECORDING AT RESIDENCIA GORILA

Musician, producer, rapper and dear friend Raj, better known as Lushlife in the music industry, stayed with us at Residencia Gorila. He arrived in the middle of a pronounced rain with a huge smile. The author of the song “Magnolia” came to Tulum to live a full-on work and embracing experience. After one week we chat with our man to listen from his own voice about his staying in Tulum.

 

Residencia Gorila. What was your sensation when you first arrived to Residencia Gorila in Tulum?

Lushlife. I came to record on a whim; I didn’t know any of the Residencia Gorila’s team beyond email interaction, on the shuttle from Cancun I got a little bit anxious, it was raining very hard and I felt sad, I was anticipating coming to a sunny paradise and it was monsoon rain, but that was superseded by the human hospitability, I felt immediately welcomed.

 

RG. How was the feeling of getting back to Tulum, since you were here some months ago, what was the difference?

I was here in Tulum for one day a few months ago with my ex-girlfriend at the moment where our relationship was crumbling, (so it wasn’t that much of a paradise), no (laughs) it wasn’t that much of a paradise. But I saw the place! I didn’t know anything about Tulum, we were staying in Playa del Carmen and when we came here we walked around and went to dinner I knew it immediately it was the perfect place to record an EP. What is great about this trip versus the experience before is that the first time I was very much a tourist doing tourist things and now I really felt that the people in Residencia Gorila embraced me, suggested places to me and took me around to hang out as a local, I felt that I had a very authentic Tulum experience.

RG. What was your mission here as Lushlife?

For the last two and half years I’ve been working on my third album; it always takes me a long time with my albums. On the internet there’s just this endless stream of content, but I still care so much about the album as a work of art and a representation of who I am at a certain point of my life that I spend a lot of time doing it, I don’t care if nobody hears my name for two years. On the other hand my record company said “we’ve spent a lot of time and money on it, we don’t just want to throw it out there while nobody is talking about you, lets record another small piece of five or six songs and we’ll release that before the album ”. So what I recorded here was an EP of six songs, collaboration with another musician from Austin, Texas, his name is Botany, he produced most of the music and I co-produced it, which help me focus on the lyrical composition. And what I end up writing was –I think– my most overtly political work with social commentary.

 

RG. Tell us a little bit about yourself as Lushlife and as human being…

 My name is Lushlife, I’m from Philadelphia, and besides playing music I like to ride my bike just go around the city although I have a car. I’ve been making rap records for the last 8 years. I grew up listening to and playing in jazz groups, I play piano classically and play the drums. I also started Dj’ing when I was very young. When people ask me “what do you do?” I say I’m a rapper, but really there’s so much beyond this, through hip-hop I have a really broad musical experience, and on the last 3 years I can say its really paid off in a sense that I can play in Japan or record in Tulum, I feel blessed that I can make a living, and a really good one, as a musician.

RG. Can you describe a scene from Tulum that got to your memory?

There’s two things with what I really connected, one is the natural beauty, having the sea right in front of Residencia Gorila and being able to walk to it, to a gem of beach that you only read on magazines. The first time I went swimming on the water, on totally calm blue turquoise water, was a very healing sensation, a very lasting one. And the other thing was the human connection that you make, like last night that we went to have dinner at Cenzontle and after went to Gitano for a few drink and just hang out with good music and a bit of dancing, Tulum also has that electric element of the night life.

 

RG. Can you mention a meal that you enjoyed the most on this trip?

I thought I had pretty good fish tacos last time I was here at Zamas, but honestly the fish tacos in La Eufemia are way beyond, I’ll say it on the record. Also the vegan tamales I had in town and the tapas in La Gloria de Don Pepe while watching the Champions Final was great. And having home cooked breakfast at Residencia Gorila; every single meal here has been great!

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RG. Of all of your experience here in Residencia Gorila, in Tulum and on this trip, how would you sum it up?

I would say that the most important thing that I’ve realized for the independent artist and musician is that opportunities like these are extremely important. I’m lucky to have any kind of budget to do what I do, certainly I couldn’t just be like I’m going to rent a multimillion-dollar studio and live on a hotel. Residencia Gorila was perfect was perfect because I realized there’s people that foster and support people like me, that have the ideas and the space to bring artists and help us to create and to execute art in a setting like Tulum is unbelievable… I think Residencia Gorila is doing an awesome job!

Art Club
What does Tulum sounds like? Hugo Branco Interview
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Hugo Branco, Artist Resident and creator of Sound-Escapes speaks with us about his stay in Tulum, his experience in Residencia Gorila and Sound-Escapes, a project that integrates diverse pieces like a track of all the Tulum’s sounds that got his attention.

1. Hugo Branco, can you talk about your work and passions?

I’ve basically have worked in many creative projects, more in the line of sound. I started as a DJ fifteen years ago then moved to production and experimentation, I think sound is a very plastic matter that you can really work a lot with and it has a strong influence on the lives of people. Besides sounds I’m very interested in words because when I was a kid I wanted to be a travel writer. Being a DJ took to me to travel and to know other places, and also cooking, three things that interested me are those: sound, words, travelling and food.

2. What was THE PLAN before you arrived to TULUM?

I was going to come to Tulum and be here for two months. Finally I stayed for four months. The plan was to run through several Latin countries recording sounds that got my attention of each city that I picked from each country while writing about it, also collaborating with other artists and make a performance of each place. My first stop was going to be Tulum and then get to Mexico City.

3. And what did it REALLY happened?

I arrive to Tulum because I wanted to land in soft land, I started to meet people and hear about other places inside México. I went to Bacalar, to San Cristobal and I wanted to go to Oaxaca but couldn’t, at the end I didn’t even reach Mexico City. I was hired by an Eco turism Agency, and started working with them and that’s how I ended up staying more, my idea was to keep traveling but now I’m going back to Porto because we got a grant to work with another project. Certainly I will come back and keep persuading the first plan, because it feels like the beginning of something and all the doors are being left open.

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4. What did you expected before coming, and what did it really happened?

I had the urge to do the whole trip at once, being in a city and moving to the next and so on. But once here I started relaxing and feeling that I could stay as much as I wanted and that I could end up absorbing more experiences like meeting more people, doing more traveling, collaborating with other artists, moving around to know what can happen. I feel more relaxed in a sense and more confident of what life has reserved for me.

5. Can you talk a little about the project “Sound-Escapism”?

The project Sound-Escapism was also a project that changed; finally I decided to take another approach, what I did is more on the narrative side. I did a sound story about Porto, starting very abstract until it gets to a sort of rhythm and fades out giving space to Tulum. Where I record the basic sounds like the wind on the palm trees, the waves, the birds, then I go to the generator sounds that are on the beach because is a big contrast. I wanted to translate this paradox. What I’m doing is something very personal; I’m not trying to say that Tulum sounds like this; I’m trying to say that this is what to Tulum sounds for me.Then I start playing the sounds of the vendors: the shoemaker, the bread guy, the ice cream guy, and the gas company… I’m very happy with the result.

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6. Since you already describe in your blog your experience in Residencia Gorila, can you give us a more personal approach?

My trip to México was like being caught by a metallic hand and then getting dropped somewhere else. You lose the context that helps define yourself so when you lose you have to redo it. When I arrived to Residencia Gorila I started a personal rebuilding process that is faster and harder when you are amongst lots of people. By living together in community you are constantly getting mirrored by other people. I have to say now I’m much more easy with myself than when I arrived. I went to travel to Bacalar and to San Cristobal, and this is where I felt completely being myself. When I came back to Tulum I had a job and I felt more independent, I knew people and the place and how to work with the energy. To sum it up being in Residencia Gorila was kind of (good) shock, being with other artists that have other processes, in a creative and emotional way different from mine, a very important and beautiful thing that I loved experiencing.

7. Did you collaborate with someone else’s project during your time in Gorila?

Yes. At the end I’m doing some work with Lushlife, a guy that makes incredible music (read the interview here); also with Anna Kin an amazing photographer. During my stay at Residencia Gorila they were people making music and dancing, and I recorded everyone doing their things. I helped with the videos that Spencer Keaton Cunningham was making. Alejandro Canela made the drawing for my webpage, and is completely what I wanted. In some way there is interaction with everyone and everyone is constantly influencing you.

8. What would you say to the next artist that lands in Residencia Gorila?

Enjoy, take your time… just make the most out it! Is a good place to work, is a good place to have creative and social experiences and to get inspired by everything that’s going around you, you have the beach right there; you are around amazing people all the time, so make the most out of it!

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Art Club
Paraiso Cristalino at Tulum Art Club

Paraiso Cristalino created by Luis Safa and Javier Sanchez, made a installation composed of mirrors, crystals and plants. 

They created a atmosphere at Tulum Art Club with their presentation for the Art With Me GNP Festival.

 


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