The Monument Tango Bar

wood, copper tubing, wire and polymer clay.

Wishing to Fly

In my dream Kitty had bird's legs and wanted to fly, our grandson's name is Gabriel, so, there is the archangel as a flying instructor.

Wood, cooper pipes, string, cooper wire, polymer clay and acrylic paints. 

Windows on Frida and Diego

We see Diego Rivera sitting on scaffolding, just as he painted himself in the famous San Francisco Art Institute mural.
He is facing a window with a sketch for a Detroit mural. Above is a winged image of Diego and Frida revealing her crying a tear of blood, a common Mexican artistic expression of unhappiness.
To Diego’s left, the window of Ideology has a rendition of the May Day parade painting.
Frida’s window on Love reflects a distant image of her powerful painting “Frida and Diego in San Francisco”. She wears a typical dress from Tehuntepec as she faces her beloved monkeys.
This window on Love can be closed, an action Frida herself should have perhaps considered more often on account of Diego's behavior.
The figures can be taken out of their environment and played with like acrobats.

Painted wood
H 20” W 17” D 6”

Romeo and Juliet

It was Verona, it was a window, and it was true love.

Textured and painted wood, electric light, sculpted characters
H 30” W 15” D 2”

Homage to Pablo Picasso

The figure of "The Harlequin," a famous painting from Picasso's Blue Period, is reflected on a mirror set on a background of blue sky.
On the left side a yellow hand frames one of his works and in conjunction with the red wall symbolizes the Spanish flag. The Picasso figure can be taken out of its environment and played as an acrobat toy.

Wood, mirror
H 18” W 6” D 6”

Vincent Starry Night

Through the open window the Starry Night flows down the steps to the observer and the vase with sunflowers rests on the table.
Vincent himself is an acrobat to play with once taken out of his environment.

Painted wood
H 20” W 17” D 6”

House of Words

Inspired by a text from Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.
Turning the panel one way offers the text in English, the other in Spanish.

Helena Villagra dreamed that the poets were entering the House of Words.
The words kept in old glass bottles waited for the poets and offered themselves, mad with desire to be chosen. They begged the poets to look at them, smell them, touch them, lick them.
The poets opened the bottles, tried the words on their finger tips and smacked their lips or wrinkled their noses.
The poets were in search of words they didn’t know as well as words they knew and had lost.
In The House of Words was a table of colors; they offered themselves in great fountains and each poet took the color he needed - lemon yellow or sun yellow, ocean blue or smoke blue crimson red, blood red, wine red.

A la Casa de las Palabras soñó Helena Villagra, acudían los poetas. Las palabras guardadas en viejos frascos de cristal, esperaban a los poetas y se les ofrecían locas de ganas de ser elegidas, ellas rogaban a los poetas que las miraran, qué las olieran, que las lamieran.

Los poetas abrían los frascos, probaban las palabras con el dedo y entonces se relamían o fruncían la nariz.
Los poetas andaban en busca de Palabras que no conocían, también buscaban palabras que conocían y habían perdido.
En La Casa de las Palabras había una mesa de colores, en grandes Fuentes se ofrecían los colores y cada poeta se servia el color que le hacia falta; amarillo limón o Amarillo sol, azul de mar o de humo, rojo lacre, rojo sangre, rojo vino.

Limited edition
wood, paper, glass jars, scrabble boards and tiles

What If

The six windows surrounding the mirror show the different ways the Mona Lisa would have looked if any one of these artists had painted her.

Wood, mirror, photo montage

H 24” W 18” D 3/8”

Homage to Magritte

Inspired by the Magritte painting, "The Man with the Bowler Hat." The apples open up to reveal a mirror, the observer's face perfectly fits and she or he becomes the "Person with the Bowler Hat."

wood, mirror
H 18" W 16" D 3"

Lonely Woman in a Red Dress, Dreaming with Dancing

She is the darling in her day dream, dancing the night away, but the dance hall, 'It Takes Two to Tango' is empty and nobody is sitting on the champagne chairs. Champagne was the must have, classic drink of the time and was featured prominently in tango lyrics.
Most of the tango dance halls in the old Buenos Aires of the 1900s were run by French women of questionable reputation catering to high society men dancing to the forbidden music.

wood, mirrors, champagne chairs
H 34" W 24" D 4"

Casablanca... Homage to Collective Memory

The sign at “Rick’s Café” lights up, the plane that carries her away hides behind the back and pops up at the turn of a knob. The tune of "As Time Goes By" can be heard in a music box.

Wood, electric lights, metal and a music box.
H 19” W 12” D 6”

Apologies to Marc Chagall

The piece is inspired by a 1915 painting titled "L’Aniversaire." It was a present to Chagall’s wife Bella as a thank you for a surprise birthday party she threw for him.
They were living in Paris at the time and were very poor, and for that reason the original painting was done on a piece of linoleum that Chagall found on the street. When Bella saw the painting she said “I feel we were going to fly out of the window of love." Her statement provided me with the inspiration to place a window on top of the piece.

wood, mirror
H 30" W 22" D 3"

Do Cry for Me Argentina

From 1976 to 1983 Argentina was under the most brutal dictatorship in their history, thousands of people were “disappeared."
Flying to a show looking out of the plane window I saw the many faces of the disappeared in between the clouds, that is how this piece was born. The authority figure doing time in jail and the bullets casings as silent head stones of remembrance.

Do Cry......
wood, found object, bullet casings.
H 30" W 18" D 2"


“When people come to our booth at Art Fairs, they ask about my inspiration. I tell them ‘It’s desperation’.” laughs the bearded, Berkeley-based Argentinian artist, Horacio Tubio.

Seated in his studio just north of the UC-Berkeley campus, surrounded by carpenters’ tools and tubes of glue and hundreds of photographs and sketches, the affable creator explains that “It’s the desperation of surviving. Actually, I think inspiration is over-rated. For me, it’s more trial and error.

“I have a wide variety of influences, going back to my childhood in South America. Media came to me very early, when I was forming my personality. Mostly movies; I was late to TV. I used to sit through three feature films a day.” This has led to many of the three-dimensional mini-sculptures that are among his most popular creations.

“I worked for a while backstage at the Opera House in Buenos Aires, building sets, followed by a short, serious academic sculpture career. But then I got divorced and hitch-hiked up to Bolivia. After that I began creating toys, many with figures suspended between two sticks that would dance when the sticks were squeezed, a traditional folkloric style.”

Turning to his similarly creative American wife, Kitty, he says with certainty, “She is my collaborator, and my work would simply not be possible without her partnership. The materials we use are wood, paint, mirrors, paper, electric lights and found objects. Some of the pieces need observer participation, others have motion to them. I invite the viewer to come in and write the epilogue to my scenes.”

How does he turn his observation into interpretation? “Sometimes,” he smiles, “I have to talk myself into turning the inspiration into something I think people would get.” One of his most highly praised pieces, “Mona Lisa,” uses the framing of a mirror to highlight “six artists who are known by most people. But I felt I had to put some American in there. That’s the commercial part, which I can’t avoid. That part of me is alive and well. And yet, now, I’m trying to fight it and make pieces like my current one (Sept. 2009). I call it ‘Wishing to Fly’ and it’s based on a dream I had where Kitty had bird legs. Our grandson’s name is Gabriel – so what better source to learn to fly from than an angel? And that’s why, in the piece, I’ve given her wings. I also thought to call it ‘Flying Lessons’.”
His pan-Hispanic roots include Mexico as well, with a clever piece utilizing brightly colored imagery of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. “That, too, came in a dream and I had to be careful not to screw it up with intellectuality. I woke up with it in my head.

“Currently I’m working a a 3D Tango piece, featuring a monument of a couple dancing, in the style of Henry Moore, like in a park. There’s an entrance to a tango bar called The Monument, and a couple sitting on upended champagne-glass chairs with two musicians.”

Asked if he accepts commissions, his eyes crinkle with joy. “Oh yes, absolutely. In fact, we did one especially for Emmet Kelly. Groucho Marx’s son got the Marx Brothers’ set with pictures of them on the wall alongside Karl Marx, and posters of their movies in three different languages. Richard Simmons got an acrobat. Madonna has the Frida/Diego piece. Ben Vereen got a boxing kangaroo. The novelist Isabel Allende has collected several pieces.”

At times compared to Magritte in three dimensions, the works of Horacio Tubio take us into the realm of dreams and stretch our imaginations to bridge the worlds of inner and outer consciousness, making us smile at a myriad of connections newly realized. Sophisticated and engagingly child-like, they are works of art designed for the ages.

-Roger Steffens, author/archivist and founding editor of The Beat
September 2009, Echo Park, L.A.