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Manny from Mexico

Bea and Manny at the Down Home Diner in Reading Terminal Market
Bea and Manny at the Down Home Diner in Reading Terminal Market

My extended family is growing a notch. Bea and Manuel Bennett are a pair of expats who live in Cuernavaca, and Manny is an artist, 87 years young. They are soon to be related through the upcoming marriage of my niece Laura to their grandson Victor.

Turns out, Manny is from South Philly. And Murray, as you must know by now, is from South Philly. In fact he wrote the book (South Philadelphia, Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner). So Victor showed his copy of South Philadelphia to his grandfather Manny, and Manny, being in town to show his sculpture to the folks at the Please Touch Museum, wanted to meet Murray who wrote the book.

IMG_7854 Manuel Bennett
Manny with The Eternal Horse, a book he created for Victor, then a young child, showing his drawing technique for horses, in step-by-step images. The book even contains an alphabet Manny created from horse images. Manny’s drawings are graphically powerful; he’s also a natural illustrator, an inventive sculptor and an obsessive worker–to this day.

Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Francisco Zuñiga were among his teachers at La Esmeralda National School of Painting and Sculpture, in Mexico City. He went there under the G.I. Bill. The era when he learned his craft still infuses his work.

The rest of his professional bio is here, which focuses mostly on his artistic and humanitarian accomplishments.

Victor volunteered to make Manny his web site, but it’s not exactly how Manny envisioned it, and he let me know it didn’t include exactly what he wanted it to show.

He and Bea also complained about some art–a pile of boxes–that had shown at what was for a while an art museum in Cuernavaca, and when I told them that sort of resembled stuff I made, we both had to acknowledge there was a bit of a divide in outlook. And then we got beyond it, one, two, three.

Digression: I don’t know that I would have acknowledged my relationship to boxes if Roberta and I hadn’t just put the rather box-shaped Brick in the Paper Jam show at My House Gallery. Mostly, our box days are over. Maybe I was just testing the waters…or more likely than not, making trouble.

IMG_7856 Books by the Bennetts
A couple of the books from Manny and Bea’s series for the Mexican public school system.

Our conversation also included much information about Manny’s professional life running technically sophisticated printing operations. He has a head for business and for organization.

Like so many sculptors, he is also an inventor (both as a printer and a sculptor). He has illustrated a number of books, including a series for Mexican public school children, with text by Bea, who was a school teacher for many years. (All his books, including a couple of Judaica items, are also available on his web site.)

I came away thinking this is one smart guy!! Hey, if I were any smarter myself, I too would have moved to Cuernavaca.