Art is a personal medium, but some artwork is more personal than others.

For Kenoshan Margaret Heller, the pieces in the local exhibit “Imagenes de Latin America” are very personal indeed.

The collection was created by her aunt and uncle, Patricia Tully Baird (a Kenosha native) and her husband, Tom Baird.

Tom Baird was an executive at a paper product company called Carton y Papel de Mexico (which Heller calls “the Uline of Mexico”) and, each year, he commissioned about half a dozen pieces by Latin American artists.

“He would have special paper flown in from France and have 150 prints made of each piece to give to clients,” Heller said. “My uncle loved this project; he got to meet the artists.”

Those artists, she said, “are some of the top Latin American artists. Many of them have museums devoted to their works.”

Heller remembers visiting her aunt and uncle in 1972 and seeing their art collection.

“I made some comment about Monet to my uncle,” she recalled, “and he said something to me like ‘Americans only look to Europe for great art. You need to look at art from the Americas, too, and other artwork in the world.’ That’s what I’m hoping this exhibit will do here in Kenosha — open their eyes to artwork from places other than Europe.”

The collection had been scattered among family members, and Heller brought 31 pieces together for this show, which she hopes is the first of several public exhibits.

Besides the family connection to the prints, Heller has a personal connection to this show in particular. It’s a memorial to her sister, Patte Heller Bleil, who died at her Kenosha home last fall.

“I poured my grief into doing this show,” Heller said. “Patte’s friend Karen Enroth helped fund it through The Enroth Family Fund through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.”

Once the prints were gathered, Heller and Francisco Loyola, the Kenosha Creative Space’s executive director, had the pieces framed locally at DeBerge’s and Seebeck Gallery.

“This is an important collection that represents a lot of great artists,” Loyola said. “They were influential and are not just from Mexico. There are artists here from Cuba and the United States and other places, too.”

The exhibit was hung Monday and Tuesday at Creative Space, and Heller is excited to see the prints together for the first time in decades.

“I knew they were valuable pieces because my uncle told me so,” she said. “I am delightfully excited to see them framed and on display.”

The show, she added, “is in honor of my aunt and uncle and my sister, but it’s also important to show the rich, varied life in Mexico. That side of the country doesn’t get reported in the news. I feel pride in this artwork. It’s pretty amazing.”

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