Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Rebirth and Beyond: A Visit with Alessandra Moctezuma

 by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt


Alessandra Moctezuma with Rebirth, her steamroller print. (Maurice Hewitt)


Professor of Museum Studies, gallery director, and a notable member of the San Diego art community, Alessandra Moctezuma was also a notable part of the September 2nd ENVISN Urban Art Takeover in Logan Heights, where Mesa College Art Gallery presented a Steamroller Printmaking event.

My husband and I had our first Steamroller experience at Mesa in 2021, watching the painstaking but thrilling process of using a vehicle meant to facilitate roadwork to make hand-carved woodcuts into large-scale fabric artworks. And this time, Alessandra and Jenny Armer, her gallery coordinator and steamroller driver extraordinaire, were among the contributing artists.


Jenny Armer, gallery coordinator, with her steamroller print. (Maurice Hewitt)

  Alessandra’s piece, Rebirth, had taken her 10 hours to carve.

“It was very cathartic,” she said. “I challenged myself to reimagine myself, to climb out of the grief I have felt since my husband’s death in October 2022. There are two figures—male & female—and there’s a mirror with my lips and nose—and there’s a ladder leading out of my grief.”


Alessandra with her husband Mike Davis, historian/professor/social activist, in the Italian Alps two decades ago. (Photo: Courtesy of Alessandra Moctezuma)


“I’m lucky,” she went on. “I love my work, I have a great team at Mesa, and I love teaching. But still…we were together for 27 years, and it’s very hard losing the one person who knows you most intimately. Yet now, after Rebirth, I’m ready to get back to my art. I started out as a printmaker, and I always thought my artwork was too personal, but now I see you can make art out of personal, painful experience and find joy in it, and others can appreciate it too.”

She invited us to come to the art gallery, where she was sure we’d enjoy the current exhibit—The Resistance of the Echo & La Eco-Resistencia—a multimedia installation by Francisco Eme which would be ending the following week. 

 She was right. We did enjoy stepping into the darkened space where the artist had created a multi-sensory experience for visitors by re-imagining the wildlife he’d come to know in a canyon near his home. Combining video, sculptural elements, and a soundtrack of soothing music, birdcalls, and wind rustling through the foliage and flowers, he gave us a chance to escape the noisy world in which we spend much of our time.

It was a space meant to encourage meditation, not photo ops, but we did photograph an involved visitor contemplating a long list of all the living things that were shown in the video.


A contemplative visitor at Eme’s installation. (Maurice Hewitt)

Next up at the gallery is Glimmers of Grace, a retrospective of the almost 40-year career of artist Grace Gray-Adams, whose work brings the roles, bodies, and spiritual power of women to life. 


Gather Miracles and Build a Legacy by Grace Gray-Adams.  (Photo: Courtesy of the artist.)

Glimmers of Grace: (Grace Gray-Adams) will be on view from October 2-26, with an opening reception October 5. For more information, see

“I buy a piece from every artist we exhibit,” Alessandra said. “We want to encourage collecting as a personal endeavor, not just for the wealthy, but for everyone.” A fine thing to think about, as the gift-giving season approaches. And she left us with a gift, a poem to accompany her Rebirth.

Carving away, is just the beginning                 
By Alessandra Moctezuma, September 16, 2023

Carving away, each stroke methodical yet loose.
I whittle away grief that is shaped in so many ways. 
The birch wood like skin, the incisions like cuts. 
Tiny and deep, or long like gashes. 

Partners stand close, comrades in life.
Two figures connected in so many ways.
An arrow points, a circular embrace. 
We build together…a house in Papaaloa, 
Children and escapades to faraway places, 
Islands attract us, Newfoundland, Hawaii, Ireland, New Zealand.
Maybe because they seem abandoned in the middle of the ocean.

Twenty-seven years and you are gone.
I make a large woodcut, 3 x 4 feet. Organic gears
Turn and images emerge like automatic writing. 
Didn’t surrealists love lobsters? Freud hypothesized that
Artmaking is a great alternative to neurosis. 

Not a fun time, but I know I have to begin anew
The ladder right in the center, to climb out of the sadness.
A mirror, my lips closed, not saying or exclaiming, or shouting.

A pod descends and a tendril extends to plant new seeds. 
A rebirth, maybe, definitely a forced one. 
Floating in the arid landscape, a nautilus shell,
The hard shield that we build around us and 
That hides a vulnerable self. 

I want to be fearless, like I was 27 years ago. 
But then I realize that we are flotsam. 


Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has been writing about arts and lifestyles in San Diego County for over a dozen years. You can reach her at

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