YUKI SIROI: Berlin Muralist Comes to 360 Xochi Quetzal


ys1Yuki Siroi submitted a breathtaking application to 360 Xochi Quetzal that included a mural that she had painted in an abandoned building in Berlin. Although it is always hard to make resideny decisions, her intuitive Aztec imagery and original murals jumped her to the top of the finalists and eventually to our winners. Yuki is also our first European resident and you will enjoy reading her interview and seeing the progress of her Mexican murals. -dek


You are a Japanese muralist who divides her time between Berlin and Tokyo. Give us some more background about yourself as an artist and why it was important for you to attend a residency at this point in your career.

YS2I’ve been working as an illustrator in Berlin. Most of my works have been done on paper or screen. In 2012 I had chance to work on my first mural and I found it was challenging to paint large scale and develop new style of my art at the same time.

Visiting a new county as an artist has great meaning for my art practice, and provides me with much more daily intention and concentration. Traveling energizes me and also reinforces the idea that the art world is very large and interconnected. Being part of the community in a residency means involving yourself, interacting with others, creating ideas, and being more conscious of your own existence. I was hoping to break my daily routine by adapting to the local culture, communicating with new people and seeing how my visual language could surpass my current limits.

ys3How did you structure your time during your artist residency?

I didn’t plan any project before I travelled to Chapala, because I wanted to explore physical and emotional experiences inside the residency house and outside in the community. I also wanted to discover public spaces where I could present my art. I tried to absorb as much information as possible everyday and then figure out how I could communicate through my visual language.

How did you hear about 360 Xochi Quetzal and why did you choose to apply to a program in Mexico?

I found 360 Xochi Quetzal on the Res Artis website http://www.resartis.org/. I have been interested in tribal art since I started painting murals. Therefore I thought visiting Mexico would be a great opportunity to learn about Aztec culture and regional folk art and handcrafts.

YS4You haven’t been to North America before.  Tell us about how you found your way around Chapala and explored the region.

Loads of things were new to me such as the colorful houses, street dogs, nature, climate, and unpaved roads. I wasn’t able to speak Spanish, but Mexicans are very friendly. After few days it wasn’t necessary to be scared to talk to anyone.  Mexico is much less organized compared to my home country, which often made it more difficult to figure out how to get what I needed. But that was part of the adventure.

You were able to complete two murals during your residency. Your imagery is very Aztec. What are your creative sources and what ideas were you exploring?

YS5I have been studying patterns in nature and tribal arts. I visited the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City and Regional museums in Guadalajara where lots of art objects captured my attention. Through them I learned about the historical background, spiritual messages, and deeper meaning of primitive crafts. The imagery of my murals grew out of this study and the influence of the world around me in Chapala.

Your previous artist residency was in Berlin. How did this focused time in Mexico compare to that experience and how did it influence your work and thinking?

YS6During the artist residency in Berlin, I lived and worked with ten artists for three months. We had weekly programs and frequent deadlines to prepare presentations. There were always other people around to discuss or share my ideas.

In Chapala, I lived alone in a house and my schedule was entirely up to me. I challenged myself to concentrate on my work, make productive use of my time and create my own deadlines. It was great opportunity to practice self-discipline. The writer, Karen Lentz, was living in the other residency house where I painted the first mural and it was great to connect with her.

As a muralist, your work takes you into the community. Tell us about the people you met and things you learned.

YS7The first mural was located near the Chapala Malecon, which is a very busy street in a residential area. During the seven days I was working on the wall, I spoke to neighbors, parking workers, garbage collectors and the roaming Mariachi bands. Day by day I felt more involved in the local culture, and even learned some Spanish. During production, I met a Mexican man who introduced me to people at the Chapala city hall who paved the way to approving the second mural.

I painted the second mural at the Ajijic skateboard park, which was another small village by the lake a few towns away. I was able to easily travel there by bus. There were lots of youth and ex-pat Americans and Canadians who stopped by to watch my progress. Everyday I met new people from diverse backgrounds and found ways to connect and discuss different points of view.

What were some of the highlights of the residency and what parts were hard for you?

YS8As a Japanese, I learned many differences between our cultures. People in Mexico have more freedom than in other cities or countries. If I could speak Spanish, I would have had more of a chance to communicate with the local kids who enjoyed watching me while I was painting on the wall. One of the important things I realized during the residency was a heightened awareness about the connection between humans and nature. Being at the 360 Xochi Quetzal residency was definitely valuable and will lead to the next step for my art practice.

YS9How did the natural surroundings and lush colors of Mexico influence your work?

Most of the buildings in big cities tend to have sober colors. Here, homeowners could freely express their creativity and choose a wide range of colors that illuminated the streets. I loved the combination of vivid colors on the homes and gardens contrasted with the dusty streets and bright blue sky.  As a result of this influence, I decided use color for my first wall instead of just black and white.

YS10Some artists come to a residency with a particular creative game plan. Others just arrive open to whatever inspires them at the moment. How did you approach your residency and how did your studio time compare to what you anticipated?

Although I had a desire to paint a wall, I was open to whatever possibilities emerged. Luckily I already had permission to paint the wall of one of the residency houses before I arrived Mexico.  In the end I painted outside most of the time, but I also spent time in my studio sketching, doing yoga, and writing in my diary at night.

What else can you share about your residency experience? Were there any surprises?

YS11Although Mexico is a developing country, I never had a bad experience in Chapala.  People are very kind and educated. I had such a rich time and am so grateful to have experienced life in Mexico.

To read more about Yuki Shiroi, visit her website or Linked In page: http://www.yukinando.com/ and  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/yuki-shiroi/4/912/560

To read interviews with other residents of 360 Xochi Quetzal, please visit our website and read the blogs:




We were new to Mexico and had no idea what to expect from the Residency or Chapala. Both were delightful! I was able to work successfully on two projects that have been germinating for some time, and also enjoy the friendly, lovely and accessible town with its many colors and flavors. Our casita was comfortable, spacious and nicely furnished. It included a studio, patio and a private balcony perfect for an end-of-day cocktail. Deborah, Christian and colleagues were the perfect hosts who fostered a very satisfying creative experience in an environment that was at once stimulating and restful. Muchisimas gracias!

Diana Leidel, Visual Artist Brooklyn, NY

Our residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal was more than we had hoped for! The time and space to work, think, and explore–without deadlines or requirements–opened up our practice in a way we had not imagined. The town is lovely, easy to navigate, with everything within walking distance. The locals were so welcoming; we felt at home right away. Our accommodations in Lopez Cotilla were clean, comfortable and allowed both of us to have our own studio space. We really enjoyed quiet evenings on the patio watching the sun set over beautiful Chapala and meet ups with the other residents. Muchisimas gracias!

Suzanne Stroebe, Artist Bernard Cousins, Musician Brooklyn, NY

After a beautiful and adventurous journey from Europe, we found ourselves in a taxi descending the hills of Sierra de San Juan Cosala with the full moon reflected in the lake. The word “magia and maravilla” crossed my mind and I got goose bumps.

Chapala is indeed a magical place, colourful, charming and very safe with friendly people everywhere. We were blown away by the bird life, vegetation, architecture, which are so different from ours in Hungary.

Our casita was a for us: comfortable, well-equipped and authentically Mexican. The Residency Handbook answered all our questions before we even asked them. Cobra and Christian are very attentive and kind, and their hospitality was unmatchable.

Zsuzsa and Istvan visual artists from Hungary, Europe

As painting and writing residents during 2017, we both would like to thank you for the opportunity to be able to focus and collaborate on a project, entitled Immigrants. We had been thinking about it, had discussed it, but never quite got around to doing it until this residency. The atmosphere, encouragement, feedback and like-mindedness of all involved in Chapala gave us both the inspiration to move forward.

It was a productive and great experience for us both and we thank you.


Joyce and Hector DeCordova

I visited the 360 Xochi Quetzal Artist Residency in Chapala, Mexico for the entire month of April 2017.  It was a perfect retreat for me.  I loved watching the cowboys ride in on their horses.  My work flourished, inspired by the other visiting artists and the tranquil nature of the town.  I went to Ajijic and attended figure drawing and portrait sessions up to three times per week.  I made new friends and felt encouraged in my writing and art making.  I am so glad I had a chance to participate in this program. Chapala is a perfect place to get your work done with little distraction.

Anna Roach, Mixed Media-Seattle,WA

360 Xochi Quetzal was my first residency and I loved every bit of it. The opportunity to get away and single-task toward my writing instead of routinely multitasking was priceless. My studio was cute, clean, and well-equipped. Deborah and Sandra were very approachable, helpful, and I loved connecting with fellow-residents from different disciplines too. Most of all, the location of our residence across from the Malecón buzzing with artisans, vendors and restaurants offered to me just the right balance of isolation toward focused work and a community around. I hope to return soon.

Namrata Poddar, Writer-California

My time in Chapala was pivotal for me as a writer. You can’t understand the effect Chapala has until you arrive. Its splashes of color, rhythms and scenic beauty will inspire you. Scribbling away at Café Paris, locals ambling by, a cool glass of beer sweating on the table… I felt like Hemingway. This residency gave all that to me and more. It is a gift I continue to cherish; a feeling I look back on when in need of encouragement, inspiration, and motivation.

Sean Hammer, Writer – New York City

Everyone comes to the residency for different reasons. For me it was a time to reflect upon this whirlwind past year. I lead a hectic life and often feel like I run from exhibition to exhibition without time for contemplation. I really needed to slow down and think about the next direction for my work. I got that and a lot more! I finished two small projects and reveled in the beautiful environment. I was able see the Monarch butterfly migration and experience an indigenous fiesta with my fellow artists. I left the residency refreshed, with new friends and purpose!

Jenny Angus, Installation Artist - Madison, WI

I had no expectations when I headed to Mexico for a personal residency, and the entire experience was a wonderful surprise. I loved Chapala: its realness, its people, the lake, the restaurants, and especially my casita where I could work outside on the patio. I met wonderful people that made my trip even more enjoyable. I had no agenda as I worked, but I was pondering an exhibition for the following December.  I didn’t realize until I returned home and began working on the show in earnest how beneficial the weeks in Chapala were.  I will certainly return.  http://loribgoodman.com/

Lori Goodman, Artist – Eureka, CA

My personal residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal was wonderfully productive and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a creative project that requires some quiet, focused time.  The casita was lovely – spacious, fully furnished, very clean and stocked.  The residency hosts, Cobra and Christian, are welcoming, fun and engaging.  My casita was steps away from the Malecón and within walking or bike riding to Ajijic.  The locals are friendly and engaging-quick to suggest a favorite taco stand or even invite you to join them for a hike.  I will definitely be back!

Lenna Minion, Writer-Dubai

The 360 Xochi Quetzel Personal Residency Program was a perfect place for me to focus on my children’s book. I wanted an authentic Mexico experience where I would be submersed in the culture and language. Chapala was easy to get around and affordable. The Lopez Cotilla casita was cool, breezy and comfortable. It had everything I needed. I woke up in the morning to hummingbirds buzzing around a tree outside my window. Sunsets were beautiful from the outdoor terrace and an occasional dramatic thunderstorm just to let you know who is really in charge around here. Muchas Gracias!!

Kristin Balouch, Writer-Brooklyn, NY

We have one word to describe the our experience here at 360 Xochi Quetzal, and that is MAGIC! The casita is very spacious, allowing for lots of room to create. It is very comfortable and clean, and has everything you could possibly need for your personal residency. We especially enjoy spending time on the relaxing balcony. Cobra and Chris are available and very helpful. The Residency Handbook in the casita addresses all of our questions in detail and offers suggestions for things to try around the area. You will often hear live music in the early evening from the Malecon. It feels very safe here, and even more secure having the Red Cross right across the street. It has been a wonderful experience, and Kristen and I  would like to return each year.

Orion Kugel, Photographer-New Hampshire

We have one word to describe the our experience here at 360 Xochi Quetzal, and that is MAGIC! The casita is very spacious, allowing for lots of room to create. It is very comfortable and clean, and has everything you could possibly need for your personal residency. We especially enjoy spending time on the relaxing balcony. Cobra and Chris are available and very helpful. The Residency Handbook in the casita addresses all of our questions in detail and offers suggestions for things to try around the area. You will often hear live music in the early evening from the Malecon. It feels very safe here, and even more secure having the Red Cross right across the street. It has been a wonderful experience, and Orion and I would like to return each year.

Kristen Pobatschnig, Painter-New Hampshire
“Applying for the free Winter residency of Xochi Quetzal was the start of many positive transformations. The silence I found for myself during the residency, allowed me not only to write the best last chapter I can write at this stage of my evolution, it also granted me a most sought-after introspection moment during which I read my dreams and studied ancient Eastern writings. The serenity of the lake and presence of other artists inspired me to get mentally ready and organized for my future as a novelist. I am particularly fond of spending the holidays abroad with ‘strangers’. It always infuses me with these wild insights and whims. Our group was just lovely, the artists one by one very interesting. Cobra and Christian are warm and graceful hosts who made life easy. All in all, Xochi Quetzal was a weighty meditation, a poetic experience that carried me through the rest of Mexico in newness and will resonate long after.”
Heidi Souffriau, Writer-Brussels
“I was partly inspired to apply for the Xochi Quetzal residency by The Retro Cocktail Hour — a popular Saturday night radio show on Kansas Public Radio 91.5 that features exotica music (a form of tropical jazz).  My hope was for the palm trees,  lakeside sunrises, and culture of Chapala & Mexico at large to inform my creative process.  These elements did precisely that, and the generous hospitality of Cobra & her partner Christian provided me with a cozy composing environment.”
Note from Staff: Listen to the music created during Andrew’s residency -Winter 2016
Andrew Morgan, Composer-Lawrence, KS

Chapala is a safe, spiritually charged, beautiful place. Wild horses run through town.  It’s a place where you greet strangers on the street.

I walked along the lake in meditation a great deal. I hiked the looming cerro overlooking town. I biked all over the countryside. I wrote, documented, created composed soundscapes utilizing field recordings, and built small maquette light sculptures based on my experiences. I attended traditional temazcals, and sat alone in cathedrals.

It was pivotal for me in a spiritual sense more than a career advancing experience. I’m very grateful for it, and Deborah Kruger is a wonderful advocate to keep in contact with. I truly recommend the residency.

Justin R. Lytle, Sculptor-California

My residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal in summer 2015 was both restorative and productive.  I was inspired by the beautiful studio and the surrounding Chapala  / Jalisco region.  The setting worked well for me in terms of inspiring and completing new work, and learning the history and customs of the area.  The flexible residency requirements allowed an easy engagement with other residents, and encouraged me to participate in Chapala and Guadalajara communities.  There are many contemporary art venues in Guadalajara, which are an easy bus ride from Chapala.

Michael Pribich, Sculptor-New York City

“Not only was this residency situated in one of the most beautifully mystical, culturally resonant, and stimulating settings imaginable, it also managed to be both peaceful and galvanizing: the perfect combination for immersing oneself in a creative project without hesitation or distraction. Deborah and Christian’s home was an oasis. One of my fellow residents remarked to me that “this place has amazing energy for getting work done,” and I wholeheartedly agree: the atmosphere seemed to hum with a low-key, generative productivity, one that helped me get closer than I’d been in many months to actually fully realizing and finishing a long story. I wish I was still there among the bougainvillea, the jade vines, the dogs and the pelicans.”

Suzanne K. Rivecca, Author-San Francisco, CA

Chapala has become my home away from home. The Xochi Quetztal residency is run efficiently. Cobra and her team are friendly, accessible, and professional. My stay in Chapala is enhanced by the personal relationships I have developed with several of the team members. The casita I stay in is very well maintained and fully equipped. The studio area is large and ready for me to engage in art as soon as I arrive.  The weather is always fantastic. The lake, the town(s), the life, the restaurants, the view, the very friendly local people all call me back again and again. I love it!

Zahava Sherez, Sculptor-Oakland, CA

“This was the most work I’ve ever done in a single month in my life. I will never forget what an incredible experience this was and I thank you for honoring me with a residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal. The reference material I gathered throughout the trip to Chapala, Mexico is going to fuel my work for years to come. Thank you for everything! You run an incredible residency program!!!”

Santiago Galeas, Painter-Philadelphia, PA