When we finally made our dream come true by buying the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, we wanted to decorate it with things we enjoyed and with art we found interesting and unique. Over the last couple of years we have collected the works of various artists with local connections and placed them in the rooms and around the grounds. Here are some of the artists that have helped make the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden such a special part of Playa Del Carmen.
Our favorite artist is our friend Barry Launius, an award-winning artist specializing in paintings of the Caribbean, its islands and its coastal areas. Like most visitors here, Barry fell in love with the physical beauty of Playa del Carmen and the surrounding coastline. With amazing skill, he began to reproduce the extraordinary seascapes that he saw here. Painting in oil and watercolor, his vivid colors perfectly capture the beautiful joining of sea and sky. He often shows the sea as if the viewer were walking up and discovering it through palm trees and tropical flowers, being drawn down onto the beach and into that clear blue water. We have many of Barry’s oils and watercolors hanging in our home here in Playa, and are currently adding several watercolors to rooms at the Luna Blue. In fact, every time Barry and his wife Phyllis come to visit, we joke that we’re going to have to add on to our house to create more wall space for the paintings that we can’t stop ourselves from buying! In addition we have a number of Barry’s paintings reproduced on ceramic tiles that have been set into the walls around our hotel and bar. We’re also happy to announce that Barry’s artwork will be decorating the cover of the May 19 issue of Travel Weekly magazine, featuring “the Best of the Caribbean.” If you’d like to see more of Barry’s work, check out his website at caribbeancolors.com.
We also enjoy the work of Henry Valdez Ceballos. Henry is a local Playa del Carmen artist with a growing reputation. He specializes in art of the Taino culture, a pre-Hispanic Caribbean society. Henry fuses ancient symbols with bright Caribbean colors and tactile materials of many sorts into large canvases. There is a feeling of space surrounding primitive symbols. Some creations are abstract, others more realistic, and all touch the viewer with a sense of timelessness. We have one of Henry’s pieces hanging in our house as well as several in the rooms at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden. You can find Henry’s art at the gallery directly across the street from Hotel Lunata on Fifth Avenue between Calles 6 and 8.
In our treetop terrace rooms we also have two wonderful large oil paintings that our guests seem to enjoy. One is of a beautiful bikini-clad woman rising out of a sea of red, and the other is of a golden haired beauty sleeping on a cloudy, star-filled night sky. Both were done by an Italian ex-pat artist, Lallian. We thought the ethereal mood created by these portraits fit perfectly with the ambiance of our rooms above the trees.
Of course art is not limited to a framed picture you can hang on the wall. Inspired by the work of legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, and by the Mayan legends of a beautiful jungle goddess Xtabay (Eesh-ta-buy) we asked local artist Omar Gonzalez D’Leon to paint a mural on the wall of our cenote garden. Omar had previously created the three-dimensional Luna Blue logo on the wall of our bar. He did such an amazing job on that project we felt confident he would design something special for us. We were not disappointed. Within a few days Omar had painted a gorgeous rendition of a beautiful girl standing beneath a blue moon waiting to lure people into the magic of the tropical night.
Also in our garden you will find the unique stone terrace we designed. The terrace is in the shape of a circle, the ancient symbol for the sky and the universe. It is made entirely of stone taken from the quarries near the Mayan temple in Cobá, the same source used by Mayan builders centuries ago. Within the circle are seven black stones set in the pattern of the constellation Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters. The design is an homage to the Mayan people who believed that their ancestors descended from those stars to start their people’s history back before recorded time.
Of course art can also be useful, as we discovered when we asked a young local carpenter, Benjamin Aguilar, to design and build some handmade furniture for us. He built some hardwood cabinets in our bar and some larger storage units for our bodega (storeroom). He did such a great job we asked if he could make some chairs for the deck area. We showed him some pictures of traditional Adirondack chairs and he brought us back his own version. They are comfortable, interesting to look at, and painted in various shades of the same blues and greens we see each morning on the Caribbean Sea. We decided Benjamin is not just a carpenter, he is an artist.
Another bit of functional art at the Luna Blue are the gourd lamps that serve as the light fixtures in the reception area and outside many of the rooms. Of course, everybody has gourd lamps in Playa del Carmen. When you walk down Fifth Avenue, practically every other store offers them for sale. But we had some of ours specially made by our friend Domingo Rodriguez. Domingo is the owner of Bone Art Place, located on Calle 8 between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue (across from Yax-che), where he sells jewelry that he designs and carves out of stone and bone. For many years, when we were visitors to Playa del Carmen, some of our favorite gifts for friends back home were jewelry pieces created by Domingo. He and his wife also design and create gourd lamps. When we decided to add some new gourd lamps to the hotel, we gave some designs and ideas to Domingo who promptly turned them into works of art. Whether he’s working carving bone or hollowing out a gourd, he is one of Playa’s premier artists.
Finally, one of our most recent decorative additions is our own idea and work. We were thumbing through a magazine on a recent airplane flight and saw an ad for stencils of various words—peace, love, etc.—that could be painted on walls for decoration. That inspired us to paint quotations on the walls of our hotel rooms. We have always felt that our guests were a special breed of tourist…travelers who enjoyed the spirit and adventure of a journey. We wanted our hotel to reflect that feeling. We chose 18 special quotes about the love of travel from such diverse sources as Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne; Douglas Adams, the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; nineteenth century philosopher Henry David Thoreau and many others. We had stencils created back in the US and then used them here in Playa del Carmen to paint these inspirational sayings onto the walls of our rooms. We love how they turned out and the spirit they invoke.
We think of the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden not just as a business but also as an extension of ourselves, our view of the world and our feelings about life. We’ve chosen art that makes us feel good and that we hope is pleasing to our guests and friends. Next time you’re in Playa, please stop by to take a look at the Luna Blue Hotel, Garden and art gallery.
Here is some more of our favorite artists’ work:
More paintings by our friend Barry Launius:
A necklace carved of stone by Domingo Rodriguez, owner of the Bone Art Place:
Red bikini girl in Treetop Terrace room #9:
The Luna Blue logo, carved in cement by Omar Gonzalez D’Leon