A hundred chilangos

How many Mexicans can a foreigner meet in two weeks? That was an arbitrary question that Jason Schell asked himself before embarking on his current art project. Schell — who hails from Pennsylvania, but has lived in the D.F. since 2008 — got a taxi driver’s license and tooled around the city for 14 days. Needless to say, each one of his passengers asked what a gringo was doing driving a taxi in Mexico City.

This was his chance to explain that he is a painter and wanted to do a series of portraits of 100 chilangos. About half of the people he drove let him take their photo, and signed a release allowing him to later do their portrait. He is currently about halfway through the series of paintings.

His best passengers were old men, who liked to tell their stories and always left tips. Older women tended to be mistrustful and wouldn’t allow him to take their picture. A prostitute, on her way to an assignation, suggested that her face was not her best feature and that perhaps he’d like to a more complete photograph. A drunken passenger wouldn’t tell Schell exactly where he was going, and kept asking him questions along the lines of, “Does your family know where you are?” and “Will your friends miss you when you’re gone?” The artist was sure that he had a serial killer in the back seat, and luckily was able to ditch him when the man had to go pee.

When he is not driving a cab, Schell teaches graphic design at the American School. He has exhibited in both the U.S. and Mexico, and in fact, you can see some of his work in two metro stations. He hopes that when he finishes the portrait series that they will be exhibited in different parts of the country and eventually find a permanent home in Mexico City.

Here’s a link to a video with more information about the taxi project.

9 thoughts on “A hundred chilangos

  1. Jorge Canavati - April 8, 2014


  2. Jorge Canavati - April 8, 2014


  3. Anne Geyer - April 8, 2014

    Wow! This is great. What an amazing guy and what a creative idea! I have two questions: How many of the 100 chilangos has he already painted? Which metro stations are hosting his exhibits? (And do you know how long they’ll be up?

  4. Jason - April 8, 2014

    David, I just saw this. I really enjoyed our talk the other day and am glad to see it was useful for your blog!
    Anne, I’ve rendered 46 portraits at this moment…though I’m taking a short break from the series while I prepare for a solo exposition I have in Pittsburgh this summer. The two murals I have (both permanent) are in metro Salto del Agua and metro Viveros.

  5. Andrew Paxman - April 8, 2014

    Fascinating project – congrats to Jason. Since meeting him last summer I’ve been looking forward to seeing his work on public display. So glad to see it come to fruition.

  6. Florentino - April 8, 2014

    This is crazy but really, really fun and most creative. I had never, never imagined a gringo driving a taxi in Mexico City, but I have to remember that everything is possible in Mexico. Saludos.

  7. Andrew Godon - April 8, 2014

    Very much like the artwork. Captures the ambiance of life in DF beautifully. Makes me very nostalgic for it, longing to return.

  8. Barry Carr - April 8, 2014

    Congratulations to Jason on what looks like a wonderfully innovative project which also produces great art. I look forward to seeing the paintings on my next visit to Mexico.

  9. Nancy - April 11, 2014

    Thank you David for writing this and introducing me to Jason’s work.

    Jason, I love your work. As a Mexican it fills me with joy to see my fellow countrymen captured in a true light and not in the stereotype so many see us as. Your art is so real, beautiful and touching. I hope to one day see your work in person. Best of luck and continued success to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *