Monday, 4 November 2013

Mexican folk art dynasty

Josefina Aguilar Frida Kahlo Clay Figurine Mexican Folk Art

El Dia de los Muertos has been celebrated throughout
Mexico and I'm thrilled to imagine the maze of ofrendas,
marigolds, sugar skulls and colorful clay figures filling
the streets of the village of Ocotlán de Morelos, near
Oaxaca, which is known as the home of fine artists such
as painter Rodolfo Morales and the Aguilar sisters who
are internationally known for the whimsical ceramic
figures they create. It all started almost fifty years ago
when Dona Isaura Alcántara Diaz lifted her work from
producing utilitarian day-to-day pots to devise a delightful
variety of red clay figures with the help of her husband,
Jesús Aguilar Revilla who sketched 
and painted the new designs.

Guillermina at work
Day of the Dead figure by Guillermina
Training with clay since their childhood, Dona Isaura's
four daughters - Guillermina, Josefina, Irene and
Concepción - learned their parents' art developing
through the years a unique style. They carry on the
labor-intensive craft (they have to dig clay then come
the drying, sifting and kneading before carving,
kiln-baking and painting)
that involves the whole
family but most remarkably, they came to inspire in
turn their own children and grandchildren 
establishing a dynasty of gifted artists.

Earthenware water pitcher by Guillermina
Josefina's typical woman figure
Although Dona Isaura never received the recognition
she deserved, the Aguilar sisters are probably Mexico's
most beloved folk artists whose art is deeply influenced
by the cultural richness of pueblo life: traditions, myths
and legends, cultural and religious rituals like the just
gone Day of the Dead. These fully accomplished
artisans gained worldwide acclaim thanks to colorful,
often humorous handcrafted figures with 
a quitessential Mexican spirit.

Mercaderas (part) by Josefina
one of Josefina's Fridas
Guillermina began as a child making basins (apaxtels)
and incense burners (braseros) for Dia de los Muertos
altars and candle holders for local churches soon
developing a distinctive taste for sculptural pieces
and exotic creatures like mermaids, depicting Oaxacan
folklore and daily life scenes. She also creates 
impressive one-meter-high trees of life, bells 
with animal heads and stunning water jugs.

Irene with one of her mermaids
complex allegorical artwork by Irene
Josefina's skill was noticed when she was still young;
nowadays she's considered a master whose works
can be seen in several museums and are widely
collected. Her muñecas (human figures) of both
male and female gender, all bearing little pointed
noses as a trademark, consist of a series of tableaux
vivants representing scenes and rituals of everyday's
village life as well as religious rites but she's mostly
known for her women carrying on the head 
baskets of fruit, flowers and birds.

Irene's take on Frida
Virgen de Guadalupe by Concepción
Irene Aguilar Alcántara is known for her individual
often complex pieces of musicians, demons, monks,
”ladies of the night”, enamorados, catrinas (the famous
grinning skeletal lady) and fruteros (fruit bowls) but she
also creates sculptural artworks like complex market
scenes. However, she's proud of her 
brightly colored mermaids.

Two skeleton 'Women of the Nopal Cactus' by Concepción
Concepción's radiant Fridas
The youngest sister, Concepción, was just nine when
Dona Isaura died without passing on her knowledge
so she learnt by imitating her three sisters. Working
with her husband Jorge Sánchez Ruiz and finding
inspiration in nature, she's known for her graceful,
elegantly detailed figures of virgins, flower women
and animals, Noah's arks or the skeleton women of
the Nopal Cactus series. Concepción, exatcly like
her older sisters, creates meaningful 'Fridas' paying
a deferential homage to the greatest 
Mexican female artist, Frida Kahlo.

complex artwork by Lorenzo Demetrio García Aguilar
The Aguilar family time-honored ceramic workshops
in Ocotlán are living archives of the indigenous culture
iconography, including the works of Lorenzo Demetrio
García Aguilar, Josefina's son, who made a name for
himself by pushing the limits of the traditional art creating 
detailed allegorical works with a more sculptural character
featuring extremely detailed textures of rocks, waves
and greenery but the unbroken history of the Aguilars 
proudly lingers on through the works of José Francisco
García Vásquez, Josefina's grandson, who keeps alive
the family tradition in each of his pieces.

artwork by José Francisco García Vásquez

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for posting these incredible works of art for Dia de los Muertos.