Category Archives: Folk Art

The Virgin of Guadalupe Photo Essay: From Primitive to Painterly

The Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City is featuring a special exhibition about the Virgin of Guadalupe.  The images include primitive figures in carved wood, elaborate paintings and wood carvings from church altars, woven and embroidered textiles, and contemporary 2016 photographs by Federico Gama taken at the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Why am I so taken with this exhibition? Certainly not from a religious point-of-view, but from one interested in the cultural expression of this great nation. The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico’s own, personal patron saint.

To me, she is a woman of strength and valor, able to transform and uplift a nation. She is Mother Earth, fertility and blessing. Her figure transcends and tricks the Spanish overlord. She is disguised as and more than the Virgin Mary. Her roots are indigenous. She belongs to the people.

I am also taken with the various artistic expressions of her figure, how she is depicted: from facial expressions, use of color and shadows on the folds of her gown, the portrayal of the angel at her feet, from simple to elaborate. It seems that everyone had their own version of the Virgin of Guadalupe vision.

As my friend, artist Lena Bartula says, In Guad We Trust. 

Virgin of Guadalupe Exvoto

I hope you enjoy this visual expression of Mexican life.

Stone church carving

Ceramic plate from Patzcuaro

A Federico Gama portrait

Even the Virgin wants us to drink Pepsi

Close up of the angel, 18th century

A book engraving

One artist’s version with apparitions and flowers

Another version with a different cloak and coloring

Note the more elaborate Mexican flag on the angel’s wings

A polychrome figure, perhaps from Oaxaca

A Federico Gama portrait at the Basilica de Guadalupe

Inlaid oyster shell portrait

Exvoto, giving thanks to the Virgin for a car purchase

Embroidered textile, huipil

Ceramic and alpaca metal from Guadalajara

A primitive painting, every bit as meaningful

Formalized altar construction

 

 

Feria del Barro Rojo del San Marcos Tlapazola 2018: Red Clay Pottery Fair

Who wants to join me for lunch in San Marcos Tlapazola tomorrow, Saturday, July 14? I’ll be there by 11 a.m. in time to see Lila Downs, the madrina (patron) of the celebration, cut the ribbon for the official opening.

This is the third year of the festival and each year it grows bigger. In addition to selling the specialty ceramics of the village — the beautiful red clay dinnerware and accessories — you can dance, eat, take photos, drink atole and mezcal, buy aprons, and just overall enjoy the festivities.

My own Teotitlan del Valle kitchen has a shelf of red clay dinnerware made by Macrina Mateo Martinez, one of the more famous artisans.

San Marcos is located in the hills about 20 minutes above Tlacolula. You could combine this with a visit to the Sunday market, too.

I took the photos below in 2015, the year I separated from my wasband, still deciding how I would spell my new last name which is a derivative of my mother’s maiden name (in case you were wondering why the names don’t match!).

Red clay pottery, San Marcos Tlapazola, photo by Norma Schafer

Fueling the kiln at San Marcos, photo by Norma Schafer

Portrait of a potter, San Marcos Tlapazola, photo by Norma Schafer

Mujeres del Barro Rojo, San Marcos Tlapazola, photo by Norma Schafer

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico Consignment & Thrifty Shopping: The List

Driving from Denver, Colorado, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, with stops back and forth in Taos and Abiquiu–Ghost Ranch (to pay homage to Georgia O’Keeffe), I am constantly reminded that this land was once Mexico.  The landscape reminds me of Oaxaca: expansive with arroyos, crevices, looming 12,000 foot mountains, scrub oak, sign posts telling of land grants established soon after the Spanish Conquest.

My pilgrimage to visit friends along the way embellished my road trip adventure on the back roads of America’s Southwest. In Taos, my friend Winn gave me a list of thrift and consignment shops to visit in Santa Fe. She said sometimes there is Native American jewelry, too. That hooked me!

This is especially interesting since Santa Fe is that eclectic mix of old-timers who have been there for forty years (and collected a few things), and socialites who come for the summer season. They might be oil and gas heiresses from Texas and Oklahoma who seek a milder summer climate. They come for the opera and the markets: International Folk Art Market, Spanish Market, and Indian Market.

They shop on the Plaza at Santa Fe Dry Goods filled with Euro-designer labels, attend galas, frequent cocktail parties, and then shed barely worn attire. Here’s where these clothes end up:

Gaspeite and Sterling Silver Navajo bracelet, thrift shop find

  1. Artifact. 930 Baca St., Santa Fe. (505) 982-5000. I found a vintage Navajo sterling silver cuff inlaid with gaspeite, and a brand-new skirt hot off the rack from the Plaza at a fraction of its original price.
  2. The Beat Goes On. 333 Montezuma Ave., Santa Fe. 505-982-7877. Here, the discovery is a Peter Nygaard jacket and a raspberry colored crinkle top. Score! This shop is around the corner from …
  3. Doubletake. 320 Aztec St. at the corner of Guadalupe St., Santa Fe. (505) 989 – 8886. This shop is in two parts: amazing Native American jewelry, accessories and furniture; and clothing.
  4. Look What the Cat Dragged In. 2570 Camino Entrada. This shop benefits the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. I never made it here! Hopefully you will. Let me know what you think.

If you are destined for Santa Fe this summer to volunteer or attend the International Folk Art Market (or any of the others), you might find this bonus thrifty shopping itinerary worthwhile.  I did!

 

Folk Art Makers in Oaxaca Artisan Villages: Kinship, Work and Compensation

I subscribe to a website named academia.edu that recently published a paper by Alanna Cant, an academic from Kent University, United Kingdom. Dr. Cant spent almost a decade studying and writing about the relationship between the owners of a large, successful wood carving and painting workshop in San Martin Tilcajete and the people who are employed there making alebrijes.

The article is important because it expands understanding about how folk art gets made and marketed, who gets recognition for the work, and a different form of compensation. It emphasizes how the importance of family relationships and kinship take priority over economic independence and personal recognition for artisan work.

Read it here: ‘Making’ Labour in Mexican Artisanal Workshops

We learn from this that making a name for oneself and making money is not the primary driver for most people who live in community.

It’s very important for us not to judge by our own standards, but to observe and understand the differences and similarities between cultures.

In many small villages throughout Oaxaca, in fact throughout Mexico, safety, security and economic well-being depends on mutual support. These practices are ancient and deep, embedded in tribal relationships rooted in loyalty and commitment. It is far more important for many talented crafts-people to support strong family relationships than it is for them to break away and start their own enterprise.

I’m not a cultural anthropologist, yet I extrapolate that this may be the norm in many villages of weavers, potters and embroiderers. Cooperatives are usually extensions of family units of parents, children, aunts, uncles and cousins — a social organization that differs in practice from co-ops in the USA. Producing quantities of artisan-made work depends on more than a few pairs of hands.

If you are a collector or appreciator of Mexican craft, this article may interest you. It will give you insight into the making of Mexican folk art and how indigenous communities are able to survive and support each other over 8,000 years of existence.

Their experience is very different from ours. Entrepreneurship and commercial success, too, comes at a cost as television and the internet make the world of things more important than the world of people.

 

North Carolina Hosts Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Weaver with Two Trunk Shows

Omar Chavez Santiago is a fifth generation weaver from Teotitlan del Valle who works in natural dyes. His family operates Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca city. I asked my Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) to alert the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City that Omar was coming on March 1, 2018,  for his visa interview. Few are successful. Omar received a 10-year visitor visa. He is here and we are excited.

Omar Chavez Santiago explains natural dyes in Oaxaca, Mexico

Wendy Sease, owner of INDIO Durham, will host Omar this weekend for a Mexico Art & Textile Trunk Show. Thank you, Wendy. Please come!

FIRST TRUNK SHOW — INDIO DURHAM

SECOND TRUNK SHOW — ECHOVIEW FIBER MILL, WEAVERVILLE

Thanks to Judi Jetson from Local Cloth and Grace Casey-Gouin from Echoview Fiber Mill, for hosting us in the Asheville area. Please let your NC mountain friends know!

Preparing the cochineal dye bath, Teotitlan del Valle

Getting the most intense red possible! Straining the bugs.

Bamboo bobbins with natural dyed wool, ready to weave