Tag Archives: sculpture

Oaxaca Folk Art: Jose Garcia Antonio Ceramic Figures

Jose Garcia Antonio, one of Oaxaca’s best clay sculptors, participated in the 2014 International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this July. This is no small accomplishment. This juried exhibition invites only the most accomplished artisans from all over the world to show and demonstrate their craft.

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Last Friday, we drove out to San Antonino Castillo Velasco as part of an all-day excursion to celebrate my friend Carol’s birthday. She wanted our first stop to be with Don Jose.

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It’s dark inside the studio, atmospheric. Don Jose works intuitively, feels the clay, feels his wife’s face, the faces of his children and grandchildren. He inspires creativity for those with physical limitations.

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While we were there, he received a call from TV Azteca in Oaxaca. They wanted to come out to interview and film him that afternoon. He is becoming very famous.

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I remember going to his studio years ago when not many knew about him and he was far off the beaten path, long before tour guides had him on their radar to bring clients there.

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I remember when we drove into the entrance of San Antonino and inquired from a moto-taxi driver if he knew where Don Jose lived. We paid the driver 10 pesos to lead us there.

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I remember when I bought a life-size figure of a Juchitan woman carrying a basket on her head, hips swaying, braids hanging, skirt flowing, knowing she was too heavy to ever bring back to the USA, and putting her in the home of friends until the Oaxaca home I was to live in was completed — years later.

Each time I visit Don Jose Garcia Antonio, I am amazed how his magic hands inspire and create work his eyes cannot see. Each time, I am tempted to add something to my collection. This time, it was a pig planter, which my travel mates called Wilbur.

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His daughter, Sara, makes expressive clay face-mask planters to hang on a wall. All the children work the clay. The grandchildren are growing up in this clay culture, shaping simple figures of butterflies, mermaids, and winged angels. Small treasures to pack into suitcases to remember the artist, his family and the experience of being in the arts and artisans mecca of Oaxaca.

How to Find Jose Garcia Antonio: Turn into the village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  Turn right on Calle Independencia. Turn left at the first street. Go several blocks. Look on the left side of the street for the clay lion on the roof. There you are!

 

Don Jose Garcia Antonino: In the Pottery Studio

If you blink you will miss the turn-off to the village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, just before arriving in Ocotlan de Morelos, where our friend Don Jose Garcia, known as the blind potter, lives and works. Some years ago, Don Jose developed cataracts and without expensive treatment, he lost most of his vision.

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Along with his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law, the family studio is a folk art haven for primitive pottery fired in a wood kiln that represents, for the most part, Don Jose’s vision of Oaxaca village life. He has magic hands and has taught his family well.

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Usually, people make this visit on busy Ocotlan market day Friday. Yesterday, Tuesday, it was quieter and we had the route to ourselves, except for the occasional donkey straying onto the highway.  During our visit we discovered hidden treasures: sculpted bulls, marigold decorated planters, face urns, regal figures of Tehuana women carrying bouquets of lilies, pregnant mermaids and proud couples entangled in dance.

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I always love bringing Oaxaca visitors here. The family appreciates the support and people are always mesmerized by the creativity. There are plenty of small things that aren’t too heavy that can be wrapped and brought home in a suitcase. I guarantee you will love the mermaids playing musical instruments and the jumble of clay figures everywhere.

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Allow a full day to go, return, visit and have lunch at Azucenas Zapotecas in San Martin Tilcajete.  You will want to stop at the women’s cooperative in San Antonino to browse the intricately embroidered blouses, at the wood-carving studios in San Martin Tilcajete, and look at Rodolfo Morales‘ stunning murals in the Ocotlan municipal building. If you have time, visit Abigail Mendoza in Santo Tomas Jalieza, too.

How to get there:  Travel down the Ocotlan highway.  Pass San Martin Tilcajete, the wood carving village. Turn right at the sign for San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Go to Libertad and turn right.  Turn left on Independencia.  Look for #24 painted on the door. On the roof are two large clay lions to guard the gate.  Knock hard!

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Shop Mexico–Josefina Aguilar Clay Figures, Oaxaca

Here is an amazing assortment from my personal collection of Josefina Aguilar clay figures for sale. Josefina is from Ocotlan, Oaxaca, and creates clay sculptures in herr home pottery studio on the road leading into town. She is famed for her whimsical interpretation of the world, including the life of Frida Kahlo.  I also have a few pieces for sale by her sister Guillermina, equally talented who lives right next door. What’s amazing is that I got all these back to the U.S. intact, whole, with no cracks or broken pieces!

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1. Calavera Lady with Purple Boa. $165. Signed Josefina Aguilar.  She stands almost 12″ high.  Blue umbrella is attached.  The boa is a series of purple glittery petals, and the detail work is extraordinary. In perfect collectible condition. Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It includes excellent packing.

 

 

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2.  To the right, Foxy Lady of the Night with Glitter Dress and Red Hair.  $95. Signed Josefina Aguilar. She is wearing a fox boa — indeed you can see the fox head and tail!  Her fingernails are painted bright red to match her hair.  The glitter is shimmering purple, and she sports a yellow flower in her hair.  Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It does include excellent packing.

 

Aguilar_42313_Frida-53.  Serene Woman with Flowers and Bowl on Her Head. $95.  Signed G.A.A. (Guillermina Aguilar). Stands almost 13″ high.   Stunning sculptural figure in natural clay, unpainted, holding a water bowl on her head.  The bowl is filagreed and is balanced and held on the head by two metal prongs that protrude from the clay braid.  The flowers and stars that decorate her body are also solidly held by metal rods that are baked into the clay. Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It does include packing.

Aguilar_42313_Frida-6 4.  Day of the Dead Calavera with Flowers and Bowl, $50.  Signed G.A.A. (Guillermina Aguilar) 9-1/2″ tall in natural clay.  That bowl rests securely on her head. She is a wonderful representation of the lightheartedness by which Oaxacans celebrate this October holiday — with marigold flowers, lots of good food and fond memories of their departed loved ones.  Price includes packing.  Does not include shipping or insurance.

 

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5.  Frida Kahlo with Three Monkeys.  $60. Josefina Aguilar.  I loved the sculptural quality of this piece which is why I bought it at Josefina’s studio before she painted and signed it.  Any collector would recognize it as pure Josefina just by the sculpting of the nose!  You can see how she attaches the pieces of the leaves and monkeys to the body with slip clay because this is a different color from the clay body.  Price includes packing. It does not include shipping or insurance.

Please send me an email to let me know you want a piece BEFORE you make a PayPal payment.  Include your shipping address and let me know if you want insurance.  I will confirm it is still available and send you an invoice based on your location and desire for insurance.  Thank you.

Jose Garcia Antonino, Oaxaca Folk Art Sculptor

For many years now, I have made it a practice to regularly visit the sculpture and pottery studio-workshop-home of Jose Garcia Antonio.  We call him “Don Jose,” an honorific that testifies to his folk art talent working with clay.  Last week, three of us hired a taxi for an all-day excursion into the Ocotlan valley.  Roberta had commissioned a sculpture for her Teotitlan del Valle rooftop garden and we set out to retrieve it.

Don Jose is blind from cataracts, yet his hands feel the wet clay and create primitive works of beauty that are in museum and private collections.  His wife Teresa Mendoza Sanchez is his muse and helpmate.  It is her image that is reflected in his work.  Almost all of his robust depictions of women have her features and signature beauty mark.

His work is recognized in the Grandes Maestros de Arte Popular de Oaxaca Art (Great Masters of Oaxaca Folk Art), a book produced by Banamex Foundation and supported by the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation. (I was at the presentation but missed getting a book because I was too busy talking! Now, I can’t seem to find one anywhere.)

He proudly showed us his copy of the book signed by all the dignitaries who were there: Philanthropist Alfredo Harp Helu, Dra. Isabel Grañen Purrua, Governor Gabino Cue, and other notables.  I saw him from a distance accept this treasure, an official recognition of his life’s work.  His children have also been acknowledged for their creativity in Arden Rothstein’s book about the new generation of talent coming out of the villages.

 

Jose and Teresa’s home is tucked away beyond the church in San Antonino Castillo Velasco behind a tall gate.  You would never know the treasure trove that awaits you by looking from the street.

   

To get there, you turn right on Castillo Velasco at the sign that directs you into the pueblo from the Ocotlan road.  Then you go straight until you get to the street before the church and turn right.  (If you go right up to the church, the only way you can go is left, so pay attention.)  Turn left at the next street, Calle Libertad, and continue for a few blocks until you see the clay cow and pig on the roof.   Tel. (951) 539-6473.

The next generation: Jose and Maria’s daughter is an excellent sculptor as well. And, a footnote: Because I’m now able to live here many more months out of the year, I went ahead and acquired the pretty clay woman with the braids and bowl on her head, hanging on to her skirts, above left.  As with most primitive folk art, these pieces are delightful, whimsical, and reflective of the cultural art traditions.  They are also very heavy.  Shipping and crating would be a bloody fortune!

 

Artist’s Studio: Mauricio Cervantes, Oaxaca, Mexico

There is a robust contemporary art scene in Oaxaca that is rooted in the Mexican art traditions of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros with influences by Francisco Toledo, Oaxaca’s living art treasure.  Mauricio Cervantes is one of the new generation who taps deeply into his cultural history.

  

Hidden behind a peacock-blue facade on Avenida Benito Juarez near the corner of Murguia in the historic district of Oaxaca, Mexico, is the studio and home of artist Mauricio Cervantes.  I reach for the polished brass knocker shaped like a hand that adorns the door painted glossy iron red.  Its placement on the door is high and off-center.  Even the black stain of soot from spent candles on the entry wall is artful like a stencil of feathers or apparition.

Mauricio and I are acquainted through a mutual friend who introduced us last year.  Recently, he invited me to visit and I accepted this chance to know him better through his work. He is preparing for a show that will open on April 19 at Heskin Contemporary art gallery in Chelsea, New York City, and his studio is abuzz with assistants.

We sit comfortably at either end of a sofa in a great room that combines kitchen, dining and gathering area.  Most of the rooms that frame the central patio of the historic adobe home are given over to studio space.  A pot of stew simmers on the stove.  I ask Mauricio to tell me about the ingredients of his work. Bundles of cempazuchitl line the horizontal space behind the food preparation area. Hammering and sanding are background music.

“I paint time and antiquity,” says Mauricio.  “I am in love with the rust patina of ancient frescoes and facades.”  Antiquity to Mauricio does not mean history with dates, names of heroes or places of import.  It is conceptual and mythical, an undefined archetypical expression of space and time open to interpretation.

Forms float suspended, anchored on tiles of concrete that are prepared in a style called baldosas hidrolicas.  This is a type of fresco technique but instead of using wet plaster, he uses acids, oil paint and sometimes gold leaf.  Mauricio points to one of his works hanging in the kitchen, explaining that it is a portrait of a family.  In another piece, he describes what could be interpreted as a procession, a dream sequence, or a partner relationship.  His work feels introspective.  From deep within he extracts subterranean figures that are intertwined and relational, as if they were one.

Trained in classical painting, etching and drawing techniques at UNAM in Mexico City, Mauricio remembers that his professors were excellent artists, engravers and painters.  The fine, sharp edges in his work are reminiscent of an engraving.

  

As a child growing up in Puebla, Mauricio was influenced by his Swiss-German teachers, who were interested in anthropology, art and literature.  He traveled with his class on field trips to the Sierra Norte of Puebla where they explored archeological sites and indigenous villages, and then later to Germany.  These experiences inspired Mauricio to search for meaning through art.

  

For Mauricio, space is an essential component for creativity.  “To create beauty you have to be living in a beautiful space.  Art is drama, like life.  To create and transform, you have to be living in a container to support you to go further.  The space must be soothing, not disturbing,”  he says.  He is surrounded by touches of flowers, sleek clay sculpture, painted wood furniture with the character of age, and the utensils of his craft.

In years past, he rented outside the city in remote neighborhoods to have the space he needed.  Perhaps the location was an island in the midst of poverty or in new suburbs without a distinctive face or personality.  Now, he is in the center of Oaxaca’s art universe and beyond.

  

As one would expect, Mauricio is passionate about his work.  I marvel at how well he can integrate his living and work space.  And, I am reminded that making art means being immersed in the creative process with no boundaries around space and time.

 

Mauricio Cervantes, cervantesmauricio@gmail.com, studio telephone: (951) 516-2089.  Art installations for walls, floors and exterior spaces.  Mauricio works with architects, landscape and garden designers.