Meet the artists and learn their stories. Come to Jackalope and bring a part of their culture back with you.
Irene Aguilar comes from Ocotlan de Morelos, situated in Oaxaca, Mexico. She calls herself a clay craftsperson, however, most would call her an artist who works with clay. Irene says she does not use any special clay because it is all basically the same. “It is my hands,” she says, “that are special.”
Irene learned to work with clay from her mother. She spent the first 4 to 5 years learning, and the last 31 years doing her work “perfectly.” She says her work is a part of her. It’s her life, and without it, she feels her life would have no value.
Irene has a real gusto toward life and her work reflects that. While she works, she loves to laugh and listen to music because music is an inspiration for her. She has a tendency to become so absorbed in her work that she loses all sense of time. Although much of her work is based on traditional Oaxacan figures and religious pieces, her humorous females are drawn from magazine pictures and real life.
Irene’s work is on exhibit in Santa Fe at the International Folk Art Museum and the Dave Mathers Gallery. She has also been featured in a number of major art books both here in the United States and in Mexico. She has won many major art awards in Mexico and was given a diploma of recognition from the International Folk Art Museum of Mexico.
Irene’s children, Manuel Enrique, Juan Carlos and Nancy Claudia, and her grandchildren all help with her clay work in Mexico. Juan Carlos works with her here at Jackalope painting her figures.
She has been at Jackalope several times. She wants everybody to know that she is happy when she is here because she enjoys meeting and talking to the people.
Bertha Medina Aquino comes from Cochas Chico Huancayo, a small village high up in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where she and her people still practice the traditional Incan ways and speak the traditional Incan language.
Bertha began carving gourds when she was only five years old. She learned from her father, the famed gourd carver Evaristo Medina. Gourd carving is an ancient art in Bertha’s family, going back for more generations then Evaristo could even remember, and now, a new generation is carrying on the art. Evaristo taught his whole family: Bertha Aquino Medina (wife), children Bertha, Freddy, Percy, Pabel, Liz and his nine-year-old grandchild Brian. Evaristo’s work can be found at the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe as well as the Smithsonian Museum, and photographs of his work are featured in the book Spirit of Folk Art, published by the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe.
The delicate imagery engraved into each gourd is more than just carving—each gourd tells a story. As she carves, Bertha thinks of the daily lives of her family and neighbors, the history of the Incas, the village fiestas and the Celebrations of the Animals held July 25 and August 1 to honor the animals that help them. She brings a spirituality to her work that comes from her love of her people and their history, and her people’s love and respect for their land and for the animals that provide assistance in their daily lives: the llama, sheep, burro, bull, and cow.
The gourds Bertha uses for her art are grown only on the coast of Peru. When Bertha and her family journey there to make their purchases, they look for gourds that resemble birds and animals. And they examine each piece carefully to make certain that it is of the finest quality without scratches or bruises that could mar the delicate carving.
Here in the United States, Bertha has received many certificates and awards. Her work has also been published in The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Santa Fe Region, and The Santa Fe Reporter. Her art is on display at The International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, and The Smithsonian Museum. The Medina family is also featured in many books such as Hand-Carved and Decorated Gourds of Peru by Elenor Menzie (1976).
Alejandrino Fuentes Vasquez
Alejandrino Fuentes Vasquez comes from San Martin Tilcajete, located in the Ocatlan de Morelos valley of Oaxaca, Mexico.
The tradition of woodcarving began in Alejandrino’s family with his great-grandfather who carved for the joy of it, making toys for his children. The art was passed down the line, and Alejandrino’s father became the first carver to commercialize woodcarving by selling his work outside of the village.
Alejandrino and his four brothers began at the age of 7 by painting their father’s work. At the age of 23, after obtaining his degree in Agronomy, Alejandrino decided he wanted to be a wood carver, and thus began his career of carving and painting animals, masks, faces and angels.
Alejandrino loves what he does, and feels his carving is art because he does it out of a deep desire to do so, not for commercial purposes. Before he begins to carve a piece of wood, he examines it very carefully and sees the possibilities of what it can become before he picks up the knife. He feels he is freeing its spirit as he carves.
Alejandrino most often uses copal for his carvings. He prefers this wood because of its whiteness and resilience, and he finds it easier to carve than most other woods.
Alejandrino has been visiting Jackalope since 1990. Several years ago, he was in an international exposition in Washington, D.C. He is especially happy to be here with his wife Elizabeth, who helps him paint his carvings. The New Mexico landscape is similar to that of his own hometown, and he can listen to Spanish music on the radio and speak Spanish to many people. He likes the mixture of cultures here, and he says the best thing in America is the people. ”They are all courteous and friendly.”
September 23rd, 2011MORE
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