The Maestros are Coming, the Maestros are Coming!
By Harriet Hart
Every November for the past nine years a special event has taken place that brings artists from all over Mexico to Chapala to participate in an exhibition and sale of folk and indigenous works. The 10th annual Feria Maestros del Arte will be held at the Club de Yates de Chapala from November 18th to 20th. There are some special things planned to celebrate the 10th anniversary.
•Fifteen Lakeside artists who got their start with the Neill James Children’s Art Program will be participating.
•Five artists from the state of Chiapas will be featured.
•80 artists working in a variety of mediums are on their way.
•Eighteen maestros from the book The Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art will be exhibiting.
If you have the time to spare, the patience of a top detective, passable Spanish and the money to replace your car’s suspension and shocks afterwards, the best way to find crafts in Mexico is to drive the back roads. The easiest way, however, is to attend the Feria.
Concerned about preserving folk art in Mexico, The Banamex Cultural Foundation published a book titled The Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art featuring 150 of Mexico’s finest artists. For the first time this year the foundation will be sponsoring artists from this book and also bringing copies for sale. Meet the three artists chosen for sponsorship:
Javier Hernández Flores is carrying on the family tradition of basket weaving. Javier either purchases the material or gathers what he needs in the countryside. First he soaks it in water so it becomes flexible. Javier weaves with his hands, but depending on the piece, may also use his feet.
In order to create diverse motifs in the baskets, many combinations of materials and weaves are utilized. The artist demonstrates his mastery of the technique and his knowledge of the raw materials that he chooses to make his pieces special. The decorative motifs may be diagonal, crossed, geometric, triangular, square or zigzag.
Sometimes Javier will combine materials containing bark to add a beautiful contrast of colors and texture. Other times, he creates ornamentation with designs woven separately and attached to the finished pieces.
A resident of San Martin Coapaxton, Tenancingo, in the state of Mexico, Javier learned his craft from his father.
Few visitors who experience a Mexican fiesta will forget the perforated paper decorations called papel picado used on streets and altars, tables, ceilings and plazas during festivals. Papel picado means “punched paper” in Spanish and is a traditional folk art that involves cutting out intricate patterns on colorful tissue paper which is glued to a string in a line to form banners used as decorations for important festivities throughout the year.
Pedro Ortega Lozano developed an early interest in this tradition from fiestas in his Mexico City neighborhood, Asuncíon. While he still makes many of the traditional chisel-cut papel picado works, he has become well known by collectors for his elaborate altarpieces that incorporate foil and embossed paper.
Pedro was born on February 23, 1960 in the neighbourhood of the Assumption (Asuncíon), Tlahuac, D. F. Originally he copied the work of the artisans of Tlahuac, who were preparing decorations by cutting paper with scissors or a razor. In 1983, he began cutting with a chisel.
Pedro’s work is on permanent display at the National Museum of Popular Arts in Mexico City. He is a member of the International Association of Paper Cutters based in the United States.
This craft requires patience, creativity and dedication. Pedro’s attention to detail can be seen and felt on every piece of work. Touch the fragile, delicate and very light perforated paper and you will feel the artisan’s caring and love for his work come alive.
Ángel Santos Juárez was born in Zacatecas but has lived in Tonalá since he was a child, where he keeps company with some of the most famous pottery artists in the world. At a very early age, Ángel expressed an interest in the punteado (dots or stippling), a decorative technique used in making clay pottery miniatures. Today, he is famous for these miniatures. He carefully selects grinds and sifts the most appropriate clay, mixes it, adds water and sets it aside to “ferment” for several days. He kneads the clay on the floor until it achieves the semi-hard consistency that he requires if he is planning to model with it. If he is using a plaster mould, the consistency must be more malleable.
After a piece is formed, he uses special stones that are periodically dipped in water to smooth the piece. Once it has dried, he bathes it in a slip which he has prepared, like his paints, from clays mixed with earth pigments. The slip provides the background color and seals the pores of the clay. Bruñido pottery is famed for its buttery smooth surface texture.
Now, the decoration process begins. Ángel mixes the colors, checks that they will achieve the tones and shiny finishes he wants and begins to paint using fine brushes made from the hair of different animals. After the painting is complete, he will burnish it forcefully with a pyrite stone while the work is still slightly moist. This insures the paint is properly fixed and keeps it from fading over time.
Ángel’s decoration is second to none in its fineness of line, and artistic detail. His creative technique has won him many awards. His work can be found in private collections all over the world and is Mexican folk art at its best!
Chapala Yacht Club’s outdoor venue provides a country fair atmosphere. Stroll past the stalls, soak up the sunshine, chat with the artists, meet up with friends and grab some authentic Mexican food. There’s tequila tasting sponsored by Arette Tequila and wine tasting hosted by Licores Paz of San Antonio Tlayacapan. Listen to live music by special guests such as Mariachi Feminil, a famous female mariachi band who will be performing on Saturday, November 19th.
The tenth anniversary is special to organizers of the Feria Maestros del Arte which is run totally by volunteers. There is no charge to the artists who are chosen to participate, no booth fee and no percentage of sales required. Artists are housed with local residents.
The event aims to focus attention on the disappearing folk and indigenous art of Mexico. Your attendance supports the artists and helps preserve a piece of Mexico’s history.