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Oaxacan Art and Zapotec Culture

Jacobo and Maria Luisa dying yard

By Barbara Erickson

The Another Face of Mexico Mask Museum and Gallery celebrates Day of the Dead with Zapotec altars, special Mask Museum hours, and Oaxacan master weaver and folk artist exhibitions.

Zapotec Altars
Fri and Sat, Oct 30 & 31, 1:30-5pm
Mask Museum
Cuesta de San José 32
Colonia Azteca
154 4324

Two master Oaxacan artists are bringing their unique altars to the museum and gallery for Day of the Dead. The altars will represent the traditions of two Zapotec villages: Teotitlán del Valle, home of Zapotec weaving, and San Antonio Arrazola, where the art of wood carved alebrijes (fanciful figures) originated.

Oaxacan master weaver Jacobo Mendoza and Oaxacan-born folk artist Blanca Gómez will discuss their altar traditions at 2:30 and 4pm, and their comments will be translated. Throughout the two afternoons, the Mask Museum and its Gallery will be open to the public. Upstairs in the gallery, Mendoza and Gómez will exhibit their work and answer questions about the techniques they use.

Mendoza, who comes from the world-renowned Oaxacan weaving village Teotitlán del Valle, creates both muted and brilliant rugs and wall hangings in traditional Zapotec themes. Using natural dyes, including cochineal, indigo, Mexican marigold, and plants grown by his family, he weaves tapetes finos from wool, silk, cashmere, and metallic threads.  Many of these pieces are finished with intricate fringes created from the warps and are themselves unique in their artistry. Mendoza’s work was just featured in “The Art Is the Cloth,” an exhibition at the New Hampshire Art Institute. He also has shown at the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, the Peter Gray Art Museum in Puerto Vallarta, and the San José Art Museum. His weavings grace floors and walls of many homes in San Miguel as well as all over the world. During this exhibition he will offer many of his pieces for sale.

Gómez, who hand paints delicate and colorful Oaxacan motifs, will exhibit her Mexican charm accessories and small furnishings, including miniature Mexican chairs. Many of these pieces are for sale as well.

The Another Face of Mexico Mask Museum showcases handmade, post-Conquest ceremonial masks from remote villages across the country. Janet Esser, professor emeritus of San Diego State University, the author of Behind the Masks in Mexico, and life-time expert on the traditions of Mexican mask-making, called Another Face of Mexico the “top mask museum in Mexico, perhaps the continent” during her visit in 2012.

Usually open by appointment only, Casa de la Cuesta’s Another Face of Mexico Mask Museum with over 600 masks will be open on both afternoons. It is free, although a donation to the children’s charity Casa de Los Ángeles is appreciated.


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