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Ceramic Sculptures Highlight Gallery Open House

By Susan Page

The Aguilar sisters have been well-known ceramic folk artists for many decades, working in Ocotlan, a village near Oaxaca. We first visited their studio in 2002, before we moved to Mexico. They had work on display, but on his buying trips, gallery owner Mayer Shacter always wants to snoop around the storage shelves in the back rooms. He asked, “May I see that piece?” “Oh that’s by my son, José Juan,” we were told. We were astonished at both the subject matter (“Life and Death in the Sea”) and the brilliant craftsmanship, and we bought the piece. José Juan was 28, very shy, and very sweet. We have been buying his work ever since and find it to be the most innovative and beautifully crafted work in the entire family. On our trip this past May, we selected more than 20 of his pieces, including a brilliant tribute to folklorico dancers, a voluptuous mermaid riding a fish, women in boats selling flowers, and his lovable mojiganga (giant puppet) figures. José Juan is now 42 and has three young children. He is still very shy and very lovable.

It’s possible to own a masterpiece of art for several hundred dollars or less; José Juan Aguilar’s work is a good example. If the work were a painting, it would be thousands of dollars. Folk art is highly undervalued, but the upside is that it is easy to own and easy for craftspeople to sell so that they can support their families. José Juan’s work is innovative, exquisitely crafted, and painted with an appealing muted palette.

The Gallery

Galeria Atotonilco is located in a beautiful country setting, five miles north of town, with 5,000 square feet of exhibition space. The collection includes a huge variety of folk art from all over Mexico and a large selection of country antique tables, bateas, trasteros, trunks, and other county antiques. Also featured in the gallery this weekend will be a large display of lacquered gourds from Tamalacatzingo, Guerrero, where the artists use only natural ingredients, and new Huichol art works from the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival. A gallery annex displays decorative blown glass, where a spectacular large vase looks like it could be 1,000 dollars but in fact is only 1,000 pesos, about US$52! Welcome to Mexico!

Keep in mind that every purchase at our gallery helps to support a talented and deserving Mexican family and to keep alive an important folk tradition that predates the Spanish conquest.

Enjoy refreshments and take your time to view Trip Advisor’s #1 shopping destination in San Miguel. Saturday and Sunday, September 24 and 25, noon to 5pm each day. 185 2225. Directions on our web site: and in our ad in this issue.


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