Open House Features the Finest Huichol Artists
By Susan Page
Anthropologists consider the Huichol people to be one of the most intact remaining tribes in the Western Hemisphere.
Maintaining their ancient lifestyle in the remote Sierra Madre mountains, they are a tribe of corn farmers, artists, and shamans who consider spirituality to be central to their existence. Religion is not a part of life, it is life. The gods are everywhere, including the trees, hills, and lakes. Even the lowly stone has a soul. The art they create began as primitive offerings to the gods and has evolved into gorgeous works of art.
Galeria Atotonilco owner Mayer Shacter has had a close association with Huichol artists for more than 30 years. He finds the best artists and then buys their finest work. The result is one of the most extraordinary collections of Huichol work anywhere in México. The work is not only stunningly intricate and awesomely beautiful to behold, it is imbued with the spirit of this ancient tribe. To own a Huichol yarn painting or beaded bowl is to own a piece of México’s indigenous history. The artisans lovingly create each piece, delighting in vibrant colors and intricate designs. Holding strong to their native cultural traditions, they imbue each piece with sacred symbols and spiritual purpose.
Many native peoples in the Western hemisphere have fiercely struggled against colonialism in order to retain their traditional lifestyles. In part due to their remote homeland, the Huichols have maintained their traditional culture, language, and spiritual way of life for centuries.
The rugged terrain of their homeland—located in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit—has provided a pocket of isolation where the estimated 8,000 descendants of the Aztecs have adapted to the demands of their harsh environment. They have nurtured a value system and way of life that hold many lessons for the modern world. Their art, symbolism, music, folklore, plant knowledge, and profound religious insight are a source of inspiration and wisdom for people around the world. These intensely religious people immerse themselves throughout their lives in this awareness through ritual and the execution of sacred symbols in their works of art.
Shamans are responsible for the overall well-being of the people, the crops, the homes, and the livestock, and continually negotiate with the spirit world to maintain this delicate balance. Numerous ceremonies ensure that there is open dialogue between the human and mystical realm. The Huichols make an annual pilgrimage to sacred land in the Wirikuta desert, a 600-mile round trip, to gather sacred peyote and to perform a series of rituals to experience divine transformation. From the ecstasy of that experience, the artwork of the people is born. In the Huichol culture, there can be no art without religion and no religion without art, which is imbued with symbolism and intricacy, meant to ensure prosperity, health, and fertility.
All are invited to the gallery open house this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5pm.
Huichol yarn paintings and beadwork
Sat–Sun, Sep 28–29, 12–5pm
Directions to the gallery in our ad in this issue