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THE ANCIENT ART OF HUICHOL YARN PAINTINGS

by Gardenia Ramirez |

It's been said that every artist dips their paint brush into their own souls. I feel this sentiment really rings true with the indigenous artwork I encounter when traveling in Mexico. When confronted with the yarn art of the Huicholes (the indigenous community from the state of Nayarit, Mexico,) we are able to see the stories of their past, their people, their culture. I say 'confront' because these textile treasures are so compelling and dramatic. It's an experience just gazing at them. These pieces are captivating and spellbinding

 As a young girl traveling to Mexico to visit with her VERY extensive family, we came across lots of examples of yarn paintings. Like any art, you can find stuff made for tourists or students learning as apprentices and then there are the masters. When I first met Otillia on the cobblestone streets of her small town, she didn't look up from what she was doing when I made inquiries about a piece on display. She kept working. I was an afterthought. Otillia makes her work to sell, but first and foremost she makes it for herself.

Pride is the first word that comes to mind when investigating her pieces. Stunning and vibrant are close seconds. The artist I proudly partner with at Lola y Tula is the only one of her kind I've met with her incredible talents. Her husband also does outstanding work, but it's his wife that I feel has the eye for color. Huichol yarn pieces are usually found in small sizes, for travelers. They usually have muted, dark coloring since all the yarn is naturally dyed, creating more shades of maroon, hunter green, teals and ivories. However, Otilla's paintings stand out from all the others. Her pieces read modern to me. The colors pop with neon pinks, oranges, lilacs and turquoise. A use of white over black when defining shapes and patterns. Then there's her designs...

 

All Huichol art tends to depict the mythology of their history. The thread you can find throughout most pieces tell the story of their Gods and legends. Their sacred lands and animals. You'll find blazing suns, a rising phoenix, peyote and deer. They're very graphic and simple, yet complicated. Otillia evokes these stories with her hands, pushing each inch of yarn down onto a slab of wood, using honey as the adhesive agent. These fantastical images are just that, wood, honey and yarn. The images are laid out in her head, mathematically. She knows where she'll end up and with what color, from where she started. Genius, I tell you. It's painstaking work, like any good art is. One large scale painting in our boutique can take about a month to make. 

It is Otillia's way of life. If people didn't buy her paintings, she would still make them. How else would her children know how to make their own? And that is what we pay for. This is what we support. Making sure Otillia passes down as much of her knowledge and craftsmanship to the next generation and hopefully, the one after that. It is this preservation and purpose we strive to protect. 

Saludos,

Gardenia

 

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