Monday, August 9, 2010
Chameleon by Jacobo Angeles Ojeda ~ Oaxacan Artist
Oaxacan wood carving and painting is an art form I have come to love since moving to the southwest. Here, I have had the opportunity to meet a few of the artists and admire their work. It gives me a lot of pleasure to share it with you and to celebrate this incredible expression of culture and folklore.
This enchanting chameleon is the art that my oldest son selected at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. My husband and I gave both of our boys an amount that they were allowed to spend. We want them to value art and to be supporters of the arts as adults. We also think that you start to look at art with a more critical and appreciative eye when you are a consumer.
My son knew he wanted a sculpture of some kind. We started to walk through the market until we found the Oaxacan wood carvings. He loved them right away and knew it was just what he was looking for. There were carvings both large and small. Though he had a fairly nice budget of $100, he found that this was only enough to buy a smaller sculpture. This gave us the opportunity to discuss why these sculptures are so valuable.
I encouraged my son to take a closer look at the painting on the figures. Just think about how many strokes of a very fine brush it would take to form these patterns. Look at how perfectly arranged the shapes are. The painter must have a very steady and skilled hand. How long did it take to paint this chameleon?
As we pondered these details, we heard another shopper ask how long it took to paint one of the largest pieces. Our jaws both dropped as we heard the artist tell her that the piece in question took nine months to complete. Wow!
As it turns out, our chameleon took around three to four weeks. When you consider the time to carve and sand the wood, and all of the different layers of color that make up the design, it makes sense. It also makes the price tag sound more than reasonable. It was a good lesson in art appreciation.
This style of wood carving is called alebrijes. It has only been on the art scene for around 30 years. Alebrijes are mythical creatures that combine human and animal features. They are imaginative and colorful and they relate to ancient Mexican religious beliefs.
Jacobo Angeles Ojeda, the artist behind this handsome fellow, is from the San Martin Tilcajete village in Oaxaca. He learned the craft from his father and has now been working together with his wife, Maria Mendoza Mendez, for 25 years.
Jacobo cuts a piece of copal wood with a machete and begins to form a shape. He uses progressively smaller tools until the final touches are made with a pocket knife. The natural twists and bends in the wood inspire the creatures they will become. Maria provides the magic of the paint. she uses traditional vegetable and mineral pigments to create her colors and designs.
The work of Jacobo and his wife Maria is some of the most intricate that I have seen. Their attention to detail makes their creatures really come to life. It's easy to look into the eyes of this chameleon and imagine a personality to match!