Posted: Sun 20 Apr 1997 -- Colorful Inspiration From Mexico
One of the things I noticed being in Mexico is the unabashed use of color and artwork---there was color every place one looked. Lots of painted tiles on buildings for example.
The downtown markets were full of colorful objects, though some are garish to our eyes, most of these over bright objects were pure tourist junk.
My favorites are the wood and pottery figures. Lots of Adam and Eve figures, devilish looking angels, mermaids and most fun, merman faces with curly carved beards and fish tail hats! Almost bought a large merman figure with upraised jointed arms and a curly fish tail from an Indian beach vendor, unfortunately I couldn't carry it home along with the smaller 3-D Mexican angel character I bought from him.He really gave me a great price for both.
Shopping is a long exercise of bargaining and pleasantries---nothing goes quickly especially if you speak limited Spanish and him limited English but we got along fine and we both felt happy with a good deal.
The real nice objects (and often expensive) were finely done---some of the more artistic objects I saw were the beadworked objects by HuicholIndians who live in isolated mountain areas outside of Pto Vallarta.
Many shops sold these beaded objects, but some shops had better designs than others with more detail and done by well known bead artists among the Huichols.
The Huichols use colorful seed beads pressed into a beeswax ground on carved wooden forms of animals, shapes or naturally shaped gourds cut into bowl shapes.
The designs are done freehand with no underdrawing. Just plain inspiration and tradition. All the designs are symbolic of some aspect in their culture.
I'm not going into the historical or religious background here but just mentioning how beautiful the stylized bead designs are and how nice they'd look stitched up in either xs or needlepoint.
Huichols also cross stitch some of their symbolic motifs on their clothing which is natural colored cotton---like heavy muslin. There are repeat patterns for borders but not like the designs they use in their prayer bowls. The bowl designs are used for other purposes in their culture than for clothing.
There were beaded bags too but I don't know if they were made for the tourist trade---many of the carved beaded objects were made for the tourist business and I assume in the future some enterprising personwill have more uses for the designs for the tourist trade. Some already appear on tee shirts as transfer designs.
Huichols also do yarn paintings the same way as the bead work and the best ones I saw were equal to any textile art in the world. The colors, layouts and all were beautifully arranged and balanced works of art.
It was fascinating to hear the explanations of what the paintings were meant to symbolize and even without the meanings explained, the yarn paintings could stand on their own to be enjoyed as is.
Many of these yarn paintings reminded me of artistic needlepoint and quilting done by textile artists in this country.
In the shops were heavily embroidered florals in satin stitching on dresses and other garments in bright, cheerful colors---woven tapestries and many woven belts and bags.
Unfortunately, some of this art is geared for the tourist trade and not the best examples of textile art.
I went to some art galleries to look at contemporary paintings by Mexican artists and was awed by the vibrancy of color and feeling the paintings presented.
Nothing insipid here but totally alive with feeling. Many of the paintings were very humorous and whimsical in feeling which is very typical of folk art.
I felt very energized by all this and have already made notes of several new needlepoint designs I've been inspired to do from all the sights.
What I really want to do is to get the oil paints out and really paint again like I used to. Needlepoint canvas painting is nice but not quite like real painting because it's so limiting with the grid format.
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