Thursday, May 31, 2018

Marta Turok: Dedicated Supporter of Mexican Folk Art to be Featured Speaker at 2018 Feria

by Marianne Carlson

Feria Maestros del Arte 2018 is delighted to announce that Marta Turok will be one of our featured speakers at this year’s Feria. Marta is a Mexican applied anthropologist focusing on socio-economic development. Through research, government work, education and advocacy, she has worked to raise the prestige of Mexican handcrafts and folk art and to help artisans improve their economic status. Her work has been recognized with awards from various governmental and non-governmental agencies. Watch our newsletter for more information on the topics Marta will be speaking on during Feria 2018.

Turok at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico (Wikipedia)
Much of Marta’s work over the years parallels the Feria mission: to promote and assist Mexican folk artisans in achieving a sustainable lifestyle and to educate the public as to the danger of losing some of these folk art traditions.

After WW II, Turok's American parents decided to move to Mexico City where they started a postcard business, thus growing up bicultural and bilingual.

Marta attended Tufts University for her undergraduate degree. The university allowed undergraduates to design their own course of study, which she took advantage of as they did not yet have an anthropology program. Her comprehensive senior thesis was research in Chiapas on the history and possible meanings of traditional design elements in Mayan handwoven cloth. This concept was completely new at the time, and subsequent research proved the concept correct, that the elements did indeed have meanings at one time, but most have been lost. During this time, she learned to speak Tzotzil and weave on a back-strap loom. Turok graduated in 1974, with a degree in anthropology and socioeconomics. Later, she studied ethnology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, graduating in 1978, and in 1996, received a certificate in marketing from the UC Berkeley.

Instead of using her research in Chiapas to start an academic career, she opted to follow a more pragmatic path, helping artisans improve their economic situation, promoting the cultural value of handcrafts and folk art, training artisans in marketing and working with collectors, museum curators and the general public.

Turok worked for a number of government agencies and taught classes on traditional Mexican textile design.  Her government work focused on public policy to raise the status of handcrafts. She has worked with the National Indigenous Institute, and the Fondo Nacional para el Fomento de las Artesanías (FONART) and created the policy guideline to distinguish handcrafts with artistic and cultural value.

In 1988, she was the executive director of the Dirección General de Culturas Populares (Popular Cultures Bureau), the youngest women named to a senior post in the Ministry of Education. During her time there, it grew from 300 to 800 employees, with 17 regional offices. She established the Mexican Sport Confederation as a national entity; with supports the preservation of pre-Hispanic sports and games. The agency also included the publishing of books related to folk art and popular culture, with topics such as purpura, a dye made from the milk of a female sea snail, organ grinders and charro (Mexican cowboy) music from northern Mexico. She also developed a project to preserve weaving and sewing traditions in numerous indigenous communities, providing fabric, embroidery thread and sewing needles.

Photo: Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art

In 1989, Turok decided to transition from government work to that in the non-profit sector. She founded the Asociacíon Mexicana de Arte y Cultura Popular (AMACUP) or Mexican Association of Popular Art and Culture, which focuses on developing contemporary products using traditional techniques. It also works to ensure that this handcraft production is both economically and environmentally sustainable. It has brought goods to new markets, especially international specialty stores and museum gift catalogs, as well as the major Mexican tourist centers of Cancún, Los Cabos, Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta. 

Add caption
Today, Marta is the head of CENIDEART, the Research Center at the Escuela de Artesanías (School of Handcrafts) of the National Institute of Fine Arts and is the curator for the Ruth D. Lechuga folk art collection at the Franz Mayer Museum. With the Escuela de Artesanías, she works with accrediting handcraft traditions for the Secretariat of Public Education, as well as does research. With the Franz Mayer Museum she had curated exhibits such as Traditions, Mexican Popular Arts, Lacas Mexicanas, El Juguete en México, Cerámica de Mata Ortiz, El Sarape de Saltillo, 1001 Rostros de México: Máscaras de la Colección de Ruth D. Lechuga and El Arte Popular de Hidalgo: rituales, usos y creaciones.

Turok is still active academically; giving conferences on topics related to Mexican handcrafts and folk art and has taught seminars and courses. In 2016, Turok and Margarita de Orellana became the co-executors of the collection of more than 20,000 artifacts, books and personal items donated by Ruth D. Lechuga to the Franz Mayer Museum.

Her work has earned her various recognitions: First Place National Contest Award in Marketable Products, First Place Mexico City Export Prize for Crafts Export Enterprises, the Miguel Covarrubias Prize, the Música por la Tierra Prize, AMACUP Marketable Crafts Award, UNESCO de Facto Award for Innovation in Crafts for Mexico and Latin America, and the Van Deren Coke Award of Los Amigos del Arte Popular.

Marta has written several books including:
She has also acted as a contributor to several books including:

Terry Baumgart ... blame it on the dolls!

Terry Baungart with dolls, shirt from
Zipiajo, a collective that will be at the Feria this year.

Forty years ago Terry Baumgart bought three simple cloth dolls in Pátzcuaro. It wasn’t an unusual purchase. She was always decorating her California home with Mexican pottery, textiles, or toys purchased on her many explorations of Mexico, which started primarily after graduate school with two years of informal studying of Spanish and culture throughout Mexico.

Her Mexico experiences prompted a desire to retire in Mexico, which she and her husband did about ten years ago. They wound up in the village of Zirahuén, near Pátzcuaro on a stunning lake which is often called "the mirror of the Gods.” A local legend says that the lake was formed by the tears of a kidnapped maiden, but Terry has shed few tears during her years in Michoacán.

"I remember being worried about being bored in my retirement,” Terry says. 
An interesting thing happened soon after I moved to Mexico. I have three simple cloth dolls that I thought were from Pátzcuaro. Fast forward to nine years ago when I moved to Zirahuén, and was introduced to the president of the local artisans’ group. She came to my house and I showed her the dolls. She immediately told me who had made them so many years ago and that they were from Zirahuén!”

That synchronicity accelerated Terry’s interest in Mexican folk art and about eight years ago, she celebrated her birthday by attending the Feria Maestros del Arte. Her husband told her to buy herself a gift. 

"Well, I certainly bought more than one gift! I was so excited by the incredible arts offered at the Feria that I introduced myself to Marianne Carlson, the Feria founder. And, again the next year  As I learned more about the Feria and how incredibly respectful it treats the artisans, I just knew I had to be part of it. I offered to help out and was eventually offered the volunteer position of Michoacán coordinator. My life has been so exciting and fulfilled ever since! I never have to worry about being bored with all the Feria offers me.

Hi-fired ceramics by Guadalupe Garcia Rios
"My volunteer work for the Feria has provided me with the satisfaction of seeing artisans' lives changed for the better right before my eyes! My first "aha" moment was early on when a young artisan from Michoacán told me on a Sunday after the Feria that he had never had so much money in his pocket in his life!
Then I saw how the contacts he made began to provide him with year-round work and I saw his humble lifestyle improve as he built a nice house with plumbing and on and on. That is only one example as there have been so many positive, transformative stories.

"I can't begin to express how much my work with the Feria 

provides me with a real sense of purpose in my life." 

Embroidery work by Teofila Servin Barriga 

"And, of course, the interaction with the artisans, the many friendships that have grown with them, is never-ending. I receive lots of "gracias" from them, but I don't really think they realize the extent of the reciprocity that is involved in our relationships. I receive so much more than I give. 

BTW, I don't want to leave out the three important people who help to ensure that the Michoacán Feria experience is a success every year. Two artisans, Guadalupe Garcia Rios and Teofila Servin Barriga, are volunteer artisans who assist me year round in accessing resources from our state artisan agency and provide me with the perspective and advice that only an artisan can provide. In addition, they help with phone calls, artisan meetings and whatever else is needed. (The work of both volunteers will be shown at the Feria this year.  More about these artisans here.)

"Alice Garcia, a California native who resides in Michoacán, is our volunteer photographer who also provides assistance before and during the Feria each year. In addition to providing many of the official photos of the invited artisans, she accompanies me on artisan search trips, annual trips to Uruapan during Easter week and comes on the bus with the artisans to the Feria. During the Feria, she provides translation, problem-solving and much more! Guadalupe, Teofila and Alice are a fabulous team! 

"In summary, it is an understatement to say that I feel blessed.  Our Michoacán team, the fabulous Feria volunteer staff in Jalisco and the awesome artisans of Mexico are the perfect recipe for a fulfilling and joyful retirement."

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Boundaries of Folk Art: Manuel de la Peña

Hand-cut paper art by Manuel de la Peña
Every year the Feria artist selection committee grapples with the definition of folk art as it considers the artisans to be chosen. The broad criteria the selection committee has used for years include:
  • First consideration is the merit/quality of the work as well as the artist's ability to continue producing it and to create a lifetime body of work.
  • Art that has been in the same family for generations is of particular interest.
  • Cooperatives that benefit more than one artist’s family are sought out and invited to participate.
  • Folk art using natural materials and ancient traditions are prized.
  • Pieces of modern design or intended for tourism will be avoided.
Catrina by Alvaro de la Cruz
Occasionally, however, folk art breaks through its boundaries of indigenous, utilitarian or decorative items of daily life. It has happened before. One example sprouted roots in the ground of the Aztec death goddess, Mictecacihuatl, and blossomed in the early 1900s, when a poor printmaker responded to the political times with an image that eventually launched a thousand faces of Catrina, possibly the most popular image in Mexico, other than that of the Virgen of Guadalupe herself. (More about Jose Guadalupe Posada and the story of Catrina here.)

Alebrije by
Enrique Fabián Ortega
Another more recent example is that of the alebrijes, reportedly evolving from a dream that changed Mexican art forever as these painted fantasy creatures became the most popular form of Mexican folk art. (For more about the story of Pedro Linares and his dream, click here.)

The commitment of the Feria is to bring together in one place, the best artisans of Mexican folk art. Part of the fun of that endeavor is finding exciting young artists who push the boundaries of folk art. 
Hand-cut paper art by Manuel de la Peña

One example of a young, innovative artist who is stretching the boundaries of folk art is Manuel de la Peña, whose intricate, hand cut paper art honors the traditions and imagery of Mexico.

Manuel also recreates a lost art form from the Aztecs: chaneques (masks) inspired by the legendary, sprite-like creatures and elemental forces and guardians of nature from Mexican folklore. These beings would attack intruders, frightening them so that their soul would abandon their body, which the chaneques enclosed in the depth of the land. If the victim did not recover their soul through a specific ritual, he or she would become ill and die soon after.
Manuel de la Peña chaneque (mask)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Feria and the Children's Art Program

Javier Zaragoza in his studio at Constitución 50
Back when Ajijic had one doctor, one plumber and a grade school that only went to the fourth grade, there was a young boy who got scolded for drawing soldiers in his school books.

That’s the story that Javier Zaragosa shared at the beginning of his talk at the Ajijic Society of the Arts (ASA) meeting. “My father was a fisherman,” he said, and with brimming eyes, he added that he might have become one also except his path was interrupted by a woman from Mississippi.

Javier is a master painter and muralist in the Lake Chapala area, thanks to the mentorship of Neill James, often described as the “godmother of Ajijic.” She changed the lives of many through her philanthropic work and continues to improve the lives of locals and expats through the work of the Lake Chapala Society (LCS), which she founded and left her house and grounds to. Her fingerprints linger throughout the community in the many charitable efforts she initiated and continues to inspire.

One of her programs was the Children’s Art Program, begun in 1954 and now sponsored by the Lake Chapala Society. This is where Javier began studying at age seven and was also one of the first of Neill James’ students to be sent on scholarship to San Miguel de Allende to further his art studies. The program continues to offer 50 - 100 local students time, materials and guidance every Saturday at LCS, where widely recognized artists such as Javier, and Jesús López Vega join artists from the Ajijic Society of the Arts and visiting artists who offer the students demonstrations and guidance. 

Manuel de la Peña with students
 On one Saturday, Manuel de la Peña, a paper-cutting artist from Guadalajara demonstrated natural dyes to the children who were fascinated that insects could produce such rich colors. Manuel will be a featured artist at the Feria Maestros del Arte which has a long standing relationship with the Children’s Art Program.
Paper art

Every year, the Feria sponsors an art contest for all the children in the Children’s Art Program with cash prizes for the winners and also co-sponsors the Children’s Art Camp.

The theme this year for the contest, and the Feria, is the “Colors of Nature.” In addition to the students’ art entries, there will be workshops, demonstrations and lectures about colors used by the artisans and especially the use of natural dyes.
Art Student

Saturday, May 12, 2018

2018 Theme: The Colors of Nature

Feria 2018 will explore the colors of nature. Here is a sampling of the glorious color you will find this year:
Gerardo Ortega López from Tonalá offers fantastic ceramics of barre betus finishing each piece with an oil bath made from a resin extracted from pine trees.
Dreamweavers, a weaving cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis, situated on the Costa Chica of Oaxaca, will be showing textiles dyed with the rare purpura pansa mollusk, the red cochinilla dye, extracted from beetles that grow in nopal cactus, and indigo of the native anil or indigo plant.
Juan Vázquez Menor, winner of the National Handicrafts Award from Temalacatzingo, Guerrero, brings incredible hand-painted bules/guajes (gourds).

Choosing Feria artists is like ...

... putting together an 85-piece jigsaw puzzle … from a stack of 500 bright, shiny pieces each calling, “Pick me! Pick me!” 
On a lovely Saturday morning, the selection committee settled in around my dining room table to pick the 85 artists for Feria 2018. It was a marathon discussion of beauty, workmanship, history, folk art categories, consumer wants, overall fit and an illusive, but important, discussion of social conditions.
The mandate of the Feria is to promote and preserve Mexican Folk Art and Culture by providing traditional artists with market access and by generating awareness of their work. In order to do that, we bring in 85 artists each year from all over Mexico.
Making decisions with so many important criteria is not a simple matter of tallying up points to see who’s in and who isn’t. It took five hours to put the puzzle together, but we think this year’s group of artists is truly unique and exciting. 
We will be introducing you to a few of the new artists in the coming issues of the newsletter. However, you can always explore the roster of artists on the website…2018 Maestros.
One of the artists Linda Hanna will be introducing to the Feria this year is Alicia Leticia García Blanco who makes incredible muñecas(female figures/dolls) and is recognized for her work in Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular OAXACA. It’s a family tradition and her son, Fernando Peguera has won twice in the ceramic category in Friends of Folk Art’s (FOFA) competition for young Oaxaca artists.
The technique used in creating her muñecas is to start with a base. After drying for three to four hours, she turns the piece upside down and begins adding the torso, arms and head.  Finally, embellishments and decorative carvings such as flowers, people, skulls and other designs are laid on to the larger piece.
Alicia's larger figures take approximately 8 days to complete and an additional 15 days to dry with three hours in the oven. Her work is almost exclusively in natural terra cotta colors and she sells her work from her home and a cooperativa (ceramics marketplace) in Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca. we are delighted to introduce her work at the Feria.

Artist Coordinator: Linda Hanna

by Marianne Carlson
Seventeen years ago when I started the Feria, I had no idea that it might become the premier folk art festival in Mexico. Much of the credit goes to the incredible volunteers attracted by the beauty of Mexican folk art and the opportunity to help preserve the ancient traditions and the artists who have devoted their lives and their artistry to those traditions.
The Feria has been blessed to have three state Artist Coordinators who find amazing artists and help them succeed at the Feria.  The three coordinators who have a wealth of knowledge about Mexican folk art and the artists in their states are: Linda Hanna (Oaxaca), Brigitte Ordoquy (Chiapas) and Terry Baumgart (Michoacán). 
I met Linda Hanna, who later became the artist coordinator for Oaxaca, umpteen years ago when I took a trip to Oaxaca and a mutual friend told me to look her up and to be sure to see her home, and her closet. Strange, I thought, but I did, and found a closet packed with amazing huipiles (traditional blouses or dresses). I knew instantly that we would become great friends. Every year since then she has found new and incredible artists to bring to the Feria.
Linda has been cultivating and nurturing connections to the folk art world of Oaxaca for over a decade. She lives and owns Casa Linda, a folk-art-filled Bed and Breakfast in the village of San Andres Huayapam adjacent to Oaxaca city. Many of the villages throughout Oaxaca specialize in a particular craft and Linda spends much of her time visiting with artisans in their studios. 
In December, she is mounting her own textile show titled “Roses and Revelations: the heritage of the Virgen of Guadalupe through Mexican textile artists.” 
For more about Linda, her show, her tours or her B&B, please click here.

FERIA 2019

November 8-10, 2019
Yacht Club, Chapala, Mexico,