Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art
 Introduction  Clay  Leather  Metal  Paper  Plant Fibers
 Stone  Textiles  Wood  Various
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Feline, 1997
Arrazola, Oaxaca
Flying Dancers

The "Flying Dancers" of Papantla, 1998
Wood: Cut out, assembled, painted
Silao, Guanajuato

Indigenous woodworking traditions were augmented in the 16th century, when Spanish settlers brought new craft traditions and designs to the New World. Blessed with a tree-rich environment, and encouraged by Spanish missionaries, Native and immigrant artists fashioned a range of wood products, from religious artifacts, furniture, and musical instruments to more utilitarian bowls, boxes, plates, and toys.

Today’s great masters continue to carve wood into pieces that reflect Mexico’s cultural mosaic. The tradition of carving human faces on wooden animal figures has been kept alive by artists such as Manuel Jiménez, who lives in the village of Arrazola in Oaxaca. A spiritual healer, orator, and carver of wood, Jiménez creates figures in the shape of a nahual, a magic animal drawn from pre-Hispanic and contemporary indigenous beliefs. In the Chiapas region, artists make figurines representing the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, each dressed in miniature indigenous garments. Artists also fashion wooden crosses and niches for statues of saints, and apply gold leaf and paint to the garments of wooden angels and archangels.

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Pedro Ortega Lozano
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