Mexican Folk Art in Valladolid

Casa de los Venados, Valladolid, Yucatán

In Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico there is a beautifully restored colonial hacienda-style home which houses a mind-shatteringly beautiful collection of Mexican Folk Art. John and Dorianne Venator are the collectors, and the owners of this unique property.

According to John, initially people who had heard of the collection would appear at his door requesting a tour which he always generously gave them. Eventually he hired some local help and made the tours available daily. In exchange he asks each guest for a 60 peso minimum donation which goes to fund projects in the community.

I never knew that folk art could be like this. Folk Art is supposed to be “naive” – free of conventional ‘fine art’ rules and standards. From wikipedia:

Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Folk Art is characterized by a naive style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are not employed. Closely related terms are Outsider art, Self-Taught Art and Naïve art.

The Jaguar is an important symbol of power and strength in the Yucatan. This beautiful piece is of solid clay.

But much of the collection in the Casa de los Venados seems neither naive nor anything less than aesthetically brilliant. Yes, it derives from the Mexican Folk Art tradition, from techniques learned by the craftsmen/artists from parents and neighbors. But the work is carefully and finely executed, and the assembled pieces create what amounts to a living museum.

The guide who led our group around the property and the collection presented us with a wealth of details which I could only have recalled for you had I taped the entire presentation. As it was, the slightly less than two hours I had before I had to race off to catch my onward bus was not nearly enough time to even visually absorb this magnificent and seemingly endless collection. Days could have been spent here, and I still would have known only a fraction of the artists by name.

So forgive me if I now present the following images without crediting most of the artists, without telling you the towns in which they live, without giving you all the myriad details I would love to have had in the notes I had no time to take.

Entrance Area

Entrance foyer Casa de los Venados - ceiling is 14 feet high

When one enters the front door, the wall to the left is dominated by a massive pottery wall installation, securely in the folk art tradition, which illustrates many aspects of life in the village of the artists.

The archetypal Mexican Folk Art skeleton makes its first appearance

Because this piece is signed, I know that the artists are Luis Valencia Mendoza and his sons Jorge, Jonathan and Fernando. They reside in the Zapotec pueblo San Antonino Castillo Velasco in the state of Oaxaca.

Entrance wall, Casa de los Venados

As you look around the entrance foyer, the scene grows ever more intricate

more entrancing

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are legendary, iconic, in Mexican Art

more bizarre

Clearly the hour and a half here is not going to be enough to absorb all that is happening visually. The mix of forms, colors, subject matter has one’s head spinning, and we have barely started into the tour.

Turn your head to the left, and there is another tableau.

Finally we walk a little way into the next room.
And what do we find?

The creativity and craziness only amplifies.

Surrender yourself to it. There is no escape.

Resistance is pointless, you have been absorbed by, overcome by, this crazy world of Mexican Folk Art.

[more to come]

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