Mad in Pursuit Notebook

alebrije cat by Francisco Melchor, Oaxaca, Mexico

Alebrijes: Oaxaca Wood Carvings

Jim and I visited Oaxaca in June, 1995. We took a bus from Mexico City and I was swept away by the mountain desert scenery. Oaxaca City is an amazing conglomeration of the ancient, the colonial, and the folkloric, with a perfect climate -- and I hear tell a favorite destination for the magic mushroom people back in the day. We let the spirit wash over us. Jim sought out the pre-Columbian roots, with a pilgrimage to the archaeological site at Monte Albán. I sought out the jewelry and discovered yalalag crosses. The shops were full of whimsical alebrijes, but I didn't really "see" them. Jim did.

Some time after we returned, Jim discovered a local shop Animas Traders, owned by a school teacher turned folkart trader, who traveled back and forth to Mexico, bringing back the best he could find. Jim went wild for the wood carvings, claiming they were better than what we saw in the Oaxaca City shops. Thus, a new collection was born. He was particularly fond of the work of Francisco Melchor, whose family's work was featured in Smithsonian magazine in 1991. His work is selling for a pretty penny now on eBay (couldn't help a peek).

When you have shelves full of pretty little things -- intricate things with unglued parts that fall out when the door slams, you start thinking of them as demanding knick-knacks, whining when they turn gray with dust.

But then... pick one up. Look. An artist signed his name on the bottom. A Mexican campesino picked up a chunk of copal and his pocket knife and carved this whimsical cat with the draping leg and alert tail (image above). Using the designs perfected by his people, he paints. His finished product catches the eye of our trader and his cat is on her way to Rochester NY, where Jim is enchanted and brings it home. Some global heartbeat circulates the spirit far and wide.

Soon after, our trader fell in love, sold his shop, and moved to Oaxaca.

Art connects us.

Oaxaca wood carvings, with Luba stool (Africa) and parrot feathers


Alebrije. Wikipedia

Oaxaca Wood Carving: the Magic in the Trees. Shepard Barbash (Author), Vicki Ragan (Photographer). Increasingly prized by collectors worldwide, Oaxacan woodcarvings are among the most popular form of folk art available today. These fanciful, brightly colored figures created by rural Mexican woodcarvers reflect the myths and traditions still very much a part of the carvers' daily lives. A spectacular gallery of over 160 full-color photographs beautifully portrays these artisans and their work, while an informative text examines the intricacies of the carvers' craft. The only volume devoted exclusively to this distinctive and magical art form, Oaxacan Woodcarving will inspire and inform anyone with an interest in folk art, photography, or anthropology. 1993



Books by Susan Barrett Price:

THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.



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