Folk Art of the An­des,

Pasatiempo - - Art In Re­view -

fig­ures, that peo­ple put on their roofs. There are fine sil­ver spurs and sil­ver-on-leather horse gear. Of spe­cial in­ter­est in a dis­play of sil­ver ves­sels is the lit­tle pava con hornillo (ket­tle with fur­nace), which has sep­a­rate cham­bers for hot coals and wa­ter.

In one case are paint­edt­in­work ( ho­jalaeria) crosses, frames, and can­dle­hold­ers from Cuenca, Ecuador, and Ay­acu­cho, Peru. In another are Ma­puche jew­elry pieces from south­ern Chile; Mauldin noted that these “have more of a pre-Columbian feel, be­cause those peo­ple were never con­quered by the Span­ish.”

The cav­al­cade of use­ful para­pher­na­lia in­cludes cowhorn can­teens carved beau­ti­fully, akin to scrimshaw, and the cer­e­mo­nial drink­ing ves­sels known as cochas. “The peo­ple be­lieved an­i­mals evolved out of springs,” Mauldin said, point­ing out that the ce­ramic cochas have small animal fig­ures in the cen­ter. “As you drink, they ap­pear through the liq­uid.”

The cu­ra­tor is also show­ing a great as­sort­ment of fig­urines — in­clud­ing box­ing men, sol­diers, and mu­si­cians — that were made to pop­u­late Na­tiv­ity scenes, as well as dolls, horses, trucks, and ki­netic toys. There are sev­eral ex­am­ples of por­ta­ble boxes filled with minia­ture scenes. The ear­li­est of these were move­able al­tars, but the sub­ject mat­ter was later ex­panded to scenes and sto­ries from sec­u­lar life. (These boxes are called retab­los, which in the His­panic tra­di­tion of New Mex­ico is the name given to re­li­gious paint­ings on wood.)

One sec­tion of the show fea­tures del­i­cately carved gourds. A stun­ning ex­am­ple is by Bertha Me­d­ina, a Peru­vian who now lives in Santa Fe. For cen­turies, the peo­ple of the An­des have made con­tain­ers from dried gourds, decorating them with etched de­signs. One of the chief early uses was to make cups for drink­ing the cher­ished yerba mate bev­er­age, and after a while “mate” came to mean any of these dried and carved fruits of the cal­abaza plant.

Peru­vian artists in the colo­nial pe­riod used gourds to make platos (plates) and azu­careros (su­gar con­tain­ers). In more modern times, pieces by the materos (gourd carvers) have been made as art ob­jects, no longer hav­ing prac­ti­cal uses. To­day’s materos have re­sumed the early prac­tice of rub­bing a char­coal-grease sub­stance onto the etched gourd. After ab­sorp­tion, the gourd is cleaned, leav­ing the artist’s in­cised pat­terns de­fined in black. The en­tire sur­face of Me­d­ina’s Dec­o­ra­tive Gourd (2009) is filled with minia­ture scenes of life in Peru.

With their in­cred­i­bly de­tailed tableaux of peo­ple, an­i­mals, build­ings, and trees — and of­ten with ab­stract de­signs as bor­der el­e­ments at top and bot­tom — to­day’s materos are, Mauldin writes, “push­ing the art of carved mate to new lim­its and re­quir­ing pa­tience and skills be­yond what had come be­fore.”

Ki­netic Toys, left to right, Moli­nos, Junin, Peru; Chile; Mérida, Venezuela; all circa 1960; all images cour­tesy Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press

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