WINNER OF FOFA'S FIRST CONTEST FOR YOUNG FOLK ARTISTS CREATES WHIMSICAL PAPIER MÁCHÉ ILLUSTRATIONS FOR A CHILDREN'S BOOK
At age 19 Jesús Canseco Zárate -- known to his friends as Chucho - was the winner in "Other Modalities" in FOFA's first (2008) contest for his papier mâché catrina. He was awarded a six-month scholarship to a well-known art school, the Taller de Artes Plásticas Rufino Tamayo, in Oaxaca City where he enhanced his
|Canseco with cover of Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family|
technique in painting, sculpture, and life drawing.
FOFA board members often take a personal interest in the young artists who submit work to bi-annual contests sponsored in collaboration with Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO, Oaxaca State Museum of Popular Art). Vice President, Joyce Grossbard, introduced Jesús to collectors and Quetzalli, a prestigious gallery in Oaxaca City that represents Francisco Toledo. She also purchased several of his newer pieces and prominently displayed them in her folk art-laden apartment.
Another FOFA board member, Cynthia Weill, (cynthiaweill.net) a children's book writer who uses Mexican crafts to illustrate her work, was fascinated by Canseco's new pieces. Says Weill, "Chucho's experience at the Taller gave him greater mastery in imparting movement, personality, painting and detail. The new pieces were so animated that I thought that they could be used to showcase another Oaxacan art form, as well as to teach children bilingual vocabulary." When Weill pitched the idea to her publisher, Cinco Puntos, a bilingual press on the US/Mexico border, they loved the idea of using a popular Mexican art form -- the skeleton or calaca - rendered in papier mâché, a modality brought to Mexico in the 16th century by the Spanish.
Usually Weill must travel to Oaxaca to work closely with the artisanal families who create the pieces for her books, often working between two and four years in remote locations to obtain the artwork needed. However, Canseco, who is very computer savvy, documented his process via webcam, giving "birth" to an entire skeleton family over three months. Weill was able to comment on the work via email, sharing photos with the publisher and graphic designer for further input.
The development of Canseco's papier mâché calacas from drawing to painted figure
Jesús derives his inspiration "from looking at photos of my family and styles of the '50s seen in magazines. It is mostly a fusion of my family and personal memories. I really involve myself with the characters," he adds, "and seeing them in the book makes me incredibly happy."
Once completed, Weill worked with Oaxacan resident David Hilbert to photograph the skeletons. The images were then emailed to the publisher and graphic designer in El Paso. Weill developed a simple text introducing children to basic vocabulary, conveying the underlying idea that, no matter how different we may appear to each other, everyone shares a love of family. Click here for more information on the process and for additional photos.
Jesús is deeply grateful to FOFA for the award, the scholarship, and exposure to people who help him promote his work, commenting, "I do not know in this day and age what would become of popular art in Oaxaca without FOFA." He dedicated his artwork in the volume to Grossbard, as follows: "This book would never have been made without your nurturing spirit and generosity."
Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family has been designated a fall Jr. Library Guild Selection, 2013 and has received favorable reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. The first signed copies will be available at FOFA's annual craft sale on October 25th and 26th. Click here for Craft Sale info