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Galería Atotonilco

Open House - Sat. Sun. March 25, 26

Tribos Mixe Wood Carving

Mar. 26, 2023

"Without doubt, the finest exhibition and sale of Mexican folk art in the entire country."
- Alberto Ruy Sanchez, editor of Artes de Mexico

by Susan Page

The gallery is filled with new items. The finest exhibition of authentic folk art just became finer, because our gallery managers recently returned from a buying trip with a giant van filled to overflowing with gorgeous new items from villages in Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Tribos Mixe Wood Carvings

The workshop of the Tribos Mixe wood carvers is a pleasure to visit. Their large property, just outside of Oaxaca City, is a lush, abundant garden, beautifully manicured, with old-growth bamboo, big old trees, and hundreds of well-tended potted plants all over the place. No words can adequately capture the beauty and serenity. All the paths are pebble mosaics in a variety of lovely designs. In the back is an aviary with parrots, cockatoos, canaries – all in large cages and all super clean. The buildings where the wood carvers work and exhibit their work are spread throughout the compound.

Tribos Mixe wood carving, carved from one piece of wood

Tribos Mixe wood carving

Tribos Mixe is an indigenous group who live in the Sierra Norte. This carving collective has about 120 people working, in three different locations. The men do the carving, primarily up in the mountain homeland, while the women do the intricate, exquisite painting. Seventy percent of the artists are women. The wood carvings are imaginative and unusual. They capture gesture and action, give the animals personality, and are beautifully painted.


Black Potter from Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca

Oaxacan Black Pottery

The black pottery of San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, is one of the more well-known varieties of Mexican folk art. The quality of the work varies greatly from workshop to workshop, and Galeria Atotonilco has made it our mission to find the finest artists working in the famous town. On this buying trip, we have returned with some stunning pieces. The tradition in the town goes back decades, its origins attributed to several different families. The most popular story is that the technique was developed by Doña Rosa, whose family still operates her workshop. The clay itself is not black but acquires its characteristic black color in the firing, where the clay is "reduced," or starved for oxygen. We returned from this trip with figures, mermaids, and beautifully articulated vases and bottles.

Textiles from Chiapas and Guatemala

The Maya tribes who are so incredibly skilled in weaving and embroidery move freely back and forth between Chiapas and Guatemala, and the work from artists in the two countries is similar. So, though during this trip we bought primarily in villages around San Cristóbal de las Casas, some of the work might be Guatemalan.

We returned with table runners, pillow covers, hand-woven scarves in gorgeous color combinations, and dazzling wall hangings, some with delightful animals and country scenes.


Ceramics by Jose Juan Aguilar. Ocotlan, Oaxaca

Ceramics by José Juan Aguilar

Since the nineteenth century, artists in Ocotlan, Oaxaca have made utilitarian items from clay. In the 20s, Isaura Alcantara Diaz and her husband began to create figures and scenes with the clay. They taught their five daughters, who each created their own innovations, and the "Aguilar Sisters" became famous for their imaginative and colorful figures. Now, the third and fourth generations are carrying on the tradition. Galeria Atotonilco features the works of José Juan Aguilar who has great skill and who creates works in a wide variety of themes. A popular item in our gallery is his delightful skeleton bugs, and we retuned with a new selection, along with some of his beautiful women figures, mermaids, mojiganga puppets, and other items.

Figure by the Aguilar family. Ocotlan, Oaxaca

Mojigangas. Ceramic by Jose Juan Aguilar. Ocotlan, Oaxaca


Saturday, Sunday, March 25, 26, 12-5pm

All are welcome to Galería Atotonilco's free open house. Refreshments will be served.

The gallery is located five miles north of town, next door to Nirvana Restaurant. Enter "Galeria Atotonilco" in your GPS.

Except for this open house, the gallery is open by appointment. An appointment is easy to obtain by calling 415-185-2225. Just let us know when you would like to come.


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