For immediate release:
WHAT: Entertaining the Gods: Yarn Paintings of the Mexican Huichol
WHERE: Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth
WHEN: June 22 – December 20, 2010
The Tweed Museum of Art announces a new exhibition of symbolic paintings made with colorful strands of yarn, by native Huichol (WEE-chol) people of Mexico. Bright, bold and joyful, they originally functioned as aids to spiritual leaders, as they communicated between the Gods of the Huichol peyote religion and earthly life.
The Huichol are native Mexicans who were relatively untouched by the invading Spanish of the early 16th century, in part because they removed themselves to remote locations in the Sierra Madres Mountains. These artworks are part of what has allowed the Huichol to maintain their traditions, as life apart from the influence of Western civilization is a precarious reality for the indigenous Huichol.
Encroaching paper mills, airstrips, and government forces are rapidly changing the lifestyles of the Huichol. The yarn paintings are a cultural touchstone for the Huichol, and a way for others to learn about them.
Huichol yarn paintings evolved from earlier religious offerings made of stone slabs (called nierikas) carved with linear designs. The raised ridges of the designs were painted with natural dyes from plant, insect and mineral sources. As contact with the outside world increased, traders and Huicholes themselves realized the economic potential of their vibrant designs. They sought ways to transfer the designs to formats that were portable and faster to produce. While its materials have changed from stone to yarn, the nature-based imagery of Huichol art remains consistent.
Key to the spiritual function of the stone nierikas from which the yarn paintings are derived, was the fact that every element of their construction must come from nature. As a solution, the Huichol devised a wood support covered with beeswax. Softened by the sun, the wax was inscribed with linear designs. Strands of dyed yarn were pressed into it, delineating images and filling the backgrounds with intense color.
In the Huichol world-view, every entity in nature has a specific duty to perform, and all living creatures communicate with the Gods as humans do. Animals are believed to have a common Grandfatherly character, while plants are viewed through the persona of a Grandmotherly ancestor.
The works in this exhibition are drawn from a set of twenty-four Huichol yarn paintings which were donated to the Tweed Museum of Art in 2009, by a generous private patron.
This activity is made possible in part by a grant provided by Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Free and open to the public, the Tweed Museum of Art is located in Ordean Court on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Museum hours are Tues. 9am-8pm, Wed.-Fri. 9am-4:30, Sat. and Sun. 1-5pm.