Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Keeping it Local

Martínez demonstrating the pedal loom at
La Raza Galería Posada during May's
Second Saturday, 2011
Oaxacan Textiles

From floor to ceiling, the main gallery of La Raza Galería Posada was draped with colorful Zapotec tapestries by master weaver Sergio Martínez. Stationed in a corner, Martínez demonstrated his skilled hand at the pedal loom. He is a descendant from a long line of master weavers that continues the family business in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.

Zapotec textiles are the main commodity produced in the Teotitlán region, gaining international fame in the 1930s and 40s. Local flora and fauna provide the resources for dyes and thread. Originally woven with ixtle (fibers extracted from the agave), wool has been the raw material of choice since introduced by the Spanish.[1] Not only do local resources help preserve the distinct characteristics of these textiles, but also the patrimony of the designs. The exhibition displayed the array of vibrant color and geometric patterns, demonstrating the distinct palette and structure that makes each textile unique.

The production and international acclaim of Zapotec textiles had both successes and contentious debates in a challenging market. In the 80s and 90s, US southwestern merchants in response to the interior design boom in Santa Fe sought the low-cost weavers of southern Mexico to produce northern Native American designs.[2] This style is most recognized by the centralized diamond as a popular motif. As anthropologist Warner Wood has noted, US businessmen influenced the production in Teotitlán workshops “initially creating new designs and overseeing the dyeing of wool into colors they [knew] would sell well in the US Market. Eventually nearly every aspect of textile production, from design creation to wool and yarn preparation and dyeing, would come under their control, except for that actual work at the loom.” (Wood 139) However, Wood continues, many Zapotec families have since adapted to the flexibility of the market and took back the control of their production.

Martínez' interpretation of Mesoamerican
pictorials and hieroglyphs
The skill of the Teotitlán weavers include interpretations of modern works of art to dynamic collaborations with contemporary artists.[3] Sergio Martinez’ production is an example of the flexibility that is needed to preserve his native tradition and fuel innovation. By founding outlets in both Sacramento and Teotitlán, Martinez is in direct control of production and sale of his work. The larger of his looms are in Teotitlán. Only one individual works on a textile as each person has his or her own “hand.” Weaving is an extensive technological procedure that by changing the hand at the weave, the result may be tighter or looser and inevitably resulting in a warped product. However, as the “tables turn,” the Oaxacan tradition is now threatened by low-cost weavers in India. Martinez is not concerned, he has produced numerous designs and their duplication does not bother him. He is ultimately a prolific artist that has demonstrated his boundless creativity.

[1] Shasta Darlington, “Magic carpet: Tiny town’s textiles work charm on market,” Business Mexico 5 (1995): 12-14.
[2] Warner Wood, “Flexible Production, Households, and Fieldwork: Multisited Zapotec Weavers in the Era of Late Capitalism,” Ethnology, 39 (2000): 133-148.

Sacramento Spirit

International visual and performing artist David Garibaldi, also a Sacramento native, painted a mural last Second Saturday celebrating the May 3rd announcement that the NBA Kings will stay in Sacramento. In the span of four hours, Garibaldi rendered portraits of Kings fans that were submitted to him through social networks. Not only was Garibali enthused to support the fans of Sacramento, he sought “to show the diversity of the city.”

David Garibaldi creating the Be Heard mural during May's
Second Saturday, 2011
In the Garibaldesque fashion, hip-hop and pop music echoed throughout the grid and the crowds on the corner of J and 20th witnessed his traffic stopping performance. Facing a black billboard, mounted on a basket crane and equipped with a brush in both hands, Garibaldi swiftly formed the faces of euphoric fans, while simultaneously controlling the banter of the on-looking crowds.

Garibaldi is still quite young and already a successful artist. He began his career with graffiti where he honed his skills of working in large formats by utilizing one of the complex canvases available: the city. His ability to create iconic images with energetic gusto has become his signature style. Garibaldi has taken possession of a traditional art form, has challenged the canon and made it accessible to a wider audience.