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Visions to Heal the World:
Huichol Art by José Benitez Sanchez,
Maximino Renteria de la Cruz and others

Featuring Visionary Yarn-paintings and Beadwork from Mexico's Sierra Madre



The Gods Give Life to the Sacred Places of the Earth(#JBS08)
Huichol yarn painting by
Jose Benitez Sanchez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2000
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(24" x 24")


Show dates: October 7th to November 27th, 2005
Opening receptions: First Friday, October 7th and November 4th, 2005
Special Lecture and Video presentation: Saturday, October 15th, 3-5pm
by Michele Belluomini - Student of Huichol tradition.

Location: Indigo Arts Gallery, 151 N. 3rd St. (2nd Floor)
Old City, Phila. PA 19106 215-922-4041

PHILADELPHIA - Visions to Heal the World, which opens at Indigo Arts Gallery on October 7th, 2005 features a collection of visionary artworks from the Huichol Indians of Mexico’s remote Sierra Madre Occidental region. It centers on the nierika yarn paintings by the celebrated shaman/artist, José Benitez Sanchez. Benitez was the subject of Mythic Visions: Yarn Paintings of a Huichol Shaman, the dazzling 2003 exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The paintings reflect the visions of Huichol shamans - Huichol history and mythology and especially the peyote-inspired visions through which they believe they can communicate with the deities to heal themselves and their world. The exhibition, which also includes yarn paintings and beaded works by several other Huichol artists, continues through November 27th. On October 15th (3 to 5pm) Indigo Arts will host a special lecture and video presentation by Michele Belluomini, who has studied with the Huichol people for nearly twenty years.
Thanks to their isolation in the mountains and canyons of the state of Nayarit, the Huichol, alone among the indigenous peoples of Mexico, were able to largely resist conversion to Christianity by the Spanish conquistadors. They have maintained their pre-conquest religion and traditions nearly intact. The Huichol practice a nature-based religion guided by shamans, which the anthropologist Peter Furst calles “a powerful everyday spirituality that seemed to owe nothing to the religion of the conquistadores.” The religion and the sacred arts which serve it are directed toward communication with a pantheon of “numberless male and female ancestor and nature deities” and in so doing finding the causes and cures of illness. 19th century ethnographer Carl Lumholtz called the Huichol a “nation of doctors”, for an extraordinary number of Huichols (an estimated third of adult men) are mara’akámes or shamans. Furst adds that an even greater number of the Huichol, male and female, are also artists.


The Time of the Rains(#JBS06)
Huichol yarn painting by
Jose Benitez Sanchez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2000
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(24" x 24")

$750.



The Gods Give Life to the Sacred Places of the Earth(#JBS08)
Huichol yarn painting by
Jose Benitez Sanchez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2000
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(24" x 24")

$750 SOLD 10/05



The Magic Goat (#JBS03)
Huichol yarn painting by
Jose Benitez Sanchez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2000
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(12" x 12")

$275


El Peyotero(#JBS05)
Huichol yarn painting by
Jose Benitez Sanchez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2000
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(12" x 12")

$275 SOLD 10/05


A central aspect of the religious life of the Huichol, and an essential rite of every shaman, is the peyote pilgrimage to Wirikuta, a remote desert region 300 miles away in the state of San Luis Potosi. After the twenty day walk (now sometimes shortened by a ride on a truck or bus) to Wirikuta the Huichol pilgrims “hunt” for the sacred hikuri or peyote cactus. They shoot arrows into the first peyote they find, just like the sacred deer with which it is associated. The pilgrims consume some of the peyote in rituals in Wirikuta, and the rest is brought back for the consumption of the community.
The yarn paintings shown at Indigo Arts are the continuation of a variety of ritual arts long practiced by the Huichol. The Huichol are known for the symbolic patterns of plants and animal spirits, which they lavish on their cross-stitch embroidery, xukuri beaded gourd votive bowls, and a variety of prayer objects and crosses woven of sticks, feathers, yarn and other materials, which they called nierika. What arose in the 1950’s and 1960’s was the application of many of the same rich Huichol iconography and the same materials and skills to a flat surface. To make these paintings the artist spreads beeswax on a board, sketches out a design and fills it out by carefully pressing brightly colored yarns into the wax. The first paintings were largely decorative. Sold in government crafts shops they could bring in some needed income to community. But it was not long before the shaman-artists realized the paintings’ potential to tell the stories and myths of the Huichol, and to record their sacred visions.
The shaman/artist who pioneered this style in the mid-1960’s was the late Ramon Medina Silva. Using this yarn ”canvas”, Medina told traditional stories of the creation, the peyote/deer hunt, the journey of the soul after death, and the origins of Father Sun and Tatewari, Grandfather fire. Stylistically these early yarn paintings now seem quite primitive, the characters often similar to the stick figures in petroglyphs, in relatively static compositions. The artist who carried this art to its current level was Medina’s cousin and one-time apprentice, José Benitez Sanchez.
José Benitez Sanchez was born in 1938 in the settlement of San Pablo, where his father was a famous mara’akáme. Benitez credits his own path as a shaman to a revelation following an illness when he was fifteen, after which he set off on his first pilgrimage to Wirikuta. Benitez pursued the dual paths of shaman and artist almost from the start, and has been recognized as a master since the 1970’s. He pioneered a style of fluid figures in compositons which are dynamic, complex, and colorful to the point of being psychedelic. His success as an artist coincided with his growing stature in his own community. He helped found the indigenous community of Tsitákua, and was elected its first tatoani, or governor. Benitez’ work has been exhibited world-wide, and is included in many private and public collections. In addition to the substantial collection which was exhibited at the University of Pennsylvania his work is included at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

Healing Ceremony(#JB01)
Huichol yarn painting by
Josefina Benitez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(24" x 24")
"
The medicine man is using sacred feathers to cure his patients."

$550



Medicine Man(#EB01)
Huichol yarn painting by
Eliseo Benitez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(24" x 24")
"
Healing ceremony by the medicine man blessing with his power wand made with the feathers of an eagle. This is a traditional Huichol ceremony using the flower of the wind (kyery plant - datura) along with the sacred peyote."

$550


The Powers of the Animals (#MRC02)
Huichol yarn painting by
Maximino Renteria de la Cruz,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(24" diameter)
"
This is a Huichol story about the animals - the scorpion and the coralillo snake. The shaman uses these animals to obtain knowledge in how to make medicine."

$675 SOLD 10/05



Hikuri (El Peyote)(#MRC03)
Huichol yarn painting by
Maximino Renteria de la Cruz,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(24" diameter)
"
In this Painting we see the ceremony of the hikuri (peyote), in which we dance around the fire during the night and the day."

$675 SOLD 10/05

The other artists exhibited at Indigo Arts are Benitez’ students or peers, including two of his wives, Josefina Benitez and Maria de Jesus Rivera Hernandez de la Cruz, his son Eliseo Benitez, and his compadre Maximino Renteria de la Cruz.

The exhibition continues through November 27th, 2005. Indigo Arts, a Gallery of Ethnographic, Folk and Contemporary Arts from Asia, Africa, and the Americas, is located at 151 North 3rd St. (Second Floor) in Old City, Philadelphia, 19106.

The Making of the Fire (#MRH1)
Huichol yarn painting by
Maria de Jesus Rivera Hernandez de la Cruz,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(48" x 48")

$3400 SOLD 10/05



The Gods Come from the First World (#JBS09)
Huichol yarn painting by
José Benitez Sanchez,
Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Yarn pressed into beeswax on plywood
(48" x 48")

$3950



Huichol Yarn Mask (#hcm057)
Huichol people, Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Yarn pressed into beeswax on wood mask
(6 1/2" w. x 1" d. x 9 1/4" h.)

$145 SOLD 10/05



Huichol Beaded Mask (#hcm060)
Huichol people, Nayarit, Mexico, c. 2004
Beads pressed into beeswax on wood mask
(6 1/4" w. x 1 1/2" d. x 11 1/4" h.)

$195

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Al l photographs and text Copyright Indigo Arts Gallery, LLC., 1998-2009. Use without permission prohibited.

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