Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Aprendiendo del Arte- Learning from Art

After school today I drove through the beautiful snow-covered Flint Hills to Manhattan for a two hour workshop at Kansas State University, Aprendiendo del Arte- Learning from Art. The guest speakers were Agustin Cruz Prudencia (Oaxacan wood carver), Cilau Valadez (Huichol yarn painter), and Nancy Walkup (editor of SchoolArts magazine). The event was hosted by Trina Harlow and the KSU Art Ed students. 
Nancy Walkup spoke about ways to teach about multicultural art and each artist spoke about and showed images of his work.
Cilau Valdez, Huichol yarn painter- Cilia's father, the preeminent Huichol yarn painter, Mariano Valadez, passed on the tradition when Cilau was a young boy. Wood panels are covered with a layer of bees wax that the yarn is attached to. Finger nails or needles are used to push the yarn into the wax. You can see the images are drawn directly with the fine yarn. The colors were SO vibrant and have an extra cool effect with 3D glasses. The artist explained that this tradition is how they pass down stories. Each image is a symbol and the colors have meanings, too. Spirals represent the lifecycle since it is never ending. I think he said that the eyes represent the person sending up the prayer. I also think he mentioned Mother Earth and Father Sun when talking about how nature is so integral to the Huichol culture. I hope I remember what he said correctly but there was a lot going on in that classroom.
Agustin Cruz Prudencia, Oaxaca wood carver- A special wood is used for the carvings which have to be executed while the wood is still green. Agustin carves with a machete and learned the technique as a boy by watching his father. He said that the Oaxacan men often do more of the carving and the women tend to do more of the intricate painting. The carvings are SO cool! They usually represent fantastical animals.

After the talks we were given brief introductions to several art projects including yarn painting, painting precut wood shapes with a Oaxacan style (Cilau uses a machete and those would probably be frowned upon in schools), paper picado, tin panels inspired by Mexican tin ornaments, Ojos de Dios, model magic sugar skulls, and a couple other projects of which I can't remember the name. It was pretty crowded so I just walked around looking at the artist's work and watching their demonstrations for a while before I tried a couple projects. Dude, yarn painting is hard. I want to try it sometime when I can devote more time to sitting and maybe use some finer yarn. I think I started with a shape that was too complicated for my first try and I was basically just gluing yarn to my finger tips. 
I don't think I see my older students often enough to attempt actually DOING yarn painting, but I really want to just show them some photos of the yarn paintings and wood carvings to discuss. I know they would really enjoy seeing the images. I just wish they could see them in person!


  1. I got to meet both of these talented artists this summer at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, through the 'International Folk Art Extravaganza' with Crizmac and School Arts.

    Looks like this was a fabulous day!

    By the way, Cilau suggested trying yarn painting on a peel & stick vinyl tile, rather than with wet glue (since we don't have the wax they use). I'm going to try this!

    1. That is an awesome tip! I will be picking up some vinyl tile to test it out. It seems like that would be MUCH easier. Thanks, Phyl! :)