Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Sarabia’s narco mixed-media tales fill second floor of MACO

One of the early mixed-media installations of Eduardo Sarabia, a native of Los Angeles living in Guadalajara, tapped into a journey sparked by his grandfather’s map of the rumored buried treasure left behind by Pancho Villa.

That and later stories are included in his current show occupying the entire second floor of the Contemporary Art Museum of Oaxaca (MACO). Traditional forms of Talavera pottery are transformed by symbols associated with narco-trafficking, contrasting the beauty of the culture with the dark undercurrents swirling underneath.

During a 2014 interview published on the website of the Arizona State University Art Museum, Sarabia reflected on the temptations posed by gangs when he was growing up in Los Angeles. A teacher noticed his talent and persuaded his parents to send him to Saturday art classes:

When both your parents are working and you grow up in a bad neighborhood, it is easy to get caught up in these things. Art saves lives.

Postcard from Oaxaca: Weaving new translations of ancient traditions

The magic of the first carpet had our attention. And the second. Brilliant colors, traditional patterns passed from wrinkled hands to nimble young fingers generation after generation in villages in the interior of Mexico.

Santiago Borja’s carpet appears traditional at its heart but melts into modernism at its edges. Weavers from the workshop of Jeronimo Hernandez in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, completed its execution.

But then something happened on the next wall. The scarf escaping from the flat surface, its fringe fluttering free as though a butterfly freed from its cocoon…

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…a phrase too obviously transitioning to the title of the exhibition at the Museo Textil de OaxacaCocoon Me from My Feet Up: Traditional and Contemporary Carpets. Curator OlgaMargarita Davila assembled work by 18 artists from four countries “to connect ourselves with the meaning of the fabric we inhabit: our body.”

Bodies resembling dancing Guatemalan worry dolls bob along the top and bottom of a linear weaving by Susan Martin Maffei whose website explains:

Crocheted 3 dimensional trims, quipus and found objects enhance the narrative visuals of many works, influenced by textile forms and embellishments of the many ancient cultures I have explored.

An “unwrapped” piece caught my eye, but then the artist almost cheated to make me a fan – a postcard. He created a postcard to the curator to accompany one of his pieces.

….there is such a contribution to be made by adapting examples from the history of our chosen medium and quietly exploring a simple form or image through line, grid-form or in separate units, repeating and developing it again and again.

Archie Brennan, Tapestry Art Today, Summer 2004

And then, he has such a fine last name.