Oaxacan Animal Carvings

Manuel Jimenez, “Feline” (2001), carved and polychromed wood. San Antonio Arrazola, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca,
Mexico. Coll. (image Courtesy of Fomento Cultural Banamex, A.C.)

Whether friendly or fierce, sublime or surreal, animals have captivated the imagination of artists in every place and time. But the style inaugurated by Manuel Jimenez in Mexico’s Oaxaca region is a particularly compelling combination of wooden carved fantasy creatures and strong, painted designs. Oaxacan folk art is only about 60 years old but it has become one of the most popular folk art styles in Mexico.



Manuel Jimenez (1919-2005), a peasant from San Antonio Arrazola, began carving at a very young age while tending goats and sold masks and wooden miniatures at local markets. An art dealer from Mexico City discovered him in 1957, was captivated, and promoted Jimenez, connecting him with collectors like Nelson Rockefeller and curators from top folk art museums.

Manuel Jimenez holding one of his wood carvings (and below). He died in 2005 at age 85

Angélico and Isaías, the sons of Manuel Jimenez, continue his fine carving tradition in the family compound. Behind wrought iron doors, a lush garden and creative mosaic paths weave through the multiple work areas of the family’s compound. Unlike many carvers, they generally do the painting themselves. Angélico favors blue and Isaías prefers a combination of colors, in contrast to their father whose favorite colors were yellow and rose.




More information at Friends of Oaxacan Folk Arts, here.








Categories: Sculpture, wood

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