SchoolArts Room

Visiting a Legend in Oaxaca: Josefina Aguilar

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Nov 8, 2016

Josefina Aguilar is the matriarch of a family of artists and the first to gain recognition for her unique and colorful clay figures. I'm pretty sure I've been to her home every time I have visited Oaxaca.

Here Stevie Mack is shown with Josefina's son. He has taken over demonstrating for visitors since his mother no longer can, use to her health. He is surrounded by clay figures made by his family. Like most artisan families in Mexico, everyone pitches into the family business.
How to choose from so many?

I've met Josefina's son before at her compound and at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
 Her son's work is darker in tone and content.
Josefina often depicted Frida and Diego.
The workshop goes on by members of Josefina's family.
My small purchase: a seller of bread for the Days of the Dead.
Josefina is sitting on the left side here, working on a small piece. As in many Mexican homes, work and life take place in a central courtyard.
The demonstration piece.
 I'm guessing this big green frog represents Diego Rivera.
The clutter of an artist's studio.
Sets of Fridas and Diegos 

Figures range from small to tall and are fired once and painted with acrylics.

 I always like seeing artists' work spaces.
The blue church depicted here is in the same small town, Ocotlan.

I wanted this horse and rider but didn't think I could get them home in one piece.

The kiln, definitely handmade.

We had a fantastic time in Oaxaca and felt perfectly safe the entire time. There were ongoing teacher, doctor, and nurse strikes but they did not affect us. The Days of the Dead are a family celebration and that was clear everywhere we went. What is sad is that people have been scared to go to Oaxaca by misleading news reports and the lack of tourism hits the artists and artisans hard. They don't have many other ways to make a living. I can't wait to go back.