Chester Decorative & Fine Arts Society

A Member Society of NADFAS

Mexican Art: Culture and Colour

On the 22 February 50 members attended a wonderful study day on Mexican Art and Culture ,Past and Present. After a welcoming coffee  we enjoyed  several most interesting and absorbing lectures and PowerPoint presentations with our extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker, Chloe Sayer. As a free lance specialist in Latin American culture, Chloe has a special interest in Mexican folk art and has worked with the BBC  on her specialist subject.

In order to appreciate the origins of the variety of forms, designs and techniques of Mexican art work we were taken on an exciting journey exploring the various civilisations , highlighting their distinct skills . The variety of arts described ranged from the huge sculptured heads of the Almecs, the painted pyramids of the Tikawa, the decorated cities of the sophisticated Maya culture to the luxurious artefacts of the Mixtecs who were the most famous crafts people in Mexico.

The Mixtecs, whose traditions survive to this day, created feather and ceramic mosaics, polychromal pottery and fine gold work. The culmination of these skills was never more evident than during the 200 years of the Aztec empire and particularly in the heavily decorated capital city of Tenochtitlan. When the city was overthrown after 200 years by Cortes in 1519, pre conquest traditional techniques continued and  survived through the colonial and revolutionary periods.  These skills are still exemplified by gold and silver jewellery, ceramics, pottery, beadwork and textiles produced by some fifty different groups of indigenous peoples remaining in different and sometimes remote regions of the country.

Chloe had on display examples of museum quality textiles. The overriding impression of these hand-woven wools and cottons was not only the brilliance of the colours produced still by traditional dyes such as cochineal, but the incredible intricacy of the weaving and embroidery. The fusion of age old designs  in modern fabrics was particularly evident  in -geometric stylised flowers and animals of pre-conquest Mexico with the addition of horses and churches symbolic of the colonial period.

 Mexico is a remarkable celebratory nation with many events focusing on the Church calendar. At such times these phenomenal garments are much in evidence as they also bedeck statues of the Virgin Mary. It is clear that the extraordinary and historic legacy of many cultures still combine to represent Mexican national identity through its art.

Our memorable day was punctuated by an excellent lunch : and our thanks go to the Committee for organising this most illuminating day which whetted the appetite for further travel !!