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Oaxacan Wood Carving (Alebrijes)

About Oaxacan Woodcarving

Oaxacan woodcarvings, also known as alebrijes, seem to strike a universal chord with our shared human experience. These carvings, more often of animals, have been a tradition for generations in several small villages outside the capital of Oaxaca, Mexico. Over the past 20 years this style has evolved dramatically from colorful and whimsical folk art into fine contemporary art. It is sought out worldwide by very passionate collectors who can’t seem to get enough. Even the Vatican featured Oaxacan art in December 2014.

There is an amazing amount of work from start to finish on the fine art pieces. Limited only by each artist’s imagination pieces are extensively carved, dried and sanded before being painted. Artists use rudimentary tools to create fascinating figures out of green, fresh-cut copal wood, a small tree native to the tropical dry forests of Mexico. They are able to pull unique figures and forms out a “blank slate” piece of wood. The wood when green is dense and wet but dries and becomes light like balsa wood. The aromatic resin from the copal tree was used for centuries by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The tree holds a special significance to local Zapotec descendants today, many of which are carvers. Large pieces can take months to properly dry before any decoration is applied. Sophisticated pieces like those coming from premier artists from the workshop of Jacobo and Maria Angeles utilize natural pigments derived from plants and minerals and utilize traditional Zapotec design motifs. Oaxacan artists continue to push and evolve the art form with ever increasing subjects and styles. We are proud to represent this work and hope you enjoy exploring the amazing variety offered in our store.

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