A Rare Breed Have you ever encountered the elusive alebrije before? These whimsical animals are rare and unique. Alebrijes have horns, antlers, wings, fins, and some have them all at once! Though no two are exactly alike, all alebrijes have startlingly vibrant color markings. They feature detailed patterns of stripes, dots, geometric shapes, flowers, and flames. Many have bodies with exaggerated, twisted contortions. Their faces exhibit expressions ranging from peaceful and playful, to suspicious and sinister.
Fantasy Creatures Born of Fevered Dreams Pedro Linares (1906-1992), a renowned indigenous Mexican artist, first created vividly colorful papier mâché sculptures called alebrijes. The inspiration for Linares' sculptures has an origin as outlandish and fanciful as the figures themselves. As the story goes, Linares became very ill when he was 30 years old. Not having access to medical attention, he laid in bed and lost consciousness. Linares dreamt of a bizarre, peaceful place that resembled a forest. He recounted seeing giant rocks, tall trees, and an expansive sky. The artist felt remarkably healthy again. His physical pain was gone and he felt happy as he walked along trails through the dense foliage of his dreamworld.
Suddenly, the clouds, rocks, and trees began to transform. The land features around him shaped themselves into animals that were familiar and yet like nothing Linares had ever seen before. There were mules with dragonfly wings, roosters with antlers, creatures that resembled gryphons and dragons, just to name a few. They had unnatural colors and patterns swirling over their bodies. These creatures began repeatedly chanting a single word: alebrije...alebrije...alebrije! Linares became fearful of these strange, powerful creatures chanting this nonsense word. He couldn't tell if they were warning or threatening him. However, it was enough to startle him awake in time for his fever to subside.
A Beautiful Nightmare Come True During the 1930s, Pedro Linares made piñatas, carnival masks, and religious figures from papier mâché that were sold in mercados throughout Mexico City. When he began using paper and cardboard to craft large, vivid, ethereal creatures that no one had ever seen before, he caught the attention of a prominent gallery owner who marketed the pieces. This garnered so much recognition for Linares' work, that Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo began commissioning alebrijes by Linares. Alebrjies became celebrated throughout Mexico and abroad. Thus, Linares was equipped to take a folk art tradition in a new direction.
Linares returned home to his native Arrazola in Oaxaca. He shared his designs with artisans in his village. A man named Manuel Jimenez was the first to create the brightly colored creatures out of copal wood instead of papier mâché. Jimenez incorporated Linares' visions into the pre-Hispanic woodcarving tradition that already existed among the indigenous Zapotec culture of that area. Descendants of Pedro Linares as well as Manuel Jimenez's family continue to carve and paint various alebrijes to this day. Other artists have also taken the craft upon themselves to create their own versions of the stylized animal figures. Entire families and villages have dedicated themselves to honing their woodcarving skills. They elevated the craft to a fine art that is prized around the world and built a unique economy based on artistic supply and demand.
After listening to the podcast and reading the information above, see Mrs. Lundgren to answer a question.
Generating Ideas Explore as many ideas as you can think of that relate to Alebrijes. Brainstorm to decide which ideas you would like to develop further. Be imaginative – not all ideas may work but list them anyway.
Watch VJ MexicoCity Alebrijes Parade (also on Schoology). Look at the Alebrijes for ideas. Notice colors, patterns, details, and animal combinations.
Researching The aim of your research is to find inspiration that will inform the design of your work...It could be other artists’ work or images. Try sketching different forms for your animal. Try painting different types of pattern.
Write down your top 2 or 3 most interesting, random animal combinations, and save 2 photo’s of each creature. Draw 3 quick sketches, moving parts around to create new, unique animals. Consider varying the size of things like using an extremely large head or giant spikes on the tail. Turn in your sketches into Schoology.
Write a 4 sentence story about a dream world or nightmare that goes with your creature Remember you are telling a story that gives meaning to your Alebries. Be creative! Turn your paragraph into Schoology.