Felipe Benítez Miranda
Alebrijes & Mexican Paintings
Mexican artisan, Felipe Benítez Miranda, is a Náhuatl tlacuilo (painter) living in the state of Guanajuato. The Náhuatl culture, in an attempt to cling to its culture, has adapted and recreated their ancestral pictographic heritage in amate - a bark on which they paint beautifully intricate paintings called amates de historia (amates that tell stories). Generally speaking, the amate and its commercialization has become an outstanding economic means of survival, reaching the point at which the amate boom has produced a considerable amount of economic wealth. Felipe has abandoned amate and replaced it with hand carved animals (alebrijes) in wood instead of canvas for his incredible cultural depiction of rural Mexican life.
A 1990 census found that nearly 1,200,000 Mexicans over the age of five years speak Náhuatl. But numbers do little to elaborate on the impact that the Náhuatl language and cultures have had on the Mexican culture. For instance, foods such as chocolate, tortillas, and tacos, which are known throughout North and South America were produced and consumed by Náhuatl-speakers long before Columbus "discovered" the New World. And words such as coyote and chocolate, which have been adopted by both the English and Spanish languages are Náhuatl in their origin (derived from koyotl and chokolatl, respectively).
Felipe is shown here with Rene Donaldson who commissioned this special work for her home Casa de Antonio in Portal, Arizona. Felipe loves doing custom work and you will have the most incredible utilitarian art pieces in your home.
When you purchase folk art from a native Mexican Indian such as Felipe, you are helping to ensure that part of their culture continues. Felipe will also paint on commission - the furniture and kitchen cabinets shown above were done as a special project on commission.
To watch a video on Felipe at Feria Maestros del Arte, just click here. (Video courtesy of Troy Lanier.)