Annual Sinton Lecture: “Innovation within Traditional Folk Art,” with Porfirio Gutierrez


with Porfirio Gutierrez, Zapotec Master Weaver May 20th, 2017, 10 a.m. Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Admission: Free for current members of the TAC $5 for students and members of FAMSF, $10 General Admission

All living cultures are constantly evolving, even the most traditional design elements may be used and expressed differently today than they were 100 or 1000’s of years ago. The same holds true for traditional materials, as they are seen with new eyes. This is a good thing, proving that contemporary artists are not just copying the work of previous generations, but building on that work in a way that is true to both the tradition and to their own personal creative process.

The Gutierrez family’s work is grounded in the textile traditions of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca where they live. They use the same techniques and materials that the Zapotec weavers of their village have used for hundreds of years. They are one of the last few families who still dye their yarn with only local plant material and cochineal insects, honoring the tradition of working with what the earth provides. They use many designs inspired by the archaeological sites of their Zapotec ancestors, which have been included in local textile designs for generations.

Stories told by his elders about cultural myths, the Zapotec way of life in the past and present, and the value of plant fibers, have all given him a more profound understanding of who he is, and have influenced his personal expression through art.

Comparing the designs of his ancestors to his work today is more of a melding than a departure. Portfolio merges old materials and cultural themes with broad stroked, liberated design. There is no mistaking where he has come from artistically, and yet there is a progressive reinvention of the original elements of his culture through the lens of modern America. He represents two worlds in his work, constantly referring back through centuries of tradition while advancing his designs for the world he sees today.