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Talk / Lecture

Vital Matters: Stories of Belief–Wixárika (Huichol) Yarn Painting

October 12, 2021 | 11:00AM - 12:00PM


Taking the Fowler’s exquisite yarn painting by José Benítez Sánchez, Untitled (2005), as a point of departure, educator and curator Diana Negrín will provide context for its symbolism as it relates to Wixárika culture, history, and territory. Negrín will also speak with yarn artist and daughter of Benítez, Maymi; together they will provide insight into Benítez’ practice as an artist and shaman, pointing to his background as a Wixárika migrant in Tepic; and his relationship to Juan Negrín, who promoted and collected Benítez’ art and became his companion on numerous pilgrimages. Thanks to these biographical details, we can better understand the stories behind this and other Benítez paintings, which manifest cartographies of indigenous ancestral territories currently under multiple threats.

Vital Matters: Stories of Belief is generously supported by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Diana Negrín is a geographer, writer, educator, and curator who focuses on land and social movements in the Wixárika territories of Mexico, and of Abya Yala more generally. Her scholarship engages human and cultural geography, critical race theory, cultural studies, political ecology, and urban studies. She is the author of Racial Alterity, Wixárika Youth Activism and the Right to the Mexican City (University of Arizona Press, 2019). Between 2008 and 2010, Negrín co-curated a series of exhibits at Pueblo Nuevo, a community art space in Berkeley, California. More recently, she has worked with her family’s unique Wixárika art collection, most notably through the Grandes Maestros del Arte Wixárika: Acervo Negrín exhibit at the Museo Cabañas in Guadalajara (2019-20).

Maymi Benítez is a contemporary Wixárika artist based in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, and daughter of the late artist José Benítez Sánchez. She has built upon her father’s innovative yarn painting techniques, establishing herself as one of the preeminent contemporary Wixarika artists.

Vital Matters: Stories of Belief
Vital Matters programs explore objects that arouse devotion, awe, or serenity; mediate relationships between human and spiritual realms; and are of vital importance to the cultural heritage of individuals and communities. This series accompanies the new digital initiative Vital Matters: Stories of Belief–a platform for sharing different perspectives on devotional works at the Fowler Museum.

Image credit: José Benítez Sánchez, Untitled, 2005; acrylic yarn, beeswax, wood; Fowler Museum at UCLA; Gift of Ronald Lanyi

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