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Object Name: Ibis
Artist: Jorge Wilmot (b. Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, 1928/1929; active Los Naguales workshop, Tonal?, Jalisco, 1950s-1980s)
Place of Origin: Tonal, Jalisco, Mexico
Dimensions: H: 31.00 cm, W: 26.50 cm, D: 53.00 cm
Medium/Materials: Terracotta, slip, gold leaf
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Lenore Hoag Mulryan.
Accession Number: X2009.2.2
This ibis was designed by Jorge Wilmot, sculpted by Antonio Ramirez, and painted by Ernesto Ramirez. Wilmot recounted that he developed the ibis design from a sketch of a tyni Scythian ceremonial bird sculpture he saw in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
These creatures portrayed in clay are described by their makers as naguales, animal spirit counterparts of humans whose powerful force can be invoked for good or evil. The nagual is both guardian and trickster-a kind of shape-shifter who transforms people into animals and crosses worlds. The concept of the nagual dates back some three millennia and lives on today throughout Mexico as well as areas of the United States.
The town of Tonal has long been known for its pottery traditions, and most notable are those works ornamented with, or in the shape of, animals. The 1950s saw an especially vibrant resurgence of ceramic arts with the vision and entrepreneurship of potter Jorge Wilmot, who established the Los Naguales pottery workshop and museum in 1958. Wilmot and others merged European, Asian, and indigenous imagery and techniques and used seventeenth-century colonial export pots and early twentieth-century models as points of departure for low-fire pottery and stoneware ceramic pieces. With consummate skill and creative invention, local potters have transformed these approaches and reinterpreted iconographies for new purposes and a wider market.
Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2009