Renowned Mexican Carver Visits Mariposa

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — Thanks to the Mexican Consulate in Boston, renowned master Oaxacan woodcarver Ventura Fabian to the Mariposa, on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 10th! This is the last U.S. tour of Fabian, 77, who is retiring to share his craft with the young people of his village in Oaxaca, Mexico. The program will include a carving and painting demonstration by Fabian and his son, Norberto, a brief talk, the opportunity to handle artifacts, an award-winning short film about their craft and life, and a 20 minute Q & A with the artists.

The Fabians’ village of San Martin Tilcajeta is a small, rural village outside the colonial city of Oaxaca, Mexico.  Along with the villages of Arrazola and La Unión Tejalapan, it has become well-known for its hand-carved, hand-painted wooden figures that are now one of Mexico’s best-selling crafts. They have been featured in Smithsonian Magazine and in Separd Barbush’s best-selling book, The Magic in the Trees.  Before the carving boom of the 1980s, most of the village’s 1,700 residents earned their living by farming and wage labor. As the popularity of carvings exploded, many families turned to woodcarving to supplement their income. As one walks down the town’s unpaved dirt roads, passing herds of animals on their way to or from surrounding pastures, signs hang outside houses inviting tourists to enter, meet the family , and purchase their work.

Figures are rooted in traditional aspects of rural daily life. Ventura’s work, in particular, is known for its rustic and “primitive” qualities as well as for being wildly imaginative. Animals indigenous to Oaxaca are found alongside African animals, dragons, and other fantastical creatures, all rendered in bright, exuberant colors. Sometimes whole scenes of village events are constructed. Don Ventura’s most popular works were created as playful tableaus, e.g. pairs of animal sweethearts dancing to a band of animal musicians. Fabian says the animals were originally born in his imagination as nahuals, indigenous Mexican spirit creatures who visit one during sleep.

Of Ventura Fabian, author Shepard Barbash writes, “Ventura, who of all the carvers perhaps best  fits the image of the eccentric folk artist, lives in a peculiarly private world where reality mixes with something less immediately verifiable…. His carvings are the weirdest, most expressive of all.”  Ventura heads a large family that includes six children, his wife, Viviana, and his sister, Tía Petrona. Ventura recounts that the long afternoons spent in the fields tending his animals have been an important source of artistic inspiration for him. His two sons, Martín, 40, and Norberto, 36, are also talented carvers. Norberto graduated from the small junior college in nearby Ocotlán with a certificate in technical construction, and has taken classes in computer science, but still continues in the footsteps of his father as a campesino/artesano, ready to pass on his craft to his two young sons.
This event is for all ages. Admission is $6. Mariposa Home School members get a 25% discount. RSVP is not mandatory but is much appreciated. Please call 924-4555.
The Mariposa is located at 26 Main Street in Peterborough, NH. It is wheelchair accessible. Please visit for further information!
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