“Life goes on” women supporting other women with black clay art in Oaxaca


Ancient Oaxacan techniques to create clay figures are used by artist Pita Wild (Czech Republic, 1981) to declare that life goes on. An angel of voluptuous roundness or a black vase adorned with virile limbs are some of the pieces that she has made thanks to learning with teacher potters from three communities.

Life goes on  is the name of the exhibition organized by the Arte Mujer Oaxaca (Armo) collective, in which 12 creators participated and which was inaugurated on September 5, on the first mourning anniversary of the artist Francisco Toledo, who was remembered by his work to praise the traditional arts before starting the exhibition of the pieces in Casa Murguía, in the historic center of the Oaxacan capital.

The situation we are experiencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic is sad, to see Oaxaca without its calendas, says Pita Wild in an interview. But life goes on and it will go on. As artists, we must somehow continue to move forward, even if sales are difficult.

The activity of the creators, she considers,  is an interior need , which has not changed so much for the visual artist, since the artist is used to working locked up at home or in the workshop. However,  the mood changed; the situation is getting longer .

Pita has been in this land in the south of the country for almost eight years,  longer than I imagined, I came for a few days, and stayed for 8 years so far. While traveling through Mexico, several people recommended me to go to Oaxaca. I came without expectations. It turned out Oaxaca had a lot to offer me.

I came to the best place. I love Oaxaca because it has a lot of cultural richness, crafts, and arts. I like these opportunities to get closer to the communities and share knowledge. I feel like I’ve been here for a long time and I still have a lot to learn.

The burning of the pieces of clay in the open sky has been an impressive experience, she says. Since the beginning of this year, visits to San Bartolo Coyotepec, Santa María Atzompa, and San Marcos Tlapazola began to learn with potters and prepare the collective exhibition named “women and clay”, which was inaugurated last March at the State Museum of Popular Art of Oaxaca and that brought together the work of artists and artisans. But it was open for a short time due to the start of the quarantine.

We had to find someone to teach us the clay techniques where there is more openness because in some of the most famous workshops it was difficult, they are more used to working with tourism. It was enriching to work with these teachers, María Cruz, Graciela Simón, and Petrona Zárate. Each clay has its peculiarities,  you come with a sketch idea and you have to accommodate yourself to the possibilities.

Pita studied plastic arts at the Ostravská Univerzita in the Czech Republic and specialized in graphic arts. In this city she has been an active recorder, often taking up daily life and festivities, as in her series dedicated to the Day of the Dead and the calendas, with Tehuana-catrinas, dressed in splendor and flowers.

I like to experiment with all kinds of material, each one has its own way of expressing itself. The ancestral preparation to offer the clay to the fire has been the recent learning, already far from the paper and the ink. Sunning the formed pieces, preparing the fire, covering the area with pieces of comal and broken pots to keep the heat. I imagine that this could have been thousands of years ago, you feel that tradition goes far back: ceramics have always accompanied humanity.

Gold leaf ornaments accompany the typical manly vase made according to the traditional technique with black clay from San Bartolo Coyotepec, perhaps the most famous of the entity. Pita Wild decided to add two handles in the shape of a penis,  she refers to machismo in general and gender inequality. Next to this piece, she posed smiling, dressed in a corset embroidered in the style of the Tehuanas, during the opening of the exhibition of women artists united by art.

The show  Life goes on ended on October 15. It was possible to visit it respecting the new sanitary rules, and the catalog with the works of painting, photography, engraving, and sculpture is available on the Internet too. The purpose of the sale of the pieces is to support high school and university studies for indigenous and Afro-descendant scholars in collaboration with the Guadalupe Musalem Fund.

Image takenn from Pita’s Facebook page

The conjunction of contemporary art results in women supporting other women. In the words of the curator Abigaíl Maritxu Aranda: it is a message of hope and that in the midst of difficulties we can come together, it is to make art in circumstances such as the pandemic.

Source: La Jornada

The Oaxaca Post