Art critic, Corinne Geeting of the Christian Science Monitor commented, “Paintings with yarn? Such a technique sounds contrived and unsophisticated until you see the masterworks of the Huichol Indians of Mexico. The fluidity and richness of coloring almost surpasses even that of the lushest oils.”
The master of Huichol yarn paintings is José Benitez Sánchez who was born in 1938 in the Sierra huicola de Nayarit. He was trained as a shaman* and chose to dedicate his life to creating these religious masterpieces that are a direct reflection of his divine inspiration. He has only contempt for the newer artists because “they work only for money.” The Huichols protect their people from the divine. It is forbidden, but also relies on man’s need to transgress! Any initiate into the esoteric aspects, particularly shamanism, must participate in a series of transgressions, learning things that are too dangerous for the ordinary man, being willing to wreck the lives of those around him in his quest and committing himself to carrying out impossible acts.
Those who do not “reach the place where the sun rises” are characterized by horror vacui, a ritual of frenzy and repetition without renewal or result. Peyote and sleep deprivation create ritual ecstasy. There is animal sacrifice, renunciation of money-making, sleeplessness and endless dancing and physical deprivation and exhaustion, abstaining from consuming salt; all of this to achieve nierika, the gift of sight.
To create these works a board is spread with beeswax and the contours of the design drawn out. The figures are outlined and filled in. The artist signs the back and writes an explanation of the symbolism. “The cosmic mythology of the great nayar explains how the world itself is a textile woven from the hair of the first goddess. This divinity, equivalent to the Spider Woman of the Pueblo Indians, wove the world in a diamond shape and her sons did a ceremonial dance on top of it to stretch it out.”
This art form combines the taste of earth and animal fiber with the occult and spiritual. José Benitez Sánchez is the grandmaster. He is considered one of Mexico’s most creative artists.