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Why is the Mata Ortiz Pottery We See In Los Cabos Considered Fine Art?

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The seductive geometry of the ceramics from Mata Ortiz –a small village in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico– represents the most intriguing creative phenomena in Mexican folk art. It burst into the cultural scene with a force that can only be attributed to its great beauty. But the recent development and the fact that it transformed the economic activity of an entire community in less than three decades are also surprising. This art form was born out of the explicit desire of one man, JUAN QUEZADA, whose curiosity as a 12 year old boy, took him into a cave he discovered while gathering firewood in the hills near his home village Mata Ortiz. Inside that cave he was struck by the beauty of a couple of pre-Hispanic ceramic pot shards he found -ancient vessels known locally as ollas pintas or mottled pots– His thoughts became occupied by a perplexing question: how had this ancient culture managed to create such beauty in that barren environment? He took this mystery as a personal challenge: he had to create something of equal beauty. And then he embarked in an adventure: the long and arduous process of learning the craft of pottery without anyone to guide him in his technical experiments. Starting from the simple assumption that the antique pots must have been made from local materials, he began a period of creative experimentation that took him almost twenty years and eventually resulted in a complete process for the creation of polychrome painted ceramics. What had begun as a hobby became his life’s prime focus and later the pivotal activity in his entire village. The Paquime or Casas Grandes culture flourished between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries in northern Mexico. The pottery fragments from that ancient people were the source of inspiration for Juan Quezada, but his work and the work of all the pottery artists from Mata Ortiz has not been a copy of the old pots, it is an original artistic expression with its own mystic spirit and power. INTRODUCTION TO THE ART WORLD One day in 1976, when Spencer MacCallum, an anthropologist and art historian, got into a junk store in Deming, New Mexico, he found three pots different from any pot he had ever seen, surprised he asked the store owner about the pots but everything he knew was that the pots came from northern Mexico. Intrigued, he bought the pots and returned to California. He put the pots in a shelf but his gaze was constantly drawn to them. Somewhere in northern Mexico there was an extraordinary artist and potter and MacCallum finally decided he wanted to find this artist...

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