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The following information refers mainly to the collections found at the Martin Gallery of Tribal arts. The gallery collection contains a large selection of textiles and masks from Mexico and Guatemala.  Some of this information was obtained from the carvers, weavers, or cultural groups by the gallery owner, Jerry Martin, while, he was in the countries collecting art.

 

The ethnographic and tribal arts of Central America, Guatemala and Mexico

 

The Arts of Mexico

 

Masks

Mexico has a long history of creating beautiful carvings, masks and textiles. In Mexico, masks are mostly used for theatrical purposes.  There are hundreds of different dances performed during religious festivals or special occasions to bring people together and create a festive mood.  Many stories represented by the dance are based on their cultural creation stories or brought from Spain during the time of the conquistadors.  A number of dances are believed to have been performed before the arrival of the Spanish.  Martin Gallery has a large selection of masks and textiles especially from the states of Guerrero, Chiapas, and Oaxaca. For more detailed information please see the about the objects section on "masks".

 

El Torro Mask from Tixtla,Guerreo Mexico

Circa 1920  #2009.01.036

 

 

 

 

Magdelina, Chiapas, Mexico Huipil  #2002.01.037l

 

 

 

Chiapas Mexico Textiles

Textiles are another category of Mexican art that is well known throughout the

world. In the state of Chiapas many of the indigenous people still weave their huipils, (blouses) on backstrap looms. The wool weavings from Magdelina are some of the beautiful and intricate weavings of all the Americas.

For more detailed information please see the about the objects section on "textiles and clothing".

 

 

Oaxaca Mexico Textiles

 

In Oaxaca, especially in the Tehuatepec, Juchutan and the northern mountainous areas including San Lucas Ojitlan, and Huanta de Jiminez, the indigenous groups no longer make their clothing from hand woven cloth. Instead they use commercial material, tailor them into styles mostly introduced by the early Spanish settlers, and create colorful and intricate designs with embroidery and appliqué. In the western parts of Oaxaca some of the groups never lost their weaving traditions. The Trique women still weave their wool huipils on the backstrap loom. The town of San Pedro Amusgos has created a cooperative to revive their tradition and teach their women to weave, mainly for economic development.For more detailed information please see the about the objects section on "textiles and clothing".

 

       

   Trique Women wearing traditional hand woven wool dress.

 

The arts of Guatemala

Like Mexico, Guatemala has a rich tradition of art and design especially in their traditional hand woven textiles and dance masks.  Most of these objects are created by the Mayan indigenous populations who live in the Cuchumatanes Mountain range that extends from Chiapas Mexico to the south central part of Guatemala.

 

 

Guatemalan mask #1995.01.011

 

Guatemalan masks

Masks are a major art form in Guatemala.   They are used to represent characters in dances. In Guatemala as well as Mexico there are hundreds of different dances performed during religious festivals or on special occasions to bring people together, entertain them, and create a festive mood.  Many stories represented by the dance are based on indigenous mythology, cultural creation stories or brought from Spain during the time of the conquistadors.  A number of dances are believed to have been performed before the arrival of the Spanish.  Martin Gallery of Tribal Arts has an extensive collection of costumes and masks, many collected from traditional family mask and costume rental businesses called “morerias” which rarely sell their inventory.  Most masks are carved from wood and painted.  Older masks from morerias have normally been repainted and repaired many times over the years. For more detailed information on Guatemalan masks please go to the mask section of this site.

 

Guatemalan textiles

 

Textiles are not just a piece of cloth to the native people of Guatemala. Women say that when they wear their traditional village huipil they are surrounded by their history and culture. Many of the Mayan villages have a specific style and design of clothing. In the past, people could tell what village a person was from by their clothing, but since the terrible civil war period of the 1960s through the 1990s, this has somewhat changed. Designs have been copied and intermixed and women purchase and wear huipils from other villages. Still, in many cases, huipils continue to be hand woven on backstrap looms and a person can recognize in what village the garment was woven.  Another special feature of Guatemalan weaving is the use of the “Ikat” technique or “jaspe” as they call it in this area. Jaspe is where the design is dyed into the warp threads before they are stretched onto the loom and woven. This technique is rare and generally only found in Thailand, parts of Central Asia, Indonesia and Guatemala. It is believed that the Mayan people developed this technique very early and independently from the other areas. In Guatemala, jaspe fabric is most commonly used for wrap-around skits called “corte” and hand woven on large treadle floor looms. Generally, only women weave on a blackstrap loom while both men and women use the commercial type treadle loom. Cotton is the most common material used but wool garments are woven and worn in the cold upper highlands.  Silk threads are often used for making “sobrehuipils” which are large special huipils used for ceremonies and on special occasions.  Weaving is a large cottage industry in the highlands of Guatemala and an important source of income for many native Mayan families.

 

 

 

Guatemalan woman weaving on a backstrap loom

Example of a Guatemalan Jaspe weave skirt

 

  Chichicastenango, Guatemala  man's                     Nebaj, Guatemala, woman's                                Solola, Guatemala woman's "sobre" or

  ceremonial jacket #1998.01.001                           huipil # 2003.01.083                                           ceremonial huipil #2003.01.085