Friday, July 23, 2010

Juan Torres, a great artist near Patzcuaro

Last week, I left San Miguel de Allende early so I could get a head start on the day. It was a beautiful morning when we rolled into Capula on our way to the taller (workshop) and home of Juan Torres.
The property is quite big with his taller, chapel art studio, greenhouse and home. Juan Torres was born in Morelia in the the state of Michoacan and he started drawing at the age of seven. He has built houses and haciendas as an architect and is also a well known painter and sculptor. This elegant sculpture graces the entry courtyard of his home. I love the elongated body of this angel!
Juan Torres has always been fascinated with Death and it appears everywhere in his work. In 1982, he was the first to make these Catrinas from clay. Many have worked in his taller under his guidance and these new artists have passed their knowledge and skills down to their siblings and children. Because of this explosion of talented artists, Capula has become the capital of clay Catrinas.Torres has perfectly captured the Calavera Catrina, the skeleton "conceited lady." I can picture her promenading down the Reforma in Mexico City in the early 1900's.

The Calavera on the Catrina's right is Emiliano Zapata. Zapata was the legendary hero and leader of the Mexican Revolution. He was raised in extreme poverty surrounded by large haciendas. He started recruiting peasants for an insurgent army way before the Revolution officially started in 1910. Later he was ambushed and gunned down by government troops in 1919. Zapata was quoted as saying, "Prefiero morir de pie que viver siempre arrondillado." (Better to die on my feet than to live forever on my knees.) I picked this Catrina out for a client of mine. It will be meticulously wrapped so her delicate fingers will stay intact.

The taller of Juan Torres will be one of my stops on my guided tour, Artesans & Architecture, in February, 2011. If you are interested in joining me, please send me an email at

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