Deep in the valleys of southern Mexico lives a ceramic artist whose whimsical personality and artwork touch everyone within contact.
Guillermina Aguilar Alcantara is a master of Mexican popular art, and the eldest of Ocotlán, Oaxaca’s Aguilar sisters, world-famous for their artwork.
She has made the journey to Oklahoma City to create, display and sell her imaginative pieces. Her monthlong trip was made possible through the support of her longtime friend, Gayle Younghein of the Oklahoma City-based La Grandota Folk Studies and Travel.
Younghein and her fiancé drove 3,800 miles, round-trip, to collect Alcantara and her 600 pounds of ceramics. Since early April, the artist has set up shop at Paseo Pottery Studio, 3017 Paseo, and visited various galleries and classes across OKC.
Her folk art is representative of where she lives and how she was raised, Younghein said. As the eldest of eight siblings in a poverty-stricken district in southern Mexico, Alcantara grew up making clay bowls just to make a living.
A typical day in Oaxaca for Alcantara begins at 4 a.m., when she walks two and a half miles to tend to her family’s land and livestock. Before working with clay, she first makes 50 tortillas by hand for her family.
“She is considered the Mother Teresa of the village where she lives because she helps everybody,” Younghein said. “There are people who are born in this world who are just unusual; she was one of those people. She is absolutely one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever known.”
Alcantara’s colorful artwork sells for anywhere from $10 to $400, and she is saving every cent she makes while in OKC.
“It’s fun, imaginative, tender, wild,” Younghein said. “It’s whatever goes on in her mind.”
As part of the Paseo Arts District’s First Friday Gallery Walk, the studio’s Cinco de Mayo Celebration honors Alcantara, who will conduct clay demonstrations Friday and Saturday. On Saturday night, she will do the same at Folk.Life, 4411 N. Western.
Prior to her departure later this month, her ceramics will be the focus of an event May 10-11 at Maya Trading Company, 1218 N. Western, also featuring Mexican dancers and food.
“This [trip] has been glorious, or as Alcantara would say, ‘Que gloria,’” Younghein said, noting that Alcantara has said that she wants to be buried in a pile of clay, so that even after she is gone, she still will be doing her art. “People have fallen in love with her.”