The Aguilar Family

Spirit and Craft in Oaxaca: Clay Figurines of the Aguilar Family

Altar and skeleton lady
Frida Kahlo part 1
Frida Kahlo part 2
Frida Kahlo’s “Self-portrait with Monkey” (1940)
Frida Kahlo’s “My Nurse and I” (1937)
Frida Kahlo’s “The Two Fridas” (1939)
Frida Kahlo’s “The Two Fridas” (1939) part 2
Frida Kahlo’s “Roots” (1943)

Doña Isaura Alcántara Diaz was born in Oaxaca in 1924. To provide for her family, she made clay pottery. As her works became well known as both useful and decorative, she became an important community figure.

As an illiterate woman, Doña Isaura’s affairs were initially credited to her husband Jesús Aguilar. As she experimented more, Jesús’s reputation increased, to the point that illustrious collectors such as Nelson Rockefeller traveled to Ocotlán de Morelos to buy the figurines. Doña Isaura taught her craft to her four daughters- Guillermina, Josefina, Irene, and Concepción.

The Day of the Dead is a popular theme in the creations of the Aguilar family, as seen in the depictions of a skeleton lady and altar by Guillermina Aguilar (below). The Day of the Dead is a holiday associated with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1st and 2nd.

Altar and Skeleton Lady by Guillermina Aguilar

Figurines with themes related to the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo are commonly portrayed by the Aguilar family. Frida Kahlo is depicted here in a figurine by Irene Aguilar. Each family member carves their signature in the figurines, making it easy to identify the artist.

Frida Kahlo by Irene Aguilar

Most of the figurines in this exhibit were made by Josefina Aguilar. Of Doña Isaura’s daughters, Josefina’s work is the most well-known inside and outside of Mexico. Her style is cheerful and colorful, as seen in the depiction of Frida Kahlo’s 1940 painting “Self-portrait with Monkey.”

Frida Kahlo’s “Self-portrait with Monkey” (1940) by Josefina Aguilar

Lorenzo Demetrio García Aguilar is Josefina’s son. His ceramic interpretations of Frida Kahlo’s paintings “My Nurse and I” (1937), “The Two Fridas” (1939), and “Roots” (1943) perfectly exemplify the artist’s novel style by using smoky colors and adding a background or foreground to the figurines.

Frida Kahlo’s “My Nurse and I” (1937) by Demetrio García Aguilar

Frida Kahlo’s “The Two Fridas” (1939) by Demetrio García Aguilar

Frida Kahlo’s “Roots” (1943) by Demetrio García Aguilar