ALMAAHH & MFAH Announces Six Artists Commissioned to Create Alebrije-Inspired Sculptures

by Jessica Fuentes August 10, 2023

ALMAAHH, Advocates of a Latino Museum of Cultural and Visual Arts & Archive Complex in Houston, Harris County, recently announced the artists selected to create alebrije-inspired sculptures for the upcoming Fall Festival at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH).

A photograph of an artist sitting on a large outdoor alebrije sculpture.

GONZO247’s artwork for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s “Dream with Alebrijes,” 2022.

While past Fall Festivals have included the MFAH commissioning artists to create alebrije sculptures, this year marks the first time the museum has partnered with ALMAAHH for the initiative. The organizations launched an open call for Houston-based Latinx artists earlier this year. From the 48 applications received, six artists were selected, including Krystle Holnes, Laura de León, Michelle Matamoros, Hugo Pérez, Rebo, and Ignacio Sanchez. Learn more about the artists’ projects below, via descriptions provided by ALMAAHH.

According to ALMAAHH, each of the artists’ creations will draw inspiration from the original concept of alebrijes as established by Pedro Linares. While experiencing a fever dream, Mr. Linares had a vision of brightly colored fantastical animals. When he recovered, he brought his vision to life through papier-mâché sculptures. Over time, Mr. Linares’ sculptures have become popular and synonymous with Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

The commissioned sculptures will be on view at the MFAH during the Fall Festival on Sunday, November 5, and will remain on view through November 12.

Krystle Holnes, inspired by the Yoruba, Panamanian, and Embera Uona traditions, will create a mermaid-tree fusion. Ms. Holnes celebrates Afro-centric beauty with vibrant indigenous fabric patterns, inviting a cultural journey for viewers. Her sculpture will resonate with the spirit of the Reina Congo from the Islas de Colon, underlining her profound connection with Afro-Panamian roots. Like the Mexican alebrije sculptures, she embodies a playful whimsy.

Laura de León is inspired by the jaguar in Mesoamerican cultures. The Jaguar is considered a Nahual, or spirit companion that protects while it moves through the earth and the spirit realms. The sculpture will be a collective collage altar.

Michelle Matamoros will create a “Maripache” inspired by the racoon, renowned for its cleverness, playfulness and resourcefulness; the bumblebee, a messenger bringing the secrets of life and service; and the butterfly, symbolizing transformation and renewal.

Hugo Pérez, inspired by the story of his family’s rescued Chihuahua, will create a sculpture to bring attention to the homeless dog situation in Houston. Mr. Pérez’s color palette will be inspired by the use of indigo in El Salvador.

Rebo’s inspiration comes from the Mazatec legend that tells the story of how the opossum spread the knowledge of fire to humanity. The legend says fire fell from a star and an old woman kept it for herself. The opossum took fire from the old woman and carried the flame on its tail; that is why opossums’ tails are hairless. Rebo’s sculpture will be inspired by the brave opossum.

Ignacio Sanchez is inspired by his family’s travels to Oaxaca and their dedication to preserve Mexican arts and culture. Mr. Sanchez will create his family’s alebrije-inspired sculpture and it will be a testament to their shared identity and the everlasting bond that unites them.

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