Piñatas have long been available in different colorful, cardboard designs but the real fun was destroying them to get to the candy inside, but this new exhibit dedicated to the art of piñatas is showcasing the art behind these famous candy containers as they are perceived today. “The Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration” exhibit at The Craft in America Center in Los Angeles features 50 works made by 15 artists and artist collectives from across the U.S. and Mexico. The piñatas are truly works of art evocative of culture and relevant issues including some inspired by Covid-19 and the vaccine. Artist Isaías D. Rodríguez created a collection of more than 200 small butterfly piñatas entitled “Resilience” that is beautifully detailed and both personal and political.
“‘Resilience’ is a visual art piece that is designed to engage the viewer’s past experiences in multiple ways. I created an installation that features over 200 little piñata butterflies so one may see the beauty of the Monarch and it’s amazing ability to journey across a continent as a symbol of strength,” Rodriguez tells HipLatina. “My oldest sister, Emilia Rodriguez, past away this year and for me, the Monarch butterfly represented her strength as a loving sister, daughter, aunt, devout Catholic and cancer survivor.” He also shares that the work is also for Dreamers, “as a symbol of strength as they navigate through their journey to provide a better life for themselves and family. My work always contains multiple opportunities to see the world in creative ways.”
Born in Boyle Heights and raised in Rosemead, Rodriguez, 44, is now settled in Fresno, California with his wife and two sons, who helped make his display. He lost his older sister to cancer earlier this year and a monarch flew over her ceremony and he chose the butterfly to represent her resilience as they migrate 3000 miles from the U.S. to Mexico.
Much like the average piñatas, there are several in the exhibit that reference pop culture icons including Selena (artist Amorette Crespo), Walter Mercado (artist Ana Serrano), and a bag of Hot Cheetos (artist Amorette Crespo). The exhibit includes pieces by traditional piñata artisans alongside the creations of artists who reinvent and reinterpret the piñata using different techniques, materials, form, function, and notion of the piñata. Half-Guatemalan, half-Mexican Justin Favela, one of the most well-known piñata artists, created “Baño de los Pescaditos,” a homage to Mexican painter José Maria Velasco. Other featured artists include Yesenia Prieto, Roberto Benavidez, and Diana Benavidez.
The tradition of the piñata is believed to have started in Europe as a Christian ritual that included a clay pot decorated with colored paper and ribbons and the treats inside. Spaniards are said to have brought it over to Mexico in the 16th Century, where Mayas and Aztecs also used something similar as an offering to the gods. Its multi-cultural background includes roots in China and it was then imported to Italy where it’s said to have been named “pignatta” which translates to clay pot.
“Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration” can be seen in person at the Craft in America Center through December 4 and an online exhibition is also available.
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