Bringing Magic to Montana: Latin American Folk Art Exhibit Opens at MMAC | Local News

ByJames I. Robertson

Jul 14, 2022

ABBY LYNES For the Missoulian

At the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, a new exhibit will bring a little magic to Missoula.

“I think it’s good for us to see that south of our border there is a whole world with a very rich aesthetic, storytelling, mythology and spirituality, and this collection reveals the breadth of the art in this part of the world,” said the MMAC executive director. said H. Rafael Chacón.

Entitled “Fiesta de Santos: Latin American Festival and Devotional Arts”, the exhibit focuses on festival arts in Latin America, spanning diverse communities from Mexico to Peru and featuring both religious celebrations and fiestas and secular.

Much of the art falls into the genre of magical realism, a literary movement focused on the surreal and magical elements of everyday life. The works range from ancient, pre-1492, when Christopher Columbus first reached the Americas and colonization followed, to modern times.

At the door, visitors are greeted with a “quite exuberant depiction” of the Virgin Mary in a relief print, which is one of the most popular images in Mexican art. She can be seen everywhere in the exhibit, from the sculptures to the paintings, Chacón said.

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Other works of art include a room showing a funeral, showing an entire family carrying a person to their grave. Family and community altars are present in the work, showing an important aspect of spiritual life in different Latin American communities. There are also several vibrant masks at the exhibit that would typically be accompanied by music and dancing, Chacón said.

One of the main points illustrated by the exhibition is the importance of handicrafts in the life of Latin American villages, he said. It also shows how beautiful life can be through color, form and function.

“In colors and materials of all kinds, the world is a dynamic place, and it’s exemplified by the way average people adorn themselves and the world around them.”

Most of the artists behind the work are anonymous, with some more contemporary graphic designers being named. Chacón said he hopes people realize that Latin America is a vibrant place to experience art and that people can learn a lot from the stories that come from family life in the region.

The works are on loan to the museum from the collection of the Hoyt family, a collector MMAC regulars might recognize from last year’s African art exhibition. “Fiesta de Santos” will be the museum’s first bilingual exhibition, so all labels and information on the artworks and the virtual tour will be in Spanish and English.

“I like to think that Latin America is really part of life in the United States,” Chacón said. “Many of us in this country have cultural roots in Latin America.”

The more people learn about different sets of stories and traditions, the better, he said.

“In a way, we learn about ourselves by looking at this art.”

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