Fantasy Sculptures: Alebrijes

By Jo Phillips

In the 1930s, a Mexican artisan named Pedro Linares fell ill and had a lucid dream in which he was immersed in a strange forest surrounded by bizarre flora and fauna. As he recovered, he began to form ideas inspired from his colourful dream; he decided to sculpt the things he saw in the forest.

These sculptures were named Alebrijes, derived from a word the creatures in the dream were shouting. These sculptures caught the attention of artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and the tradition of sculpting Alebrijes spread to Oaxaca, Mexico where the fantastical figures were made from copal wood. Now emulated by master craftsmen, these unique sculptural wood carvings, painted with bright colours and intricate patters, depict animals (imaginary and not), people and objects. No two sculptures are identical; each one looks and means something different. Below are some wonderful pictures which capture the essence of these vivid pieces.day-of-the-dead-skulls-jesus-and-roxana-hernandez_paintinglizard-bear-ray-mendezarmadillo-jacobo-and-maria-angeles

Here in the UK, a company run by Mexican/British couple Sonia Otero and Gareth Jones strives to honour the tradition of sculpting Alebrijes by selling these Oaxaca artists’ creations. Visit their website (MexArt) here and browse their artistry.