Art as Cultural Preservation

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     How poor would be our library of knowledge without Mayan murals or Huichol bead and yarn paintings, or native designs incorporated in handicrafts?  Art is a major source for what we know about ancient and indigenous cultures.

      Art has preserved history, rituals, beliefs, and the fabric of daily life. Art has recorded landscapes, flora and fauna.  Butterflies and birds, textiles and pottery, with a swish of an artistic hand, have been melded into objects of utility and a cultural record. The illustrious and the inconsequential are part of our knowledge due to art.

     Artists have used vibrant colors, symbols and masks to express mystical experiences in recording a people’s spirit, culture and beliefs.Traditional art is realistic and is often the only record that preserves an event, a person or a community. The cave paintings of Baja California are the single source of our knowledge of a now vanished people. Drawings give evidence of the cultural disruption of a people once considered “a nation of giants.”

      Throughout Mexico murals decorate municipal buildings and comment on the cultural history of Mexico.  Diego Rivera’s “A Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park,” a fresco preserves a cultural commentary that lives in the Alameda Hotel.  José Guadalupe Posada, “the peoples’ artist,” keeps alive in caricature and satire the political culture of the era.

      Art, sometimes wild and incomprehensible, displays the mind of man, the irrational and the rational, the sophisticated and the primitive, the grotesque and the sublime.  Since the 1900s art has become less traditional, recording dreams and using new abstract styles such as surrealism and cubism.  It has become invention, created new forms such as drip paintings and colored rectangles, and artists have combined materials in totally unexpected ways that record and preserve the vitality of a culture.

      When art is examined one sees a preserved history sometimes a window to the past, sometimes a vision of the present that one day, will be the past.  Art reveals and preserves a vision of our heritage, our culture, our spiritual beliefs, our environment and our attitudes.  Whether pre Hispanic or Christian, in textiles, amate bark, pottery, murals or masks, art is a cultural preserver.

      Miguel Díaz Guerrero is a painter who lives in the Sierra Norte. He is an indigenous artist who lives with nature and his community. He participates in daily life and culture. His realistic paintings preserve and record life in the Sierra.  He incorporates landscapes, flora, fauna, individual activities, and the community. He has recently created twelve paintings themed around sheep: the herding, gathering, shearing, washing wool, carding, spinning, weaving and garment wearing.For posterity Miguel has recorded and preserved life in the Sierra Norte.