Juan José Ramos Medrano
On the outskirts of Tonalá, Jalisco, there are a few families who have inherited the craft of Barro Betus (pottery rubbed with birch oil extract) from past generations. This type of ceramic folk art brings to life fantastic creations of the imagination produced in an unusual medium before being fired in order to create a glaze-like sheen.
The famous sculptor Candelario Medrano is credited with initiating Barro Betus as it is practiced today, a folk art that exhibits a brilliant sense of fun with life through extravagant creations that bear the unmistakable stamp of the artist who creates the work.
Since a young man, Juan José Ramos Medrano, Candelario's grandson, has been creating incredible artwork in the family tradition. He produces a wide variety of works, from small figures to elaborate constructions with dozens and dozens of small figures attached to a central figure.
The clay Juan José uses is from the beds near his home. After preparing the clay with water, he kneads the pliable medium into devils, lions, roosters, churches, trucks, and Tastuanes (grotesque figures inspired from a local ceremonial dance), among other shapes. After being painted, the colorful creations are covered with Betus and air-dried for several days. It is then fired at a very low temperature compared to the heat levels used for other types of ceramics.
The most popular pieces of Barro Betus art are the colorful nahual figures. A nahual (or nagual, both pronounced nah- wahl) is a human being who has the power to magically turn himself, or herself, into an animal form, commonly a donkey, turkey, dog, but into a potentially more powerful animal. The nahual can use his or her powers for good or evil, according to his or her personality. The common belief of tonalism in Mesoamerica, that all humans have an animal counterpart to which their life force is linked, is often intertwined with nahualism beliefs. The word is often translated into English as "witch transformation" or "rogue transformation".
Calle 20 de Nov #1023
St. Cruz de las Huertas, Tonalá, Jalisco
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