Blind sculptor in Mexico inspires with clay art of indigenous people

Latin America

Blind sculptor in Mexico inspires with clay art of indigenous people

In Mexico, folk art is as varied as it is popular. However, it’s one artist that’s setting himself apart by breaking past serious adversity, and breaking past the mold.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock filed this report from the state of Oaxaca in the country’s deep south.

They’re visions of mythical creatures, rural childhood and indigenous women, sculpted from clay and signed JGA. There are letters on each artwork, JGA, standing for Jose Garcia Antonio. There’s one thing that sets this Mexican folk artist apart: He’s blind.

“My sight was completely gone, but I didn’t lose hope, nor become sad or bitter,” Antonio said. “As a man, I looked at my life and said to myself, I have lost my sight, but I have not lost my life.”

Having dedicated his life to art, Jose lost his sight to glaucoma at age 55. Regardless, he said the visions of what he sculpts are fresh in his mind, and that he has learned to see with his hands.

“I discovered that my senses of feeling and hearing were stronger, and I began to work again. Now I feel that I can see, but through my touch, because I can make figures using my hands as if they were my sight,” Antonio said.

“When I had my vision, I don’t believe I sculpted as well as a do now, because today, all of my time is for my work.”

His wife, Santareyna Mendoza, has stood by his side.

“I admire him, because he was never sad. He would tell me, don’t cry. I’m the head of this household and I’m going to work so that you and my children can eat,” Mendoza shared.

Garcia is known in art circles around the world for his ceramic sculptures. In one art gallery in Oaxaca, in the state capital, his work goes on sale.

Eric Chavez is the gallery’s curator, and works to promote Jose’s work.

“Maestro Jose Garcia, he’s an icon in Oaxacan folk art,” Chavez explained. “The level of detail that we find in his work is also really inspiring to us, to give him spaces like this for recognition and exhibitions. So yeah, it’s quite something to look at his work and look at him working.”

As Jose Garcia’s art spreads across the world, his message of positivity through adversity travels too, in the indigenous faces he sculpts.