Jesus Sosa Santiago
The fantastically beautiful and technically accomplished carved wood sculpture of Jesús Sosa Santiago originates with copal wood, indigenous to Oaxaca, which is revered for its durability and smoothness. Santiago is a recognized master of this artform, which he learned from his father—who in turn learned from his father before him. For Santiago, carving both sacred and playful creatures is a family tradition. “My great-grandparents also made elaborate wood carvings,” explains Santiago. “These were used for utilitarian purposes, and also for creating wooden masks for carnivals.”
To begin, Santiago sources copal wood from nearby wilderness areas, then begins the labor-intensive carving process after deciding on his chosen theme. After the copal wood is fashioned into the desired form, Santiago often enlists his mother to assist in meticulously painting the carved items, using ingenious arrangements of colors and eye-dazzling patterns.
At first glance, Santiago’s wood carvings, which include brightly painted frogs, apes, snakes, and much more, may seem purely whimsical, but in fact they also contain important historical implications which span back for untold centuries, when the Zapotec indigenous people created sacred carvings, often in honor of the seasons and the elements—for special ceremonies and community rituals. Our art has had many changes over the generations,” says Santiago, “since it has depended a lot on the material and the way of life.” Whether serene or playful, these fantastic art objects are always brightly colored and made to be treasured.