Title: Yarn Painting

Date: ca. 1980
Artist: Apollonio De La Cruz
Culture: Huichol (Mexico)
Material: Colored yarn, beeswax, wood
Size: 48” H x 48” W
Credit: Gift of Fred Fagan
On View: No

The Huichol live in the rugged, mountainous region of west-central Mexico. According to their oral traditions, they migrated there from the area around San Luis Potosi. To this day, they still conduct pilgrimages to their former homeland to collect peyote cactus, which plays a significant role in ceremonial activities. Another important part of Huichol life is the production of nieli’ka, or yarn paintings, which are placed at shrines or other sacred sites. 

Yarn paintings are square or round tablets covered with beeswax or pine resin and another layer of brightly colored yarn. The designs often refer to traditional activities or shamanistic traditions, while the vibrant colors mimic the psychedelic aspect of peyote. 

Beginning in the 1950s, some Huichol began creating yarn paintings specifically for the commercial market. As a result, nieli’ka designs have become increasingly elaborate. This particular piece is indicative of the transformation of a yarn painting from a cultural artifact to a commercial work of art. The design is inspired by the Huichol’s annual pilgrimage to collect peyote.

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