Oaxacan Wood Carvings in the World of Fine Art: Aesthetic Judgments of a Tourist Craft
Journal of Anthropological Research
In recent years, certain ethnic and tourist arts have become highly valued by collectors, gallery owners, and museum curators in the United States, Canada, and Europe. This paper examines the extent to which economically successful woodcarvers in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have been able to gain the attention of the gatekeepers and tastemakers of the art world. The woodcarvers confront formidable obstacles in their efforts to have their work accepted as fine art. The recent invention of Oaxacan wood carving may make the craft seem inauthentic. Because carvings are usually made by a group of related family members, even some of the most aesthetically pleasing pieces cannot be attributed to an individual artist. The relatively low standard of living of most woodcarvers prevents them from adopting an "art for art's sake" philosophy emphasizing experimentation, originality, and lack of concern for commercial possibilities.
Published Article/Book Citation
Journal of Anthropological Research, 62:4 (2006) pp.pp. 491-512.