Beasts and Bones

In 2004 the William D. Cannon Art Gallery in San Diego, California featured Beasts and Bones: The Cartonería of the Linares Family.   The exhibit was over 70 papier-mâché  (or cartonería) figures either inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead Figurines (calavera) and companioned with (alebrije), mythical dragon-like, griffin, and gargoyle like creatures that look like they come out of the pages of a medieval grimoire.


The Linares family have been making these figures for over 100 years.   Most cantoneros are anonymous folk artists.  The Linares are considered among the galleries of San Francisco and Los Angeles to have elevated the form to a fine art.

Traditional Day of the Dead figurines feature stoic danse macabre style skeletons dressed in finery of yesteryear.   The Linares calavera are plucky, and chubby, and often thoroughly more modern, but their body postures and open mouths intentionally recall the wide mouthed Peruvian royal mummies which have so often graced the cover of National Geographic.


In addition, the skeletons may join the fantastic beasts in living in a world that seems more inspired by Tolkein and the Mabinogion than the Dias de los Meurtos.


The alebrije seem to take something from Medieval woodcuts representing what lurks in the corners of the flat earth but also have a sort of playfulness about them which would not be out of place in Where the Wild Things Are.


The one above is inspired by a Chupacabra and a Velociraptor.


Members of the Linares family still make pieces of original art and may were on hand for the exhibit, though some of the pieces were as much as 50 years old.   The collection was temporary however.   Many of the figures were on loan from private collectors and were only assembled together for this exhibition.    The figures have since gone back into the private hands from whence they were lent.




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