A simple black bow above the door of La Mano Magica heralded the bad news. On March 9, 2014, Arnulfo Mendoza, known for his unmatched skill as a rug weaver, died at the age of 59.
To say that Arnulfo Mendoza was just a rug weaver is to say that Caruso was just a singer, Stradivarius just a woodworker, Michael Jordan just a basketball player and Bill Gates just some computer guy.
The reality is that Arnulfo Mendoza was one of the grand masters of Oaxacan art.
Unfortunately, too few people came to appreciate the great designs he created out of nondescript balls of yarn. For far too many people, the tapete, as it is known here in Oaxaca, was simply too utilitarian. After all how could someone call something art if its chief function was as a floor covering?
I remember the first time I walked into his store/gallery and realized that not only was I enthralled by Arnulfo’s work, but that he was sitting in the back of the store enjoying a cold beer. Humble and unpretentious, I sensed back then, not knowing who he was, that I was somewhere special, near a man who literally worked magic with his weavings. From that day on, every time I visited Oaxaca, I made the pilgrimage to his shop to see his creations.
I bring people every year to Oaxaca to experience part of the culture of this great area. One year one of the people who was traveling with me pulled me aside to ask a question. He had been walking along the Alcade in Oaxaca and said he had gone into a store called the “La Mano Magica, or something like that.” He wanted to know if I had any idea how much a rug from there might cost.
Clearly, he could sense the difference between what he saw there and what is typically available on the street corners and in the markets across Oaxaca. What he was looking at was art. Delicate and at the same time, robust. Intricate on such as scale that when seen whole, Mendoza’s creations were mind blowing.
Standing in his gallery, looking at his creations, you just knew that Mendoza, and his work, were special. You got the same feeling admiring his work as you would in one of the worlds great art museums. Indeed, many of the stunning creations he wove over the years hung next to some of the greatest art we have ever seen.
As well it should.
El Maestro Arnulfo Mendoza will be missed, but not forgotten. Through his art, his legacy will live on, hopefully challenging the young weavers growing up in his hometown, Teotitlan del Valle, to further greatness.
Descansa en Paz Sr. Arnulfo Mendoza. You were and will continue to be, the standard of greatness to which all future generations of weavers will be measured.
Two touching tributes from Christopher Stowens, photographer for Maestro Mendoza for many years… One here and another here… Both of these posts offer some excellent photos and thoughts on Arnulfo Mendoza