Crafting Gender

Women and Folk Art in Latin America and the Caribbean

Crafting Gender

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 50 illustrations Published: October 2003

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies

This volume initiates a gender-based framework for analyzing the folk art of Latin America and the Caribbean. Defined here broadly as the "art of the people" and as having a primarily decorative, rather than utilitarian, purpose, folk art is not solely the province of women, but folk art by women in Latin America has received little sustained attention. Crafting Gender begins to redress this gap in scholarship. From a feminist perspective, the contributors examine not only twentieth-century and contemporary art by women, but also its production, distribution, and consumption. Exploring the roles of women as artists and consumers in specific cultural contexts, they look at a range of artistic forms across Latin America, including Panamanian molas (blouses), Andean weavings, Mexican ceramics, and Mayan hipiles (dresses).

Art historians, anthropologists, and sociologists from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States discuss artwork from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Suriname, and Puerto Rico, and many of their essays focus on indigenous artists. They highlight the complex webs of social relations from which folk art emerges. For instance, while several pieces describe the similar creative and technical processes of indigenous pottery-making communities of the Amazon and of mestiza potters in Mexico and Colombia, they also reveal the widely varying functions of the ceramics and meanings of the iconography. Integrating the social, historical, political, geographical, and economic factors that shape folk art in Latin America and the Caribbean, Crafting Gender sheds much-needed light on a rich body of art and the women who create it.

Eli Bartra
Ronald J. Duncan
Dolores Juliano
Betty LaDuke
Lourdes Rejón Patrón
Sally Price
María de Jesús Rodríguez-Shadow
Mari Lyn Salvador
Norma Valle
Dorothea Scott Whitten


Crafting Gender gives fascinating insights into the gendered nature of the creative process at the heart of contemporary Latin American indigenous and mestiza population.” — Stiofán Ó Cadhla , Western Folklore

“Because the articles under review are interesting, even personal accounts, and contribute to the description of women’s creativity, which is solidly socially contextualized within gender and household relations, Crafting Gender makes an important contribution to the intellectual discussion of folk art and women’s roles in creating this art.” — Walter E. Little , Museum Anthropology

“The essays in this anthology acknowledge the elements of change and community inherent in folk art in the regions. All the authors in the anthology take note, in particular, of responsiveness to change. This anthology, approaching different cultural traditions from a variety of perspectives, strives to develop a clear, systematic framework for understanding exactly what women folk artists create and how they go about doing it.” — Suheyla Saritas, Journal of Folklore Research

"[This book is] important for anthropologists and should attract a broad general readership as well. . . . [I]nformative and well-written." — Virginia Davis , Journal of Latin American Anthropology

"Folklorists will . . . appreciate the essays that introduce aspects of belief systems that are fundamental to a critique of gender relations and also underlie the spiritual relationship of artists to their material and imagery. . . . Many themes in this book suggest new directions for folk art scholarship in the twenty-first century. . . . Crafting Gender is appropriate for courses on folk art, as well as on women and gender studies. It will stimulate further discussions on such topics as the variables of marketing art and cultural identity, sustainable village craft enterprises, and power plays among artists and local art collectives and government agencies." — Suzanne MacAulay, Journal of American Folklore

"For anyone interested in women’s folk art in Latin American and the Caribbean, Bartra’s volume is an invaluable resource, and it is a major contribution from the standpoint of students and scholars interested in art, the anthropology of work, gender and family studies, and international development. I share Bartra’s hope that this anthology will be followed by many others that contribute to the discovery, understanding, and valuing of the incredibly rich creative world of women folk artists."
— Kimberley Grimes, American Ethnologist

"The richness of this book comes from the possibility of comparing the artistic production of different countries to each other and the ability to discern the differing ways that women produce their arts. . . . Highly recommended." — L. E. Carranza , Choice

Crafting Gender deftly fills a gaping hole in gender studies by providing a rich body of information on women’s traditional arts. Exploring the distinctions between art, ‘folk art,’ and just plain work in a great variety of cultures, the authors illuminate social context, belief systems, aesthetics, and technique, expanding the field to areas not well known outside of academia and Latin America. Feminists, artists, and scholars will find much material in Eli Bartra’s book with which to mold and weave their own forms.” — Lucy R. Lippard, author of The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Feminist Essays on Art

"Crafting Gender is an original collection that presents in one volume several subjects generally treated separately, integrates them with a gender perspective, and offers an approach that is truly innovative." — Marysa Navarro, coauthor of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: Restoring Women to History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eli Bartra is a Professor in the Department of Politics and Culture at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco in Mexico City. She is the author of numerous books in Spanish.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction / Eli Bartra 1

Always Something New: Changing Fashions in a "Traditional Culture" (Suriname) / Sally Price 17

The Emergence of the Santeras: Renewed Strength for Traditional Puerto Rican Art (Puerto Rico) / Norma Valle 35

Kuna Women's Art: Molas, Meaning, and Markets (Panama) / Mari Lyn Salvador 47

Connections: Creative Expressions of Canelos Quichua women (Ecuador) / Dorothea Scott Whitten 73

Engendering Clay: Las Ceramistas of Mata Ortiz (Mexico) / Eli Bartra 98

Women's Folk Art in La Chamba, Colombia (Colombia) / Ronald J. Duncan 126

The Mapuche Craftswomen (Argentina) / Dolores Juliano 155

Women's Prayers: The Aesthetics and Meaning of Female Votive Paintings in Chalma (Mexico) / María J. Rodríguez-Shadow 169

Earth Magic: The Legacy of Teodora Blanco (Mexico) / Betty LaDuke 197

Tastes, Colors, and Techniques in Embroidered Mayan Female Costumes (Mexico) / Lourdes Rejón Patrón 220

Contributors 237

Index 241
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3170-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3182-7
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