By HAYDEN SEDER
The newest exhibit at The Community Library in Ketchum features the art of Mexican artist Carlos Lecanda and his collection, “Las Catrinas.” On display through March, the exhibit kicked off with a reception on Feb. 2, which Lecanda and his wife flew in for from Mexico, complete with live music and several speakers, including his son Luis, who lives in Ketchum.
“I hope that my art can inspire the Sun Valley community to see the world in a new way and to connect with each other on a deeper level,” said Carlos. “I believe that art has the ability to foster empathy, understanding, and connection, and I would love to see my exhibit inspire more conversations and interactions between people of different cultures and backgrounds.”
Though his son lives here, that is merely a coincidence to the fact that Carlos has ties to the art community of Ketchum. After a philanthropist of the Sun Valley Museum of Art saw Carlos’s work several years ago, the artist visited the museum twice to conduct art workshops; one on piñata-making and one on papier-mâché. Members of the community expressed interest in seeing Carlos’s art, which could only be seen in Mexico, so Luis arranged to do an informal showing with his parents and a few art pieces at the library. When library staff saw the commotion around Carlos and his art, executive director Jenny Emery-Davidson decided to do a full exhibit around Lecanda.
“Walking into the library means walking into wonder!” said Emery-Davidson. “We want the entrance to The Community Library to uplift people, inspire their curiosity, and invite meaningful connections. The beautiful papier-mâché catrinas of Carlos Lecanda do all of that.”
Walking into the library’s foyer, visitors are greeted by six glass displays encasing Carlos’s papier-mâché catrina dolls. On one wall of the foyer is a sign detailing the exhibit (displayed in both English and Spanish) and on the opposite wall is a projected video of Carlos creating one of his works. The full title of Carlos’s show is Las Catrinas: A Celebration of Mexican Tradition, and these catrinas evoke just that. While many assume the catrina has always been a symbol of Mexico and its Dios de los Muertos festivities, it was actually only in the last 70-ish years and because of two Mexican artists that it became the icon it is today. The first of these was a political cartoon drawn by artist Jose Guadalupe Posada as a critique of Mexicans who adopted dress and culture around the time of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920). The second was in a depiction in Diego River’s mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.
Each of the catrinas has its own story, energy, and fashion style that represents different aspects of Mexican traditions and uses some or all of Carlos’s many artistic skills in papier-mâché, quilling, piñata-making, and more.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is a piece commissioned by The Community Library specifically for the 2023 Winter Read, Las Primas, by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. The book centers on two young cousins whose paths diverge but are always connected. The resulting piece, “Las Primas: Sabrina y Corina,” shows the main characters as catrinas, with a heavy dose of symbolism throughout the piece, to such a degree that Carlos and Luis prepared an accompanying handout to help viewers understand the complexity of the piece.
“Each catrina presents such vibrant colors and enchanting details, making the library foyer feel animated and joyful,” said Emery-Davidson. “The catrinas also resonate beautifully with this year’s Winter Read, Sabrina & Catrina, by Kali-Fajardo Anstine. Carlos Lecanda created a special commission representing the title characters of this book, and all of the catrinas speak to important themes in the Sabrina & Catrina short stories — the power and vulnerability of beauty, and resilience in the face of death.”