Miniatures Artist From Oaxaca, Mexico: Miguel Angel Martinez Reyes Magnifies With Magnificence
Despite having carved miniatures as small as 1 mm in size, the only time Oaxacan folk artist Miguel Ángel Martínez Reyes has used a magnifying glass has been when Swarovski exhibiting his remarkable artwork to the public. “I have excellent eyesight, and I rarely work using artificial light; the exception being when I’m under the gun to complete a piece with a certain deadline, which happens infrequently,” explains Martínez Reyes one morning while we’re having breakfast with his artist colleague Dolores Leycegui. “My work is so small and detailed that sometimes people would ask if I had a magnifying glass to help them better appreciate my art, so I began bringing one to my exhibitions,” he continues.
The 34 year old master of the diminutive has shown his art as far away as in Treviso, Italy; as well as in Mexico City, Oaxaca and hometown city Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz. The 2013 Italian museum exhibition was part of a global tribute to famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. He donated his creation, a carving in miniature of Kahlo and Diego Rivera made of wood from the pochote tree, to the museum, as a gesture of his gratitude for having been invited.
“I work with wood from the pochote tree because it’s soft, but for me bone is more elegant though more difficult and time consuming; when I have been commissioned to do a specific piece, or if I have a particular theme in mind which lends itself to using bone, that’s my preference,” explains Martínez Reyes.
Dating as far back as he can remember, Martínez Reyes enjoyed drawing. But it was when he was nine years of age while climbing pochote trees with his friends, that he took notice of the whimsical knots, texture, and color in the trunk and branches of the tree.
Scaling pochotes with his friends provided the initial inspiration for creating miniatures. He continued carving, making pieces with greater detail as he got older. Out of economic necessity he took a two year hiatus from his work to sojourn to the US. Realizing that “The American Dream” would likely continue to elude him, he returned home to Oaxaca. It was upon his return when he was about 19 years of age, that he began using beef bone as his preferred medium. From that point onward Martínez Reyes recognized that carving would be his calling in life.
Only the extent of his imagination restricts the subject matter of Martínez Reyes’ work, although women provide his strongest stimulus. “I hold women in the highest esteem, and thus I respect and admire them; after all, a woman gave me life, so how can I think otherwise,” he asks rhetorically. He speaks of the mother earth theme in some of his work, which bears the fruit of life.
The wizard of whittle gingerly digs into a knapsack and carefully removes his work. He cradles in his hands, as if ready to disclose the delicate petals of a flower in bloom, a number of his pieces. They include a mermaid, as well as two indigenous women kneeling at work both hewn from pochote. There are also bone pieces with religious imagery. His 1 mm