Oaxaca Sculptor Extraordinaire: Adolfo Cruz

Well-used cantera table (Starkman collection)

The use of locally mined stone in hews of green, pink and yellow is a tradition in Oaxaca dating to pre-Hispanic times. “Cantera,” as it’s locally known, was fashioned into foundations for temples and administrative buildings of, amongst others, the Zapotec and Mixtec civilizations. The material was also used to sculpt deities and other adornments.

Working with cantera for both utilitarian and purely aesthetic purposes has continued to date throughout much of the state of Oaxaca. One of the tradition’s most well-known and respected sculptors is Adolfo Cruz, recently retired from his fine arts teaching post at the Benito Juarez University in Oaxaca. In addition to having developed an international reputation as a master of stone and bronze art forms, Maestro Adolfo is continually being called upon by both government and church to restore and refurbish historic buildings which have suffered from the wear of centuries and periodic earthquakes, as well as by architects wanting to maintain a connection with the past in their contemporary projects.

Those with an interest in art or architecture now have an opportunity to meet with this grand maestro in his facility in Magdalena Etla, a ten minute drive beyond the well-known Wednesday market town of Villa de Etla.

You’ll have an opportunity to learn about the varied applications of the three types of cantera; the state-of-the-art machinery recently acquired by Adolfo enabling him to create with much more precision; and the process by which he fashions sculptures of cantera, as well as of bronze using a rather rudimentary foundry, the only such bronzing facility in the state. For the collector and art aficionado a rare opportunity exists to purchase one-of-a-kind pieces at a fraction of American costs for similar quality.

One of Adolfo’s three daughters, Nely, is an artist in her own right, and follows in her father’s steps, now teaching at the fine art college. She works with a variety of media, but what “pays the rent” are her fine-cut cantera jewelry pieces, predominantly earrings and pendants.

For those with a particular artistic orientation who are visiting Oaxaca, a trip to Magdalena Etla provides a uniquely rewarding experience, in particular if combined as part of a full day tour with stops at the nearby artistic glass factory, the hand-made paper facility, the art institute and gallery at San Agustín, the home of one of the finer ceramicists in Atzompa, and perhaps a stop by one of the smaller Zapotec ruins with a quaint community museum.

To get to Adolfo Cruz’s home and studio, follow the highway beyond the town of Etla, taking the first left onto a dirt road after you pass the well-marked signage of the Oaxaca Industrial Park.

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Alvin & Arlene Starkman’s Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ) combines the comfort and service of quality downtown Oaxaca hotels, with the quaintness of country inn lodging. Oaxaca accommodations with a personal touch. Ask about Alvin’s Oaxaca tours, fully personalized. Casa Machaya is a founding member of the Oaxaca Bed and Breakfast Association.