The Collection of David Wilsher
Many of the pieces in my collection are from the mid 20th Century. Some were made since I started collecting in 1989. Unfortunately, I'll probably never meet the mask makers who created the older part of my collection. Meeting the mask makers is a special treat that I've had the opportunity to experience three times.
In addition to Herminio Candelario, I met a man who sells his masks on the sidewalk near the Zocalo in Mexico City. Often, they're just days old, made strictly for resale. I really like his work. He's very talented and his masks often have a life to them. They're sometimes hard to tell apart from much older masks that sell for a lot more in galleries. He's a nice young man in his twenties. I like that he's humble about his work. I always praise him for his artisanship. Next time I see him I'll try to get his name.
On my first driving trip to Mexico, my friend Ben and I drove from Colima all the way to Puerto Angel on Coastal Highway 200. It took us two days. We stopped in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero and met someone who knew a local mask maker. We drove to his home and he showed us six gorgeous masks, all of which were unusual according to what I had seen thus far. Many used long seedpods for exaggerated tongues and noses. I bought a mask from him that I still cherish. He makes his masks to sell to the tourists in the adjacent town of Ixtapa
In 1996, the famous mask maker, Juan Orta of Michoacan, was in Chicago selling some of his new creations. He hosted a mask-making workshop and I was fortunate to buy a few masks from him.
Most of the masks I buy now come from stores and galleries. Some are from easily found craft markets around Mexico City and Oaxaca. Some are from a few fabulous galleries which are my secret places that I don't want everyone to know about. This is the little niche I've carved out over twenty years.
Some of the places where I've developed a friendship with the owners, we've stopped the pretense of intense haggling and do our business in a more relaxed way, maybe followed by lunch or dinner. We might also barter. That is how I got my tepinotzle, a hollow percussion instrument. The owner's wife wanted a nice full-sized microwave with a turntable feature. I desired the tepinotzle, with the inlaid bone images, bone and obsidian eyes with mother-of-pearl pupils. I have fond memories of us warming up our coffee in that microwave in his home above the gallery.