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Alebrijes. Creatures of a Dream World

Question: What has clawed feet, fins, a tale made of fish, and fangs?

Answer: Alebrijes.


Think mythical creatures in brightly colored, seemingly random patterns. Alebrijes have characteristics of a mix of land, water, and air animals adorned in every color of the rainbow. And you can see examples of these playful sculptures at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois now through October of this year.

The exhibit features 48 unique sculptures. Wander through the park and you’ll find the alebrijes scattered through the lush gardens. The kids will enjoy spotting the creatures and checking them off on a photo sheet they can pick up in the information center.

The folk-art sculptures originated in 1943 when Mexican artist Pedro Linares fell seriously ill. He dreamed of a forest of unusual animals-a donkey with butterfly wings, rooster with bull horns, and lion with an eagle head. The animals repeatedly shouted Alebrijes! Alebrijes Alebrijes!

When Linares recovered from his illness, he began creating the creatures he saw in his dream with strips of paper and glue made from wheat flour and water. The sculptures became popular when artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were drawn to their creativity and vivid beauty.

Some of Linares’ designs were later carved from a local wood called copal, which is thought to be magical. The name “alebrijes” now applies to sculptures of this type made from both paper-mâché and wood. Unfortunately, demand for the wood carvings have resulted in a depletion of the copal trees.

The Cantigny Park alabrijes creations begin with a design on paper by one of 6 artists from Mexico City. If accepted, the creature is made in miniature. Then it is painstakingly replicated in full.

Parallels have been made between alabrijes and historically recognized supernatural creatures from Mexico’s indigenous and European past such as dragons, gargoyles, and judas-red cardboard demons burned in Mexico during Holy Week as a purification ritual. Monster alebrijes are believed to protect homes by scaring away evil spirits.

The art exhibit, “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World,” is presented in partnership with the Mexican Cultural Center of Dupage, City of West Chicago, and DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau. See the Cantigny Park website for more information.

** When you are your loved one’s full-time caregiver, don’t feel guilty for stepping away. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for them. Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders


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