Mexico’s fantastic animals take center stage in vibrantly embroidered textiles from Otomí, Oaxacan wood carvings and mythic creature masks at Casa Dolores on Oct. 19, when the Mexican folk art museum art center opens its newest exhibit, “Mexico Dreams Animals.”

The exhibition features winged, horned and obscure, yet brilliant and multi-colored alebrijes, imaginative hand-made animal masks and draped Otomí textiles, which are fantastically unique embroidered pieces of cloth with colorful and whimsical scenes.

Casa Dolores, Santa Barbara’s Mexican folk art museum, invites the public to witness the pulsating colors of Mexico that will be integrated seamlessly into this three-gallery exhibit.

“In doing research for this exhibit, I was reminded of books written by Carlos Castaneda and his interest in shamans,” said Casa Dolores Founder and Director Linda Cathcart. “There is in-depth knowledge of this altered state of consciousness that allows interaction with the spirit world. It also opens the connection to an individual’s animal spirit or animal counterpart, which can be seen in the galleries’ artwork.”

Cathcart’s carefully curated exhibition begins with Casa Dolores’ Otomí textiles collection. The Otomí people constitute one of the largest and oldest indigenous groups in Mexico. Before starting to embroider, most women plan the scene and draw outlines of the figures and designs freehand on the cloth with a ballpoint pen. Using brightly colored cotton thread, the images are filled with satin stitch that doesn’t travel across the backside — there is an enormous amount of skill involved in positioning the figures while creating an overall sense of balance. The collection of the Otomí textiles feature oxen, armadillos, roosters, fish and rabbit — commonly used animals in Mexican folk art.

Other folk art featured in this exhibit are alebrijes and animal masks that reflect the adventurous spirit of Mexico and its people. While the entire exhibit showcases the incredible imaginations of various artists, alebrijes were first created by Mexican native Pedro Linares who is said to have been hallucinating when these winged and horned creatures came to him in a dream. The artist then created the creatures from memory into fantastic papier mâché creations.

The elaborate and colorful artistry sparked a trend and now these dreamed animals can be found throughout Mexico, mainly made of copal and other types of wood.

“Mexico Dreams Animals explores our connection, as humans, to animals who walk among us as well as the ones that live in our imaginations,” said Rebecca Villaneda, assistant director of Casa Dolores. “Animals are a part of our everyday life and we honor them with a curious eye in this exhibit.”

The animal masks featured in Mexico Dreams Animals remind us of our animal spirits who are guiding us on this ethereal planet. Both the Mayans and the Aztecs believed humans had animal spirits and that belief has continued. Many Mexicans believe everyone was born with a spirit of an animal who is responsible for protecting and guiding us. The Mayans call this spiritual twin a Nahual, while the Aztecs call them a Nahualli.

For more information, visit Casa Dolores’ website ( or call the museum at (805) 963-1032.

About Casa Dolores

Casa Dolores is a Mexican folk art museum located in downtown Santa Barbara in the historic Botiller Adobe (est. 1843), the only original two-story adobe in the County. The center’s mission is to expand the passion of Mexican Arts and Crafts with the community and visitors by stimulating the appreciation of the Mexican culture through educational programs, demonstrations, and *FREE* admission to the museum and the center’s library. Casa Dolores is designated a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.


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