The vibrant, hand-carved and painted balsa wood masks showcased in this exhibit at Selby Gardens represent the work of some of the top painters and carvers plus several new emerging artists from the Boruca tribe in Costa Rica. They share a sense of belonging and group collaboration, and as an indigenous community, their folk art serves as an ambassador for their culture and shares their story with the world. Through their masks and their yearly “Festival of the Diablitos,” they strive to keep their traditions alive. At the same time their artistic exchange becomes the fire that drives innovation and transformation. The masks on display are available for sale.
More information about the history of the masks can be found HERE.
FREE with General Admission
OPENING RECEPTION – JANUARY 5: This reception gives you the first chance to purchase the masks of your choosing before the exhibition opens to the general public over the month of January.
LECTURE-JANUARY 9: Borucan Artists of Today & Their Evolving Art: Free with general admission, reservation required.
THE BIRTH OF MODERN RAINFOREST MASKS
In the 1980’s, elders from the tribe feared their younger generations were losing their cultural roots. Artist Don Ismael Gonzalez trained a group of young boys from 11-12 years old in traditional mask making. Later, some of his students were invited to the capital to study art and painting, while others remained in Boruca to attend high school. For several years, this group continued working in Ismael’s workshop, sharing their carving and new painting skills. Of those original young students, three Borucan master artists are featured in this 2019 exhibit including Bernardo Gonzalez and brothers Marcos and Francisco Rojas.
Around 1995, a client commissioned a mask featuring a macaw and a “little Indian face.” Thus, began the success of the rainforest masks depicting local flora and fauna. This has also empowered and inspired artists to keep preserving their environment and to rediscover their culture.
For the past 15 years, the Selby Gardens exhibits has been a fertile ground for creativity to flow and for this art to reach new levels. The modern masks keep evolving thanks to new admirers and provide a beautiful cultural exchange between the Sarasota community and the Borucans.
MEET THE ARTISTS: JANUARY 6-13
What does it take to create the Rainforest Masks? Watch our visiting artists demonstrate their carving and painting skills at the mansion between January 6-13.
As one of the original students of Don Ismael, Marcos Rojas started carving at a young age. He taught himself to paint in the mid-1990s after seeing how colorful masks grew in popularity. Now, he is a master Borucan artist, equipped with a bold imagination, years of carving experience, and the skills of an exceptional painter. Marcos considers himself an ambassador of Borucan art and travels throughout Costa Rica, exhibiting his work and actively promoting his tribe’s cultural heritage.
Esteban Morales started carving masks at 16, following in his brother Omer’s footsteps. He learned from his brother and their uncle, German, with whom he shares a workshop. Today, he enjoys envisioning and designing his own pieces and collaborates with several painters to make them really pop. Thanks to his work for the Selby Gardens exhibit, he was able to purchase additional land last year to plant fruit trees and create a garden around his home, where he lives with his wife and two young boys. He dreams of one day learning how to paint.