Maruch Méndez

Sculptor and multimedia artist

K’atixtik, San Juan Chamula, Chiapas

Maruch Mendez, a native of K’atixtik, a hamlet in San Juan Chamula, has brought new life into the nearly extinct Chamula tradition of molding household objects from clay. Firing in an outdoor pit, she transforms earthly figures that capture the mythical imagination of her ancestors and her own life, often inspired by the wisdom of the Chamula oral tradition. Her clay sculptures are often an amalgam of earth, stones, bricks, moss, flowers and tree trunks, bolstered by accompanying videos that narrate the stories of her creations. She collaborates with the videoartist Humerto Gomez.

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Like many other “outsider artists”, Mendez does not identify as an “Artist” herself, but as someone who rearticulates her community’s knowledge and imagination through indigenous and modern media to create an innovative corpus.

As a young woman, Maruch Méndez lived alone in the highlands of Chiapas for six years. “The forest was my school,” explained the monolingual Tsotsil-speaker. Later on, she became a leading member of Taller Leñateros, a women’s cooperative that created handmade paper and books. For over 15 years, she was the creative partner with the poet Ambar Past, and performed in chanted narrative poetry readings in Chiapas, Mexico City, San Antonio (Texas), and Paris (France).

Currently Mendez works on her creative installations while living in her native township, and working as a pastor, farmer, and an adoptive mother of six.