Book making is a wondrous and beautiful process. The best efforts are preserved for eternity, but most fall into oblivion. The book Amy and I are working on, called DreamCarver, has already proven to be an enduring work of art. It was first published in 1993 and became a traveling opera, visiting cities across America.
Diana Cohn and Amy collaborated on it. Publishers Weekly wrote: “Inspired by the life of renowned Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jiménez, newcomer Cohn and Córdova (My Land Sings) tell of Mateo, a young woodcarver who bravely breaks with a generations-old artistic tradition. The subsistence farmers of the boy's village are known for their juguetes, tiny carvings of wooden animals "so small they could fit in the palm of a hand," carved by men and boys, and painted in fiesta-bright colors by women and girls. But Mateo dreams of carving life-size animals, with surfaces that tingle with vibrant, improbable colors and surreal patterns. "I see animals so big and bright that I will need to carve them with a machete!" he tells his disapproving father. When Mateo ultimately produces a glorious wooden menagerie—including a quetzal with majestic feathers—he wins over not only Papa, but the entire village, and a new way of carving is born. Cohn captures the boy's pursuit with straightforward eloquence, whether describing a child's heady experience of a fiesta or articulating the imaginative forces that set apart and drive a true artist. Córdova chronicles Mateo's artistic development in radiant, double-spread tableaux, setting off the text with festive decorative borders. She borrows the highly stylized characterizations and flattened perspectives typical of Mexican folk art, but she animates the compositions with big, bold shapes and electric, saturated colors. A fitting tribute to the energy and power of an artist's distinctive vision.”
From our perfect vantage point in our home in Oaxaca, just a village away from Arrazola where the woodcarvers make the “alebrijes” magic animals carved of wood and decorated with complex designs in a riot of colors, we are remaking the book with new illustrations and bilingual text.
Amy said, “Back in 1992, my dear friend, Diana Cohn and I visited Oaxaca with the intent of creating a children's book about the origins of the fantastical, colorful alebrije carvings. We visited Manuel Jimenez , who is attributed with starting the entire movement. As a result of our love of the art form, we created the book Dream Carver, which was published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Since then , our agreement has expired and we requested the return of rights.
Fast forward, rights granted ! Since then, I have spent the last many months reworking and creating new images, with the goal of enhancing those images and creating a bilingual edition. Diana and I have revised the text, so that the format of two languages is not compromised. Steve has spent hours photographing and doing incredible layouts of text and image. Pages now look breathtaking! I am still painting. A labor of love, for certain.”
The Dream Carver tradition is alive and thrives today. The original artist, Manuel Jimenez, now deceased, passed his tradition to his sons, and one of them, Isaias, continues with his family to produce marvelous works. He opened the DreamCarver Museum and had students create murals based on Amy’s illustrations. He is very eager for the book, originally in English, to be published as a bilingual.
Our goal is to have books in hand for a big celebration at the Museum during the Dia de Muertos festival November 1 and 2, 2021.