Description of the Unit –
Students learned about Mexican artist Pedro Linares López and his fantastical, wild Alebrijes, imaginative and colorful papier-mâché creatures that Linares originated. Students created their own Alebrijes out of clay, paint and various objects.
Activity statement –
The wild and wonderful Alebrije, so wildly recognized today, was first created by Pedro Linares in the 1930’s. Linares was a cartonero (papier-mâché crafter) from Mexico City, he made a living selling his hand-made piñatas, as well as other crafts, just as his father had before him. There is an urban myth that posits that Linares came up with the idea for the Alebrijes in a fever dream while ill. While possible, the first Alebrijes were seen when Linares was commissioned to come up Judas-like figures with zoomorphic traits for a masquerade party at an art academy. His creatures took off in popularity and were bought by some important customers such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In 1975 Linares was featured in a documentary by Judith Bronowski that made all the more renowned. In 1990 he received the National Prize for Popular Arts and Traditions. Recently his Alebrijes inspired the colorful spirit animals that appear in the 2017 movie Coco, making it only one of among many iterations the Alebrije has had by other artists since first conceived by Linares.
Students of all ages are fascinated by Linares’ life story and his incredible Alebrijes. I love to have this as an 8th grade unit, however, because of the amount of PLAY making an Alebrije involves. Our 8th graders are hungry for play-based art opportunities, and here they get to squish and twist clay, paint with vivid, lush colors, choose random objects for various features, and imagine a creature with any number of mixed-up characteristics, such as wings, scales, tails, horns, claws, etc. All too often the students end up making something cutesy or silly, but it doesn’t matter, as long as they get to PLAY.
- What is meant by combining a variety of zoomorphic features
- Who Pedro Linares was
- What an Alebrije is
Be able to:
- Craft their own Alebrije…and play!
Students will: Use their imagination and willingness to be surprised in order to create their very own Alebrije
Resources and materials –
- Examples of Pedro Linares’ Alebrijes (watch out, because there are a lot of images on the web purporting to be his but they are not; make sure you find authentic sources; likewise, many artists claim an Alebrije to be theirs, when it is in fact Linares’)
- Clay or Model Magic
- Tools to create various textures in clay
- Skewers, toothpicks and wire to help create a skeleton for the clay to sit on
- Tempera or acrylic paint in a variety of bright colors
- Extra objects such as buttons, pipe cleaners, feathers, etc.
- Varnish to help make the Alebrije shiny when done
What do you notice about these animals?
What features seem incongruous to you? Why?
What kind of colors does Linares use?
How do you feel about these creatures? Is there anything about them that is unsettling to you?
What kinds of features would you combine to create a creature?
What sorts of colors would you use?
How might your Alebrije be able to stand?
- Student questions
- Group discussions
- Answers to essential questions
- At least one finished Alebrije
- Spontaneity and risk-taking