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Painter keeps traditional Mexican techniques alive

September 28, 2018
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Oaxaca painter Edgar Jahir Trujillo paints with his handmade pigment during a workshop on "The Beauty of Cochineal" on Wednesday at the Marshall University Visual Arts Center in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — A Mexican painter demonstrated traditional techniques during a presentation and workshop Wednesday evening at the Marshall University Visual Arts Center as part of the Marshall University Department of Modern Language’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.

Edgar Jahir Trujillo, of Oaxaca, Mexico, uses cochineal insects to produce his paints. The insects are the source of the pigment carmine, a deep, rich red color, which comes from the carminic acid the insects produce. Cochineal was one of the largest and most valuable exports out of the Americas, behind gold and silver, in the time of Hernan Cortes. Today, the pigment is used in cosmetics, food coloring and a plethora of other products.

Cochineal is so significant to the state of Oaxaca that it is represented in the state coat of arms.

Trujillo said in his presentation he has devoted his life to the technique and sharing part of his culture. He called it the “ancestral pigment” and the work of his people. Trujillo also regularly teaches Oaxaca’s children how to make cochineal in order to inform them about their history and keep their culture going.

Trujillo’s paintings are made with cochineal and other all-natural pigments. Colors other than the blood red from the cochineal are made by altering the pH of the substance, which can produce an array of reds, oranges, pinks and purples depending on the added substance.

A workshop followed the presentation in which Trujillo demonstrated how to prepare the cochineal to participants. Marshall University painting students will participate in a similar workshop Thursday, Sept. 27.

Maria Cristina Burgueno, professor of Spanish and Latin American cultures at Marshall University, said she hopes students take away a message of enjoying a different culture, learning from that culture and learning that cultural diversity is the biggest worth of the human being.

“They can celebrate that and have a human encounter that would make them grow emotionally, spiritually and intellectually,” Burgueno said.

National Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and will continue until Oct. 15. Sept. 15 is significant to Latin American countries as the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to the Hispanic Heritage Month website. Mexico celebrates its independence day Sept. 16.

Trujillo’s paintings will be displayed during a reception and exhibition from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Studio 8 on 8th Avenue in Huntington.

Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Facebook and Twitter @megosborneHD.

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