Piñata: Party favor or art? Its makers preserve the craft.

Lower the bat, take off the blindfold, and appreciate the artistry of the piñata – a form that dates back hundreds of years. Piñata makers are pushing the limits of the party pieces, creating sculptures of wood, foam, wire, and clay for display in art galleries.

Third-generation maker Yesenia Prieto grew up crafting piñatas whose modest retail price belies hours of handiwork. While she and her team still make smashable piñatas for parties, their custom, complex pieces reflect the artistic potential of the craft. They’ve had two installations at a local Los Angeles gallery and have an upcoming show in San Diego.

Why We Wrote This

What we’re willing to spend on something becomes a message of worth intimately tied to the object’s creator. In expanding their art, piñata makers ask viewers to reconsider these traditional art objects – and the people who make them.

“What we’re doing is trying to show you what they’d look like if they were valued more,” says Ms. Prieto. “If [people] understand how it’s made, they know it’s not machines just cranking these things out. ” She and other makers hope they can both create art and bring a wider respect and dignity to a craft long viewed as cheap and disposable.

“There is a shift taking place,” she adds. She’s seeing piñatas in galleries more often. But “there’s [still] a need for us to push hard to survive. ”

Dallas

Would you take a sledgehammer to the David? A flamethrower to the Mona Lisa? A shredder to the latest Banksy? (Actually, scratch that last one.)

Why then, some people are beginning to ask, would you want to pulverize a piñata?

Alfonso Hernandez, for one, wants you to lower the bat and take off the blindfold and appreciate the artistry of a form that dates back hundreds of years.

Why We Wrote This

What we’re willing to spend on something becomes a message of worth intimately tied to the object’s creator. In expanding their art, piñata makers ask viewers to reconsider these traditional art objects – and the people who make them.

The Dallas-based artist has crafted life-size piñata sculptures of Mexican singer Vicente Fernández and Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” He wants the public to help turn the industry into art.

“Piñata makers never treated it like an art form,” he says. “They’re taught to make it fast. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, just hurry up because they’re going to break it. ”

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