FOLK ARTIST: Benito Morales

5 Jan

In 1992, I received a brochure entitled: Hecho Tejano. Its contents covered the works of Texas Folk Artists being exhibited in an upcoming show in El Paso, Texas. One of the presenters was Benito Morales, originally from Redford, Texas.  I had seen some of Benito’s artwork when I visited there in 1989. Created from memory, the woodcarvings depict Benito’s recollections of life in The Big Bend.   I recall thinking that it was a shame that such charming creations were hidden away in remote, Redford. Now for some unexplainable reason, I felt compelled to go see the exhibition.

Arriving in El Paso, we headed straight to Benito’s home where I found an enthusiastically friendly 85 year-old.  My tour-guide Frank Lujan and he had known each other forever and launched into a series of fond recollections. I waited my turn to ask Benito if he had known my mother, and if he had ever seen the mill that my grandfather Esteban Lujan constructed.  At that Benito slapped my shoulder, and exclaimed:

“I saw it! I carved it! There is a little girl driving the mule around … That little girl is your mama!”

Now I knew why I’d been so determined to go to El Paso.

Then Benito added:

“If I had known you existed, that piece would have been yours!  But I’ve already given it to a nephew who is away at Chicago University.  I will send for pictures of it.  I will have them for you when you return from The Big Bend.”

And so he did.  He also gave us a guided tour, and narrated the history of all the pieces in the Exhibition.

To this day I seriously lament that this impressive Folk Art Collection is not out there for all to see.  I for one think that the ideal home would be Marfa, Texas. It is my understanding that it is   fast becoming a flourishing art community.  Certainly the yearly Marfa Lights attraction would attract viewers from all over the country.  It would sure be better than storing these unseen pieces in closets or on the mantles of private homes.

Prima Elisa

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