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Materials Lab Workshop: The Art of Peruvian Potato-Plaster Retablos, Session I (English) [AT CAPACITY]

Person sitting at a table filled with small, brightly colored sculptures.
Zuly Palomino Jimenez painting potato-plaster carnival masks, in Lima, Peru, 2019. Photo: Edilberto Jimenez.


Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

This event is at capacity.

This two-part event requires registration; see further details below.

This workshop accompanies the exhibition From the Andes to the Caribbean: American Art from the Spanish Empire, which invites viewers to investigate the complicated relationship between American art and Spanish imperialism. The exhibition is on view through July 30, 2023.

Alongside cochineal, cocoa, and silver, the potato is among the world-changing commodities that Spanish colonizers encountered in the Andes and brought back to Europe. It revolutionized the agricultural industry and has come to be the fifth most important crop worldwide.

Sixteenth-century missionary priests tasked Indigenous artisans with making portable religious shrines (retablos); the artisans added the starch-rich vegetable to plaster to create a malleable dough with which they modeled the intricate and colorful figurines in their “retablos.” These small sculptural tableaux in wooden boxes evolved as a traditional folk art to include Indigenous peoples’ own deities and mythologies, as well as representations of more contemporary motifs, including scenes from Carnival.

Join fourth-generation Quechua retablos artist Zuly Palomino Jimenez to learn about the history and material significance of this traditional folk art form and to create your own intricately decorated potato-plaster sculpture of a mask—an important cultural element of the Carnival season in Andean Peru—that will fit into a retablo box you’ll be able to paint.

Note: This is a two-part workshop, taking place on Sunday, March 19 and Sunday, March 26. On both dates, there will be a session offered in English and a session in Spanish. It is necessary to attend both dates to complete the project. On March 19, participants will learn about the retablo tradition, model the potato-plaster mask sculpture, and decorate the surrounding box; on March 26, they will paint the mask and assemble their retablos.

The hands-on sessions will take place in the Materials Lab on the Lower Level.

$25 materials fee. Registration is required for both sessions, and space is limited. The sessions cannot be taken separately. Registration will open on this form beginning on Thursday, March 9. Materials fee must be paid to confirm registration. Please email or call 617-495-1440 to join the waitlist. Minimum age of 14; no previous experience is required.

Please see the museum visit page to learn about our general policies for visiting the museums.

The Harvard Art Museums are committed to accessibility for all visitors. For anyone requiring accessibility accommodations for our programs, please contact us at at least 48 hours in advance.