The Skull Of a Thousand Faces

Betsabeé Romero for After & Again

The Artist

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This piece was created by Betsabeé Romero, one of Mexico’s leading contemporary artists. In her art, Romero, who lives and works in Mexico City, draws on pre-Columbian iconography, colonial imagery and popular culture. Romero’s work interweaves the objects and perspective of our modern, industrial culture with a sensibility and respect for the master artisans and folk art of the past. Her works—using ubiquitous everyday objects such as cars, rear view mirrors, and tires—make wry, humorous and pointed commentary on today’s world.

Betsabeé Romero for After & Again

The Cotton

This one-of-a-kind T-shirt that serves as an expression of Romero’s vision for After & Again is made from the finest cotton in the world. Harvested and picked by hand, Peruvian Pima cotton is known for is long, smooth filament (or Extra Long Staple-ESL-length), brilliant luster, durability, and softness. Long considered a luxury fiber, this precious commodity was used by the Incas for artisic endeavors such as weaving and textiles. Archaeologists believe Pima cotton has ben cultivated by the Peruvians since 2500 bc. This luxury cotton grows on the fertile soil of the Piura and Chira valleys in northern Peru.

The Embroidery

One of the most distinctive aspects of indigenous handcrafted textiles in Mexico is embroidery. This extraordinary handicraft has been passed down from generation to generation since the 1500s in the villages of rural Mexico. Due to the thin, delicate weave of the Pima cotton it is difficult to embroider this shirt, and to do so requires both skill and patience. To make this limited edition piece of artwork, 170 artisans have worked for two months to embroider the design on each individual T-shirt. Each craftswoman must stitch with great care so as not to tear the fabric and to remain faithful to Romero’s design. The quality of the embroidery can best be admired by flipping the garment inside out.

The Thread

To show the design and embroidery to its best advantage requires the world’s finest silk thread. Silk is the most luxurious natural fiber. Under a microscope, a thread of raw silk looks like a perfectly clear glass tube, with no irregularities. To the naked eye the brilliance of the silk reflects a beautiful light that seems to emanate from within.

The silk used to embroider this shirt is French. By the 1800s, Paris had become a center of trade and industry, and the world capital of luxury goods. To serve that market, a luxurious French silk thread company was established. Today, that company continues to flourish, offering one of the finest quality silk threads in the world. In this piece two types of thread are used: strusas and raw silk. Raw silk comes directly rom the pinning of the cocoon fibers, harvested before the chrysalis becomes a moth. The raw silk thread is of unrivaled regularity, softness, and brightness. Strusas is also silk, but this thread has a more opaque tone. The combination of these two threads, intertwined in this embroidered design, gives Romero’s Skull of a Thousand Faces dimension, color and texture.

The Copper Work

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One of the most unique folk arts in Mexico is copper work. Mexican indigenous groups used copper before the Spanish Conquest, fashioning the malleable, reddish-orange metal into ornaments and jewelry. Today only a few Mexican master craftsman remain who practice the traditional art of copper work.

The Coppersmith

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In this work, Bonilla brings to life the wings that Romero designed. He makes his own tools so that he can achieve the precise effect and vision he seeks. Through trial, error, and persistence, he was able to create this sculptural winged hanger. Each piece of copper is cut by hand. Then, with a spline Bonilla moulds the copper, giving form to the wing.

The Edition

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Skull of a Thousand Faces, by Betsabeé Romero, is a box that contains a Pima cotton garment embroidered with silk thread, copper wing sculpture by master craftsman Ernesto Bonilla, and a hand printed photograph of Betsabeé Romero taken by Clairette Atri. This limited edition consists of 200 pieces signed and numbered by the author from 1/200 to 200/200; there are no artist’s proofs (a/p). The edition and the authenticity of the garment and box are certified as an object with multiple originals. Taller de comunicación gráfica designed the box in Mexico City in 2015 to have symbolic and commemorative value.

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