Porfirio Gutiérrez was born and raised in the richly historic Zapotec textile community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. His home pueblo has been recognised as one of the earliest Zapotec settlements, a place where today the rituals and rhythms of life are dictated by a firm connection to the ancestral past. His life’s work has been reinvigorating and preserving indigenous natural dyeing techniques, with a focus on reinterpreting traditional textiles and materials.
From an early age Porfirio began to learn weaving and natural dye traditions from his parents. This early training forms the foundation for the fine art textiles that attract the attention of an ever-more international group of collectors. His palette extends beyond 50 distinct colours: from native añil’s deepest blue to tender, pale greens, the deep red of Oaxaca’s cochineal insect and rich brown tones that seem to come from the earth itself.
Gutierrez’s work brings awareness to a profound spiritual belief that nature is a living being, sacred and honoured. The natural materials he employs in his work reflect that belief with a specific vocabulary of hues and textures. His studio revolves around the efforts of family and community, expressing an understanding and a vision that is deeply rooted to his Zapotec culture. He also works tirelessly to shed light on issues facing his community today: threats to the natural environment, the hardships indigenous people face both at home and abroad, and the lack of economic opportunities for young people living in the pueblo.
As a teenager, Porfirio followed in the path of many young people before him and left Teotitlán for a chance to work in the United States. In spite of the fact that English was his third language, he quickly found work and established a life for himself in California. He did not return home again until he had become a husband and father, reflecting on how his parents values had shaped him. His return home was a chance to reconnect with his family and culture, and reignited his passion for the art of weaving. His mother calls it discovering his calling, and he has worked steadily since then to advance his artform through innovative designs and a devotion to natural dyes.
While he balances his life in California with frequent trips home to work in his studio in Oaxaca, the themes of identity, culture and creativity are in constant play in his mind. His work examines his dual reality: that of an indigenous artist seeking his own unique self expression in today’s world.