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placeholder Inspired Andean artisan resurrects Baroque-era form

Dominican sisters help with free English class

Pleasanton choir draws cheers in performance for pope

Some books for Christmas giving, holiday meditations

Gifts for children, no batteries needed

Filipinos celebrate novena of Simbang Gabi

PBS documentary looks at vocations

Cathedral plans events for new Heritage Bible

St. Leo the Great Parish will launch centennial celebration on Jan. 1

Dioceses boost efforts to stress importance of marriage

Catholic numbers down in Congress

WikiLeaks fallout more dribble than storm

Fresno bishop dies after battle with cancer

New abuse reports, health care reform and unity mark year

Neeson: Aslan represents spiritual leaders

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Proposition 8 likely heading to top court

Garden dedication at St. John’s, San Lorenzo

Leaders commit to protect marriage

St. Columba provides valuable education for Haitian children

placeholder December 13, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA

Some of the artwork, made from wood scraps and faithful to the Baroque-era technique of carving and inlay, is available for sale at the Cathedral Shop in Oakland.
josé luis aguirre photos
Inspired Andean artisan
resurrects Baroque-era form

Alfredo Murillo has 24 men and women, ages 16 to 35, working with him on his unique creations.
Cathedral Shop offers
Fair Trade gifts items

The Cathedral Shop at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland, has joined with Catholic Relief Services and the Fair Trade Resource Network to offer an array of Fair Trade gifts as it celebrates its third Christmas in business.

Through Dec. 23, said Michele Angeli Zaugg, shop manager, there will be a great chance to see displays of unique Nativities from around the world including a variety of Marcel Carbonel’s Santons from Provence, France. There are many one-of-a-kind items, she said, that could make unique holiday presents.

Items labeled Fair Trade are those that try to ensure that disadvantaged farmers and artisans receive a fair deal for their products.

To describe Alfredo Murillo as a contemporary Andean artisan is inadequate. His divinely inspired artistic creations are a resurrection of an ancient craft, reworking pieces of scrap wood into wooden collages.
His talent and inspiration are gifts from God, he says. He uses tropical Bolivian wood to depict the traditional and historical themes of the most impoverished nation in South America and of its indigenous past and future.

Murillo’s art reflects Bolivia’s hope and beauty. Some of his art is available for sale now at the Cathedral Shop at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, and he hopes to expand sales to other U.S. locations.

Murillo, born in 1966 to a family of miners, lost his mother at a very early age. He grew up in harsh poverty in a poor mining camp, and life changed dramatically after the government privatized most of the state-owned mining companies leaving thousands without jobs. Like many others, the Murillo family fled the depressed area.

While Murillo studied economics at the state university of Sucre, he was swept up by the city’s beautiful colonial architecture and historic sites.

Then, at a home for orphans in Sucre, the young artist came into contact with a local carpenter in whose workshop the children were engaged in converting pieces of scrap wood into wooden collages.

The art form had arrived with Jesuit missionaries during the Baroque era. When the Jesuits were expelled in 1767, however, the techniques declined and soon all but disappeared. After more than 400 years, Murillo brought it back. He immersed himself in the craft of furniture building, learning to integrate modern styles with colonial heritage.

In Cochabamba, where he enrolled in the state university of San Simon, Murillo scoured the city’s dumps searching for scraps of wood to make portraits based on Andean scenes and landscapes. While he continued his university studies in economics, he dedicated his afternoons to creating a diverse range of wood carvings.

From a one-room studio in his father’s house, he began selling his creations to many foreign missionary students at the Maryknoll Language Institute to help finance his studies and to contribute to his family.

Father Frank McGourn, the director of the institute at that time, encouraged the young artist to examine the mystic Thomas Merton and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Father McGourn urged Murillo to enroll in philosophy classes at the Bolivian Catholic University, which eventually led Murillo to research the colonial archives in Sucre and explore his indigenous heritage and roots.

He was moved and shaped by the social justice, protest music, literature and theater of the time. As demand for his wood portraits and collages grew, Murillo invited a number of young artists from his neighborhood of Valle Hermoso in the city’s southern zone to join him while they pursued their studies. The majority of these student-artisans came from similar backgrounds of migrant families from the impoverished mining areas.

Currently, 24 men and women, ages 16 to 35, work with Murillo on his unique creations. He offers university students flexible hours so they can attend classes and have ample study time; high school students work in the morning and attend classes in the afternoon and the remainder work full time. Mothers can bring their babies to work and set up cribs near the work stations. Handicapped workers have also had the opportunity of learning Murillo’s trade.

In 1995, Murillo married Yolanda, a woman from the artist’s hometown of Oruro, who works as a public school teacher. They have three children. For the past several years, the family hosts students from Jesuit universities like Fordham and Georgetown for summer immersion and volunteer experiences.

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