Some of the world’s most interesting artists came upon their practices accidentally or without meaning to, and Pedro Linares López, a Mexican folk artist known for his fantastical sculptures of animals, is one of them: according to his own retelling, López, who was born on this day in 1906, had a feverish dream in 1945 wherein he encountered strange, boisterous creatures who were all shouting the nonsense word “Alebrijes!” López dedicated his artistic practice to recreating the beasts from his dream, and he eventually captured the attention of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Today’s he’s being honored with a Google Doodle.
Lòpez eventually was captured in a 1975 documentary by the filmmaker Judith Bronowski, and the documentary catapulted him to worldwide fame, but he had been making art since he was a child. The artist’s father was a professional cartonero, which means papier-mâché sculptor. When López was 12 years old, he was able to construct piñatas and figures called calaveras, which feature prominently in the traditional Day of the Dead celebration. As his practice developed, Lòpez came to eventually focus on making sculptures that depicted reptiles, insects, birds, and mammals. They all became his calling cards.
Further on in his career, in 1990, the artist also received the Mexican National Prize in Arts and Sciences in the category of Popular Art and Traditions. “Alebrijes and cartonería are very iconic and representative of Mexican culture,” Google Doodler Emily Barrera, who created the artwork for today’s Doodle, said in an interview with Google. “I find it very magical and satisfying to make an alebrije from scratch, using your imagination, several simple household materials and your hands to make a physical object. Working on this alebrije made me admire even more the beautiful work of all the cartoneros in Mexico.”